Helping librarians achieve greater relevance, meaning, and impact in a rapidly changing world.
Last week, I was at the hair salon getting my hair cut. It’s a super friendly place and I was chatting with one of the young women who works there – she’s 19 years old. Since I’m a new client, she asked me what I did for a living. Of course, I said “I’m a librarian”. Her response? And I quote, “You’re awfully nice to be a librarian”. All I could say was “that makes me really sad”.
It turns out that her concept of librarians is that they’re, you guessed it, kind of scary and always telling people to be quiet. The frowning shusher, intent on policing behavior and collecting fines.
You and I both know that’s an outdated stereotype, but the sad truth is that so many people still think the same thing.
And the sadder truth is – there are still too many librarians acting that way.
In my years of working in libraries, I’ve seen this many times and – I’m sorry to say – was guilty of it myself in my early days. I thought the library should be a quiet space and that we should teach people, especially children, responsibility by holding them accountable for borrowed materials by charging fines.
But over time, I realized that what I was really doing was just turning kids off to books and libraries. Maybe permanently. They’re the kids who grew into adults who say things like “You’re awfully nice to be a librarian”. And then I read a quote by Doug Johnson, author of the Blue Skunk Blog that said “The goal of a library is not to get back all the books, but all the readers” (Doug Johnson, 2013).
For complete show notes, please visit masterfullibrarian.com/ep-31
Librarians, The Solutions Are In the Stories
In this very short episode, I’m going to talk about the value of story. No, not the kind of stories we usually think of in libraries, but rather the kind our team members have to tell. It’s in these personal narratives that you might discover the most magical solutions to troubling issues.
As usual, full show notes can be found at masterfullibrarian.com/ep-30.
I discovered this gold mine in a surprising way.
One of the best parts of my new job is exit interviews. When a staff member of one of my direct reports leaves, for any reason, they have the opportunity to do an exit interview with me. So far, I’ve had the privilege of doing two – one with a retiring staff member and one with someone who was moving on to a new opportunity.
I really love doing these interviews! Although it’s always sad to see an employee go, I just never cease to be enthralled with the stories they tell me about their lives, their work in the library, their challenges, and their successes. And when I really listen and ask powerful questions, I learn much that I can bring to bear in solving library problems.
In fact, I learn so much about things like what has worked well, what has done damage, or where an employee might have been better supported along the way, that I realized it was a shame to wait until they were leaving to do these interviews! So, I’ve started doing similar interviews now, long before a team member is even thinking about leaving.
And although it’s true that someone who’s already out the door will often be more forthcoming with feedback - both constructive and not so much - I’ve found that when I create for an employee the time, space, and safety to share without fear of retribution – and remember team leaders, that is key, to share without fear of retribution - stories start to flow out like a waterfall.
It’s incredibly useful information for me, as a team leader.
You can do this, too. It takes some time and a willingness to listen without judgement or even comment, but the payoff is worth it.
It’s honestly what coaching is all about – asking meaningful, open-ended questions and then really listening to the response.
Because here is the truth. Every single one of us has a story. We come to our work, not as blank canvases, but as real people with an infinite variety of experiences, successes, failure, scars, and habits (not all good) . And all of those are interwoven to create the tapestry that is our unique and personal story.
I have found that when I invite an employee, a member of my team, or really anyone, to tell me their story and I sit and I listen with an open and empathetic mind and heart, they will begin to open up and share some of their authentic narrative with me. And in this way, we can connect and begin to build a relationship of trust and respect. And when I care enough to validate their experiences and their personal viewpoints and perceptions – even when I don’t agree, or when I know that their perception is not accurate – that relationship grows stronger.
And when that relationship grows stronger, I have the opportunity to develop that individual into a better team member and to help them move forward toward their own personal goals and objectives. So it’s a win-win.
And when I’m doing that - when that happens - the magic of true collaboration and teamwork starts.
For complete show notes, please visit masterfullibrarian.com/ep-30
Will the Real Library Leaders Please Stand Up?
Hello librarians. Welcome to this week’s episode where I’m going to talk about leaders in the library – they’re not always who you think they are. As usual, for complete show notes, you can go to masterfullibrarian.com/ep-29.
I like to think, learn, and share about leadership. It’s really kind of my thing. Becoming a better leader is something that I work at all the time. And since I started my new position, it’s been even more important to me because I have a fairly large team that I lead. And one of my responsibilities is to nurture and develop the people on my team – the leaders on my team – the experienced and the emerging. So it seemed like a good thing for me to talk about with you.
There are lots of definitions of leadership. Here are just a few:
1. the one in the charge, the person who convinces other people to follow (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/leader)
2. a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal (http://www.vtaide.com/gleanings/leader.html)
3. someone who can see how things can be improved and who rallies people to move toward that better vision (https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2020/01/06/what-is-leadership-and-who-is-a-leader/)
I kind of like that last one, but I’m most drawn to this definition from a White Paper by Bal et al. In the paper, The Role of Power in Effective Leadership, they define a leader as someone who has the potential to influence others.
True leaders are powerful people and it’s because of this ability to influence.
You could be that leader.
For complete show notes, please visit masterfullibrarian.com/ep-29.
Why I'm Glad I Went Back to Work in a Library
As I told you in my episode 29, Masterful Librarian is Back, I’ve returned to work in a library again. And those of you who have been listening to my podcasts are probably wondering about that. After all, in my very first episode, Why I’m Glad I Lost my Library Job, I said I was kind of burnt out on working in libraries and, at the time, that was true. But after a year and a half away, things have changed.
The best thing about being back in a library is the teamwork! I love working with a dedicated group of like-minded individuals. Much of my library career, including this last year as a Librarian Success Coach, has been spent in solo situations. Although I loved those jobs and often worked on cross-departmental teams in those organizations, there’s nothing like working with a group of your peers to envision, develop, and improve collections, programs, and services.
When I work alone, I get things done and have ideas. But when I work with a group toward a goal or objective? The ideas just seem to flow like a great river and the completed work boggles my mind. There’s nothing I love more than a free-flowing, but targeted, brainstorming session or a well-facilitated meeting to create action steps toward a goal. These things really get my juices flowing and I love it.
And here’s what’s important. Sometimes we don’t realize how much working and being around like-minded people energizes us and brings joy to our days. It’s easy to get frustrated or irritated by co-workers when we’re with them day in and day out and to start thinking we’d love nothing better than to escape to a quiet, secluded place to work. And sometimes we need to do that – for a little while.
But I believe that most of us, especially those called to work in libraries, are simply better together.
Libraries & Librarians Matter
Way back in episode 2, I told you all how much you matter to your users and the community. If you haven’t listened to Librarians, You Matter More Than You Know, you can find that masterfullibrarian.com/ep2. And it’s true. Libraries are one of the most vital institutions in society and that’s only because of the librarians who work in them.
Although my work with Masterful Librarian certainly contributes to that greater good, I’m definitely more in the game now. I love knowing that everything I do in my role at the library contributes to making my community, our society, and the world a better place.
That’s pretty important stuff.
And the same thing is true for you in whatever role you’re filling at your library. Even if you’re in the most junior level positions you’re making that kind of difference.
If you’re at the Circ desk, or shelving in the stacks, or sorting and processing book returns, you’re still an essential cog in the big and beautiful wheel called a library. Never underestimate your power to make an impact in your library world.
For complete show notes, please go to masterfullibrarian.com/ep28
Masterful Librarian is Back – With Some Exciting News!
Hello librarians! I’m finally back – after a much longer than anticipated absence. My apologies for that! Sometimes – maybe most of the time – my life doesn’t go according to my plans!
In my last episode, I promised some exciting news when I returned. So here’s the big reveal. I’ve gone back to work in a library!
Now you may be thinking “What? You said in your first episode you were glad you lost your library job!” And you would be right. I did say that – and at the time it was 100% true.
If you haven’t listened to that episode, called “Why I’m Glad I Lost My Library Job”, you can find it at masterfullibrarian.com/ep1.
But the rest of that story is that over the course of the year of the lockdown, working with my coaching business, I discovered that being at home all the time and only getting to work with people remotely just didn’t do it for me.
Don’t get me wrong – I love coaching and love working with clients on the phone and virtually that way. And I will continue to work with clients. At the same time, I genuinely missed working with a team – in person. I need that sort of interaction and the energy that gets generated when two or more people are actually in the same room collaborating.
So, I sent out some applications a few months ago and the amazing people at the Milwaukee Public Library offered me something I just couldn’t turn down. They offered me the position of the new Public Services Area Manager for Central. Which means, I’m the head of public services at the main library building of the Milwaukee Public Library.
I started back on August 16 and I absolutely love it! I love the library, the role I fill, I love the people I work with. It’s been amazing! It’s a little early to say, but this just might be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had the privilege to hold. It’s great to be here.
That means that at the end of July, I moved – again. Second time in four months. I’ve got to cut down on that! It’s hard.
And, of course, it totally turns my life upside down - it seems for longer each time I have to move. And that brings me to why it took me so long to get back to producing the podcast.
For complete show notes, please go to masterfullibrarian.com/ep27
Masterful Librarian Podcast Takes a Vacay!
Summer is in full swing and I know many of you - especially my school librarian listeners - are finally enjoying some well-deserved time away from work. It’s been a tough year.
If you’re a public librarian, you may be in your busiest time of year as Summer Reading Programs are in full swing right now. But I hope you, too, will get some time off to refresh and rejuvenate sometime this summer.
This has been a pretty crazy year for me and I am once again entering into a time of big change and transition. I’ll tell you more about that in a future episode.
But for now - for the month of July, I’m taking a vacation, too. That will allow me to get recharged and focused before I enter into my exciting new adventure. It will also give me time to take care of details related to that adventure.
Look for my next episode on August 4. I hope you’ll be back with me at that time. I’ll have lots to share!
In the meantime, enjoy this season of longer days, warmer nights, maybe some afternoon naps, time to read all those wonderful new books you’ve been receiving in your libraries all year, maybe get some fresh fruits and vegetables at the market, and enjoy some beach, lake, or pool time, if you can. I know I’ll be trying to do as many of those things as I possibly can during the month of July.
So, for now, enjoy your summer! And I’ll see you back on August 4.
Great resource for all professionals
Marian’s podcast is a great resource for not just librarians but also for all business professionals! She has a wealth of knowledge and experience in addition to a wonderful heart for people.
Love listening to Masterful Librarian! Keep up the great podcasting!