I spent some time this week at State College as part of The Edge Initiative pilot project for Pennsylvania. There are several points this blog post is going to cover and I apologize in advance for what is sure to be a disjointed post.
The first point I want to make may sound like kissing up, but it's not because I don't kiss up to anyone (unless they have $100K they'd like to donate to my library). The state of Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Library scored b-i-g when they hired Stacey Aldrich. There are not many state librarian's who would be as hands-on as she is. She is approachable, down-to-earth and transparent. On the occasions I've had one-on-one conversations with her, she wasn't sizing up the room, looking for someone more important to talk to. She is the real deal, ladies and gentlemen. And I know this sounds odd, but she can write on those big presentation tablets with a magic marker in perfectly adorable script. I notice things like this.
The second thing I want to discuss is the reason I was in State College - The Edge Initiative. For those of you who haven't heard of them yet - you will. The Edge Benchmarks are a road map that local libraries can use to assess their status and progress in technology access. First you take part in the assessment, then the program gives you recommendation and allows you to create your own customized action plan. You get to decide how much or how little you are able to handle and afford. It is not a one size fits all program that has frustrated so many of us - because we are all so very different. What is even more FANTABULOUS is that it goes hand-in-hand with competencies like Joanie and Chachi.
Excuse me for a second while I climb up here on my soapbox...OK...Now I'm ready.
Listen, all my Guerrilla Librarian friends...I need a big favor from you. When you attend events that have participants from other libraries and they start talking about the fact that they can't get buy-in from their staff, please pull them aside and remind that the opposite of buy-in (in this situation) is to walk out...the door, that is. Since when does the library director shrink back from something that is a proven upgrade to library services because someone on staff doesn't want to learn new technology? It is not "bitchy," or "unreasonable," or even "unfair" to expect library employees - no matter what their title - to have a skill set to do what they are in the building to do - PROVIDE SERVICE AND ACCESS TO OUR PATRONS.
While I think they're pretty awesome, there isn't anything extraordinary about the employees at my library. Some have never set foot on a college campus. Some started their job at the library never having heard of "the deep web." They do, however, have a deep understanding that the best way to learn is to play and have fun. Is that the stumbling block? Have we forgotten how to have fun learning? Don't forget - the easiest shoes to run in are very comfortable librarian shoes.
The Guerrilla Librarian List To Staff Inclusion:
These are just a few things I've either tried in the past or have planned for the near future. Give one or two of them a try and be amazed by the results!
- Defy the description. Try to allow employees to take 1/2 hour each week to do something innovative and fun that is not a part of their job description.
- Progress in pajamas. If possible, encourage employees to work at home some of their hours. (Of course, this won't work for people who are full-time on the circulation desk. Perhaps you can carve out a 1/2 hour for them?)
- Be ritualistic. Some of the things we've done in the past: in-service kickball game; staff bowling; at the end of summer reading, hold a bonfire and watch all those reading sheets go up in flames; treat the staff to ice cream sundaes on the hottest day of the year.
- Be a doctor. I try everyday to make my rounds. I visit everybody at their desk, greet them and try to ask them something about themselves. I try to do it with the volunteers as well. We spend more time together than some of us do with our spouses, so we might as well relate to each other like we do.
- Write thank you emails. Sit down at least once each week and write a thank you email to one of your employees. I've been doing this for 2 years and it does make a difference. For instance, last week I wrote a quick note to our Circulation Supervisor thanking her for coming in on her day off when we were overloaded. The week before, I wrote a note to one of our circulation staff team after she handled a particularly difficult situation with a unique solution.
- Remember when. Sometimes, directors forget how difficult it is to be at the bottom of the organizational chart. This could be a result of a directorship straight out of graduate school or transferring jobs straight into the director's chair. In my situation, I started at my library as a 10-hour-a-week community relations person. I didn't have a job description for 5 years. I only found out I had vacation days after working there for 3 years. I felt like any comment to me was an afterthought. "Oh yeah, I guess someone should tell her." This can quickly turn into bitterness and feelings of total unimportance.
- Supervisor Smoopervisor. It doesn't matter who an employee's supervisor is, you should always make time for periodic, unscheduled one-on-one chats. On a whim, I'll just call someone into my office and do a check-up. How are things going? Do you have any ideas you'd like to share? I also send staff emails to see how they're doing. You'd be surprised how much they'll tell you if you just ask.
- Evaluation Extravaganza! At my library, managers and program team members have evaluations twice each year. These are evaluations that I do personally. The rest of the staff has annual evaluations and I sit in on all of them. I want them to know that, even though I'm not looking over their shoulder, I do notice what they do and appreciate the efforts they make.
- Pitch Party! If there is a problem that you're trying to solve, invite the staff to pitch you a solution. Give them each 3 minutes at your desk, then sit back and be amazed at the fact that everyone has ideas that you'd never thought of.
Peace out, Brussel Sprout!