It is a BIG thing to undertake the cancellation of a major conference - especially one that had already opened for registration. The ALSC board under the leadership of Andrew Medlar, with the able assistance of the ALSC office staff, listened, encouraged member discussion and input and researched what we as an association could do to respond to the law passed in NC that went against core values of our division as well as basic human rights.
The process was transparent and input deep and thoughtful -on all sides. The decision was a difficult one but one that I wholeheartedly supported. The ALSC board promised to honor the work of the institute organizers as well as committed participants by offering a way to still hold the conference - perhaps as a pre-midwinter conference in Atlanta or virtually.
I am very pleased that the decision was to go virtual on Sept 15-16, the time when the Institute would have been offered in Charlotte. Many of us had blocked out that time already. And for just slightly over the cost of an ALSC online course, ALSC members and non-members are invited to register for two days rich with online content. For many people who struggle to afford the costs of registration, lodging and transportation, this is an incredible bargain!
Head on over to the Virtual Institute webpage and register - and I'll see you virtually in September!
A big MWAAAAAA to all my library friends and colleagues out there!
Thanks for all your passion and work serving your community in your library work! Like most of us, the reason you get up and go into work is that opportunity to serve your patrons - whether it is the public in public, academic and special library work or other librarians in your role as consultant or educator. That bread and butter focus is what informs our work and helps us push through challenges and change.
While I used to tell the kids that Library Week is like a "birthday for libraries," it is just as much a celebration of each and every staffer who cares enough to work so tirelessly in every aspect of library work to bring great services to their communities. Your dedication makes the library tick like the heart of the community that it is. Libraries transform - and so do you!
So here's to you, my friends!
Mel Depper and I have a Conversation Starter proposal in for the upcoming Orlando ALA conference. Each Conversation Starter proposal goes up for a vote by the public which accounts for 30% in the selection process. ALA staff votes account for 30% and 40% is decided by an advisory group of ALA members.
We hope you - our public - will read our proposal and consider voting for it.
Our program, You Say Yes, I Say No: Achieving ALL.THE.THINGS. will be full of tips on finding the space and time to serve our local and professional communities and still leaving time to have a rich non-work life. It's easy for all of us to be overwhelmed with all the great new shiny services and opportunities to create real change in our libraries as well as spread the word to our peers. This session will address those issues as well as savvy strategies to create realistic outcomes.
You can read all about it at here.
Voting is easy; just click the Thumbs up! But hurry, voting closes on Wednesday April 20!
And don't forget to look at all the amazing Ignite and Conversation Starters you can vote on too!
Many of you know I'm been delving into and thinking about leadership and management issues (both being a manager and being managed) over the past few years.
So it is with real excitement that I have been assisting in the development of a brand new national conference sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Madison Continuing Education Department. The conference is titled: Power Up – A Conference in Leadership for Youth Services Managers and Staff and will be held March 30-31, 2017 on the beautiful campus of UW-Madison.
The UW Madison CE team has been presenting the highly successful Back in Circulation conference for circulation staff and managers for years. The Power Up conference is based on that successful concept and it’s a leadership conference that is sure to be uber-useful for youth librarians at all levels in our careers.
I hope you will mark your calendars for this amazing opportunity. I also want you to consider submitting a program proposal and be one of our valued presenters at the conference. Here’s the scoop:
Call for Proposals
Do you have ideas about management and leadership in Youth Services? UW-Madison, School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to offer Power Up, a brand new conference to share your exciting ideas! Gretchen Caserotti, Library Director at Meridian (ID) Library District, is kicking off our conference as the keynote speaker. The conference will take place in Madison, Wisconsin on March 30-31st, 2017 and will be accepting proposals until July 31, 2016. Topics may include, but are not limited to: strategic planning, collaborations, ethics, leadership pathways, advocacy, mentorship, managing change, work/life balance, staff motivation, and innovation. Youth services librarians and staff from all over the country are invited to attend!
Please submit a 200-250 word description of your proposed session to Meredith Lowe, firstname.lastname@example.org, by July 31, 2016. Sessions at the conference will be one hour (45 minutes of presentation, 15 minutes of discussion). Panel presentations are accepted. All selected sessions will receive one complimentary conference registration and a discount for staff members they wish to join them at the conference.
I’d love to see lots of youth librarians throw their hats in the ring to share thoughts on leadership and management and doing great youth services work. Bookmark this link for information about the conference now and in the coming months. And feel free to contact me if you need more information or want to bounce ideas at lochwouters at gmail dot com!
Jessica Olin over at Letters to a Young Librarian recently addressed aspects of this issue. She concludes, "The main thing I'm thinking about, though, is that I'm starting to understand why more experiences library professionals say things like, "we've always done it that way." I know it's easy to hear that phrase and think the speaker is stuck. But at this stage of my career, I can hear nuances in that much reviled statement. I can hear when someone means "but I really want to change it" versus when they mean "and I'm scared to try something new." More importantly, though, I've noticed an undercurrent of "I'm not afraid of change so much as I'm scared of uninformed progress for the sake of progress."
Things change. It's a fact so true that it sounds a bit cliched. But change without awareness of history can be worse than no change at all. Knowing where we came from can be a road map of sorts. After all, you want to void those million dead-end streets, don't you?"
I think in any situation of change and moving everyone to the same place of yes, it's important to listen to the many voices and to figure out what a change really means. Listening both to the yes and no perspectives and moving towards consensus is time consuming but worth it. Listening can make all the difference.
Now I know that there is some fear out there about whether these corners will just be alot of MLW blah-blah. And I would say some...but certainly not all because youth management is an important subject!
So important, that our smart-cookie colleagues over at ALSC are presenting, at this very moment, a free series of four monthly webinars on the very subject. Each hour-long webinar features panels made up of members of ALSC's Managing Children's Services committee as well as other youth managers/staffers willing to share their knowledge (Kendra Jones! Rachel Fryd! Kalsey Johnson-Kaiser! Megan Egbert! Claudia Wayland! Krissy WIck! Lisa Kropp! Amanda Yother! Madeline Walton-Hadlock!)
The webinars address communication, scheduling and time management, financials and supervision. The next one up is the third in the series, Managing Financials in a Youth Department, on March 15 at 11:00 am CST. You simply register and log-in instructions will be emailed to you!
What?!?! You missed the first two? No problem. They are archived on the ALSC site waiting for you to learn a ton. Just register and drop by! Hope to see you all there!
Librarian of Congress by President Obama. Not just because she is a librarian, an African American, a woman. But also because she started in her long career as a youth librarian.
We are contemporaries. Watching her work in ALA, become ALA president, take on more and more leadership roles in her career always got me excited - a children's librarian was doing all the things! It was something that always made me proud and convinced me of the potential for amazing leadership that youth services folks have.
I wish her luck in the confirmation process and hope we see the day that she becomes our Librarian of Congress. Carla, you go!
As managers we often have far more leeway in our schedules, responsibilities and commitments than the staff we supervise. This is not to say that we aren't working hard and putting in some challenging hours and desperately trying to balance things.
It is simply to say that we often have more agency in choosing what we do and when. It’s important to stay very aware of this and to know that our teams are just as aware of our work – or any backing away from work - that we are doing.
What are our larger responsibilities to our staff? I think it is important that we work at the same level that we expect of our staff. That means working the same hours and not fudging on coming in later or leaving earlier, taking the same time on lunch breaks as the rest of the team we manage. Sometimes people in management and administration cite the stress of their difficult work as reasons to short hours. Taking advantage of the flexibility of our position is no excuse. We are not owed by our community of taxpayers – we owe them our attention and time.
It also means being a good communicator with team members if we are, on occasion, taking time off after working extra at outside meetings or events on behalf of the library. Let team members know in advance that we plan to take time off and get it on the schedule. And be fair and offer the same accommodation to staffers who also do the same.
Note: It's important to make sure our manager agrees with this. We might hear from our director that "You are on salary and need to work as many hours as the job demands". Here it can helpful to point out to a director that while that is true, routinely working well over forty hours points out the need for additional staff (but then that's another post!!)
Pitching in on the least of tasks - straightening shelves daily; cleaning the breakroom; helping to clean up after someone else’s program; counting handouts - let’s our staff at all levels know that we care about their work and see it as valuable. Lip service is one thing; showing by our actions our understanding and appreciation of their work is another. Our leadership in these areas helps staffers in turn value their work and know that because we manage we are not above the day to day.
I've been doing quite a bit of thinking, learning and teaching on youth services management.
Like many of us, I entered management very early in my career (18 months) and, except for a four year stint as a staffer under a manager I previously managed (whoa, baby that was fun!), spent the rest of my day-to-day library career as manager.
I learned a ton as a newbie from my first manager (and career-long mentor) and loved working with her. She encouraged me to take on my first management gig - her position when she left a short 1.5 years after I arrived.
I really didn't want to. I felt there was so much children's-librarianing I wanted to do! My manager pointed out that if I didn't try and a new manager came on board with a different philosophy than mine, it would be an adjustment. And she told me that no one is born being a manager - we learn along the way.
I was forever grateful for that advice. I went to the school of hard-knocks and learned a ton. In fact, that learning has been an ongoing part of my work life - right up to and including retirement.
When I recently shared some of my top mistakes in a webinar, the reaction I got from people surprised me. Some found it comforting ("You make mistakes?!?! Thank gods, me too!), and others found it revelatory ("You make mistakes???? Then I can too!!!). I am sure many also thought "Dork!" The reactions also told me that we all need to hear that we make mistakes and have positive takeaways - whether we are managers or not - and this needs to be shared.
The true mistake we make in any work we do is when we assume anybody knows anything. I sometimes read posts where people feel badly or inauthentic or imposter-ish or unworthy because they've made a mistake or had a fail in some aspect of work. But really, how else do we learn? For me, a day without learning, even from mistakes, is pretty much a wasted day. It's how we grow and deepen and get wiser about stuff.
So in "YS Manager's Corner", we'll walk along the path of discovery, reflection, failures - and recovery - and issues we encounter in managing - and being managed. I hope you join me on this journey on the hills and valleys.
I saw a change recently at the library I used to work and I got happily excited. It was a BIG change! It had nothing to do with my time working there and the change was wholly delightful.
It got me thinking...
The best part of librarianship for me is the way we are always pushing forward. While change is anathema for many people, I find it refreshing.
Some people see change in confrontational terms and so fear it. Rather than looking at change as expanding our knowledge, it becomes easier to feel threatened, think in terms of "this vs. that" and trot out worn-out tropes to try and put on the brakes. We've all seen discussions like this - fear of using apps with kids; fear of re-configuing a children's area or collection; fear of having diverse award winners; fear of creating breaks in programming. It may be only a voice or two but that fear of change is front and center.
If we didn't make changes, evolve our service and experiment to find better models, we wouldn't see the transformations that libraries of all types have been going through. And we wouldn't be serving the ever-changing demographics and needs of our community. We would simply stand still. Our professional growth, our service to our community would be frozen in a drop of fossilized resin.
I think often about change. As a career-long change-agent, I like to see work flow from a place of discovery, to a place of experimentation, to a place of knowledge that leads us inevitably to a place of discovery that starts the cycle all over again . It's that "pushing the envelope" that helps us adapt and create.
That envelope is seldom pushed alone. Co-workers and peers around the country may lead us or may follow our lead. We discover in a million big and small ways - through journals, social media, CE opportunities, partnerships or information outside of librarianship that awaken us to new possibilities - how we can tweak, and finangle, and build and tear down.
Change is done with reflection, planning, big sky visioning and preparation. It is also accomplished through patience, attention to detail, training of staff (and patrons!) and research. Combining the big and small helps to bring staff and patrons on board for success.
And most importantly, change never belongs to just one person. It is an accumulation of many threads woven together from many sources by many hands. Successful changes almost always owe a long line of people profound thanks for their efforts and foundational thinking.
I take great pleasure in watching sea changes happen at my former libraries after I leave any job. I am a huge believer in no one - and nothing that they have done or created - being irreplaceable or unchangable. Seeing how approaches, thinking, methods and models are grown differently, mightily and through new vision and ideas delights me.
While not all change is earth-shattering, all change is transforming. And that transformation is what pushes us from the past to meeting the future.
Oh, and what transformed that got me this excited at the library?
|The new Kid Lab wall at La Crosse (WI) Public Library -|
a eye-catching, kid-catching magnetic chalkboard
that gets school kids right in the action
At ALA midwinter meeting, Pinkney was announced as recipient of two lifetime achievement awards: Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement winner as well as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”
That is an extraordinary thing and most well-deserved. Pinkney has been a hard working and creative author and illustrator throughout his career. Never one to bask in the spotlight, he has just kept producing extraordinary work on behalf of kids.
Recently, Hornbook (January 26, 2016) did a quick Five Questions for Jerry Pinkney.
The brief Hornbook article ended with the following question and answer: "You're known as a lion in this field. Do you have any advice for the young cubs just coming up?"
And Jerry's reply? "Make it all about the work. Everything else will follow."
I read that and thought, yep, that pretty much applies to any work in any field including our profession. And he has it exactly right.
I volunteered to guide the group through our responsibilities as board members. As the YSS rep on our WLA board, I've developed some knowledge on how our association and unit work. I've also thought alot about the reasons that group work like board work, committee work and even group projects and staff teamwork can be so hard.
Depending on the circumstances, some people consider their service a step up the ladder of fame; some people let others do all the heavy lifting; there always seems to be one or two who appear AWOL much of the time; people lose the thread of continuity and make up stuff; guidelines or bylaws or org manuals are ignored. I could go on but we've all been involved in group work and can share a horror story or two.
It doesn't have to be hard. But I think before we say yes to a board or committee, we need to consider our responsibilities to the group. Here's what I suggested make for stronger group work on a board level.
· Get to know website, blog, organizational and leadership manual - we will be smart; we won’t get lost in myths; and we can use our knowledge to contribute to wise decision making.
· Be an information sharer –not hoarder - make sure the chair knows what is happening as well as other board members on projects we each work on; consider how to let members of the organization know what the board is doing through unit newsletters and/or social media (blog, FB group, Google community, etc) as well as through state library networks like system workshops or other communities. Be transparent.
Communication and sharing ideas/opinions critical - step up at board meetings and participate even if we feel shy or hesitant. All opinions and contributions are vital.
Strong teamwork results in amazing results - what can we each add to push youth services forward. Volunteer to help or recruit others to help in moving services ahead.
You are not alone - other board members offer amazing support system to help us be successful and do meaningful work. Ask for assistance.
Make your dreams come true - what projects do you think the organization's members would benefit from? Suggest and work towards them! And look for organization members to help you (rather than just board members) to give meaningful work to recruit for leadership.
Step outside of your unit and get to know other association members and committees (our tribe is great but we get more done the larger our networks are).
· Servant Leadership - How do we serve? Serving our members as a board member with a big picture view rather than our own own narrow interests or expertise areas means we serve the organization and not ourselves. Leading from behind by offering a hand up and a shoulder to stand on for sister/brother board members and unit members makes everyone feel strong. Thinking of ourselves as a true representative of all unit members and not just service as a personal step up a ladder.
· Own your leadership role - when at meetings at the our libraries, in our systems and community, don’t just intro ourselves as "So and so from such and such library" but also as board member of our unit or association.
· Encourage membership - we are ambassadors and our interactions with other youth serving staff invites people to participate and feel welcomed.
· Step up to the plate - we may need to step into a leadership position if someone resigns or leaves state. Board work has larger responsibilities that we can fill to keep the unit vital and functioning (always remembering above- we are not alone).
· Making up missed meetings - We all have to miss a meeting or two. If this happens, read over the minutes asap and contact the chair to ask what WE can do. Don't consider a missed meeting as "Get out of board responsibilities" moment.
These simple approaches can really make a difference in successful board and committee and being part of a successful working board/committee.
What else makes board work successful? Tips welcome!
For the first time in a very long time, I found it a real challenge to get down to business and put fingers to keyboard to do the actual composition of what amounts to five presentations all due within a few days of each other. I procrastinated over this in November and December. EVERYTHING seemed to take precedence over writing - from the ridiculous to the mundane. You know, that stuff.
While immersed in this procrastination period, I worried whether I was having some kind of performance anxiety. Why couldn't I get down to business? Was I struggling because I had bitten the forbidden fruit of retirement relaxation and lost some of my drive and discipline? Was I feeling like I had less to say on these subjects because I was less active in the day to day of librarianship? Or had I simply lost the confidence to express myself?
January finally kick-started me (as looming deadlines will) and I got 'er done (hurray)!
Then the tinkering started. I dipped in and out of what I wrote constantly (thank you computers for letting me make constant revisions so easily). No sooner would I say, "I'm done" then a new piece of research would be published, a new blog post from a peer, a new article in the professional journals, a new Twitter thread, a new conversation with colleagues would get me right back to revising and refining my thinking.
If that all wasn't enough, over the past few days, during the amazing Wild WI Winter web conference developed by the equally amazing Jamie Matczak from the Nicolet Federated Library System, I plunged into webinar after webinar (and so can you - all the webinars are archived in the site).
You guys, I learned so much!! And that lightning bolt thought stitched together the last few month's writing delays into a realization.
It wasn't performance anxiety that held me back. It was more that I was learning so continuously that committing to something as a finished product seemed almost sacrilegious. Each revelation adds to my thinking and enlarges my view of librarianship. How can something one writes or thinks or believes ever be truly "finished"?
I don't think I'm alone here. In fact you may be going "She is one dense person. Isn't this obvious?" But that's learning for you.
Our lives are constantly about learning and revising and growing. This best part of our librarianship involves that ability to absorb, debate, revise, change, evolve and build on what we know given all the things we encounter in all the places. I am so appreciative of all the sharing everyone does that helps me keep learning and growing.
And I swear, I'll stop and call the class finished now (oh, look, a link....).
*One was a webinar on my 10 biggest management mistakes for the Wild WI Winter Web conference (above). The other is an upcoming four week class on youth management problem solving for UW-Madison SLIS CE
Book buying money is always tight - no matter what size library you come from. Each day, selectors have to make decisions among the many new books published about what to spend their dollars on. One thing I have noticed with some libraries is an interesting reluctance to buy multiple copies of youth books that kids really want. What's up with that?
Adult book buyers are legend in buying multiple copies of most requested and best seller books that generate massive circ for a short time. After their brief summer of love is over, extra copies of these books are weeded out. They have done their duty and reproduced multiple circs while they were wildly popular. They really earned their keep.Not all youth book buyers go about their purchasing like this. But why not?
I find that I get more than three requests for a title or series in a week at the desk, something is trending for kids. Talking to other staffers on the desk reveals others are also getting the same request (like, doh). And of course looking at what is on the "holds" or "reserve" shelves also gives you a vital clue on what kids are asking for. It's time to beef up the collection and give them what they want.
If it takes ten copies of a Lego book, so be it. If it's fourteen more copies of each Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Ninjago, Barbie, Dora, Yo Gabba Gabba, I say yes. Sure it spends down precious dollars - but it also answers expressed needs of kids. One of my colleagues wisely added an extra copy of the first (and sometimes second and third) book in a series, knowing that kids often want to start at the beginning but may lose interest in a series later on. By providing multiples of the first book, she made sure that kids could find that elusive "first" on the shelf more often and kept the gateway to the series - and the library-open..
I sometimes hear that, since libraries share resources, if one library buys multiple copies but others in the system don't, those circs and copies are going too far afield. Really? It actually means that kids everywhere - including at the buying library! - are receiving their books faster. Reserve queues disappear and the books are back on your shelves faster to continue to meet the needs of kids walking in.
Once the frenzy is over, multiples can be weeded out to the delight of kid buyers at library booksales. If the books have circed even 15-20 times, you have gotten your initial investment back and more. And the larger investment of kids knowing they can find what they want at your library is worth gold. You are showing them that the library understands their reading needs and delights.
We all walk the tightrope between providing amazing literature for kids and providing popular books with limited "lit-tret-ture" bona fides. Balancing between those two ends of the continuum is tricky but can be done. Go ahead....don't be afraid!
Image: 'Fixing the Money Pipeline' http://www.flickr.com/photos/26767541@N00/2464975037
Not surprisingly, it's been great fun and the best stress-reducer known to humankind. Though I worked to keep stress under control and made lots of decisions to keep things balanced (forgoing some things; saying no to others; passing offers on to other youth librarians; working on some work things at home to leave more time for co-workers during the work day), work stress is just one of those things that was part of my day-to-day. Can't say I miss it.
Many friends said it would feel like vacation. It doesn't. It feels like freedom.
Lingering warm weather allowed me to have an extra run at summer, a season I felt unfamiliar with after SLPs entered my life. It's good to make her reacquaintance. Nature has been my balm and I was able to plunge in with hikes, bikes and adventures in this beautiful driftless region and northern parts of my new state MN.
I read - alot. I cook - alot. I visit and help with friends and family - alot. I take my time - alot. Time does tick down from here (one doesn't usually retire because one is young) but more slowly and at a more measured rate.
I found that I retired from a job, not from a career. While I am lots more relaxed, I still keep my fingers in library "stuff" - but at a pace that allows me to finally do all.the.things.
I realize now- in a huge way - that because of my longtime outside commitments in professional associations, presentations, teaching and consulting, almost all my work weeks were 60-65 hours. There was my 40 hours paid for by my library. For all those other outside things, all the prep and doing was done in home-time (good morning 4 a.m!; hello long weekends of prepping sessions; why I'd love to work at that after supper until 10 pm; oh a vacation week to stay at home and put this course together, that's swell). Lucky I was - and am - to have a supportive partner! Now I have all the time in the world to put this stuff together since all my time is my own. Feels good!
I'm most excited to be embarking on a long-time dream. I will be the youth services system consultant for the Southwest (WI) Library system libraries on a very part-time basis for 2016 while they transition into a more permanent consultant position for 2017. I look forward to delving into work with the youth staffers and directors who-do-everything and lending a helping hand.
I'll still be seeing lots of you. I'm on the ALSC Sibert Award committee so my reading will turn to youth non-fiction in 2016 and ALA conferences remain on the agenda. I will be working on lots of teaching, webinars and presentations in the next year. I'm pumped to help contribute to planning for a national youth librarian leadership/management conference sponsored by UW-Madison SLIS and scheduled for April 3-4, 2017 (there will lots more on that soon!).
Blogging will occur at the same languid pace I've adopted in the past year or so. I promise to stay in touch and hope you will too.