by flickr user sean bonner (cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
There has been a LOT going on with my team over the last couple of months, but I can’t really talk about it here.
I’ve navigated disciplinary issues, inter-department relationship building (and repair), personality conflicts, issues of motivation and attitude, and more — but I haven’t been able to write about any of it because I manage a small team and no matter how I reframe the situation or obfuscate identities, anyone who knows my team and reads my posts will know who I’m talking about. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting in private diary entries and in the exercises I’m doing with this book, but that’s not the same as having to frame thoughts coherently for an audience and being able to exchange experiences and ideas with others. I’m also seeking advice from other managers and other people within my system, but again, that’s not something I can really share widely.
November 13, 2013
by George Thomas (cc by-nc-nd 2.0)
This week is my part-time staff member’s penultimate week. He’s still going to be with the library, he’ll still be working with teens, and he’ll likely still be working out of our branch, but he’s moving into a new role as a fellow in BridgeUp
, an intensive mentoring and college-prep program. I am really psyched for him, I’m really psyched for the kids he’ll work with (he’s going to be phenomenal
at this), and I’m really psyched for the library — but it means that my team is going to go through a transition, and I have to lead through that time of change!
November 6, 2013
On Friday I attended the Programming Unconference Northeast at Darien Library and had a fantastic time: I reunited with Connecticut YA folks I hadn’t seen in a while, made some new YA friends (including a bunch from NYPL whom I hadn’t met yet!), got a couple good programming ideas, and was energized by conversations with other people who want to do good work.
But that day also provided me the opportunity to talk to a couple of Darien librarians to find out what their secret is.
I’d known about Darien Library even as a library student in Indiana. I assumed at the time that their greatness was a product of the wealth in the community, but after moving to Fairfield County and seeing other libraries with just as much money who weren’t nationally known, I realized that money isn’t enough to make a library successful. (It may be necessary, but it’s not sufficient.) So what’s Darien Library’s secret?
September 30, 2013
by flickr user chris messley
I recently joined the Editorial Board of In the Library with the Lead Pipe
, and just last week my term as member manager of The Hub
ended. Joining an already-established group and handing off an ongoing project to someone new has had me thinking about onboarding, organizational memory, and succession planning among librarians.
While this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, it’s caught my attention before. (more…)
August 21, 2013
I still don’t feel like I know how to assess myself as a supervisor. At first when I started this job, I felt like I didn’t know how to assess myself in my new role at all, but I’ve teased out some of the different aspects to my work now: I’m a librarian, I’m a department head, and I’m a supervisor.
I know how to assess myself as a librarian. I know when a program has gone well, if the collection is in good shape, if a reference transaction went well, or if I’m developing relationships with my patrons and making a difference in their lives. I know how to assess myself as a department head (mostly). I know when our overall statistics are headed in the right direction, I know if I’m coming up with successful new initiatives, I can assess the department with YALSA’s Teen Services Evaluation Tool, I can kind of get a sense for whether or not we’re making a difference in the community, and and I know when my vision meshes with what my patrons need and where I think we can go.
It’s the supervisory part I’m finding trickier.
June 4, 2013
by flickr user clevercupcakes
The semester of NYPL’s Managing for Excellence program (which I wrote about earlier
) is coming to a close: we have our presentation to senior management and our graduation this morning. After three months of instruction on communication styles, performance management, team building, conflict, and more, I feel much more well-equipped to supervise and lead a department than I did earlier this spring. I still have a lot
to learn, of course, but I at least have a framework now (both of theoretical concepts and concrete knowledge like the way discipline is handled at NYPL) into which I can fit what I’m learning from experience.
While the formal training provided by my library is over and I’ll definitely be doing a lot of learning from experience, I also want to keep up my deliberate book learning, too. I bought a copy of Be a Great Boss, and I’ll start working through it soon. I’m trying to find more readings about management and supervising, but there’s a lot of dumb business garbage out there to sort through to find the good stuff. I’m also following a couple management blogs (like As a Manager, Library Lost & Found, and Rands in Repose). What other formal methods for learning would you suggest, readers?
In the mean time, I want to reflect on one particular lesson I’ve been learning recently: how my work processes have to change as I make the transition from a department of one to a supervisor.
May 31, 2013
On Wednesday an article I wrote about building teen services (mostly) from scratch at my last library was published on In the Library with the Lead Pipe. In it, I write about the experience and about four things (the value of data, the importance of having a vision, how much relationships matter, and the value of professional community) that I wish I’d known before starting. I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think, especially if you’re also the first teen services librarian at your library!
I also want to reflect a little bit about the experience of writing for the In the Library with the Lead Pipe folks since I’ve done that twice now (my first article for them was about why everyone, even adults, should be reading YA lit and includes a now-old look at what YA has to offer).
May 24, 2013
By far the hardest thing to adjust to in my new job has been being a supervisor instead of just being my own department. This far surpasses the Bronx vs. New Canaan, giant system vs. small town library, and even full-time vs. part-time differences in what I do on a day-to-day basis and how I feel about my job.
Before starting with NYPL, this was the entirety of my supervisory experience:
- A semester-long stint as the supervisor of the student staff of the front office for the residence hall where I lived in college
- Leading Teen Advisory Board groups at my last job
- A year-long term as chair of Amazing Audiobooks
- About a year and a half of managing The Hub
- I also read and loved and really took to heart From Good to Great, although as inspiring as that book is and as helpful as it was at my last job when I was creating a vision/strategic plan for my department, it’s more about leadership and less about supervisory/management work
It’s not a lot, but this is one of those “How are you supposed to get experience when you have to have experience already to get hired?” kinds of situations that I think a lot of job-seekers find themselves in. I’m grateful to NYPL for seeing potential in me and offering me this job, and I’m determined to live up to the idea that I can do this, and do it well.
But right now, I am definitely in the stage where I have a lot to learn, and I’m trying to learn quickly. (more…)
March 13, 2013
I’m still settling in at my new job, so I thought I’d get back to blogging by writing about some of the things I wish I’d written about while I was learning and growing in my previous position. Since the post I did on the Minecraft competition we held still gets me a lot of questions about how to do the same, I thought I’d write about another unusual, successful-by-some-metrics program.
Like all libraries, my last library had regulars. A particular group of regulars formed my core audience when I started to spin up programs: they were the ones who’d come to drop-in gaming and movie screenings regularly, so when I decided it was time to form a TAB, they were the first ones I went to, and they were my most faithful attendees.
As they got older and our teen services offerings grew, their use of the library changed (once they started driving, they did a lot less just hanging out!), but they were still the kids I knew best and the kids I could count on to come to things.
But it wasn’t just me counting on them, I was encouraged to discover. One day, one of these girls came to me and said that she and her friends had formed a paranormal investigation team, and while they had the equipment they needed and had done some investigations, they were having trouble getting access to other locations because grownups weren’t really interested in a bunch of teens running around on their property after dark. They wanted to know if they could incorporate as a library club so I could help them talk to the adults at those places.
February 7, 2013
by flickr user SashaW
On Saturday I had my last day at the first professional position I had post-library school (first and only teen services librarian at the New Canaan Library in New Canaan, Connecticut), and today I had orientation and training for my new job (working at NYPL in the Bronx Library Center as the supervising librarian for teen services). It’s a big step in my career, but it’s been bittersweet taking this position because over the not-quite-two-and-a-half-years that I worked in New Canaan, I’ve grown very attached to the town, to the library, and especially to the kids. I didn’t stay as long as I’d intended, but I’m really proud of what I built during my time there, especially since I was a department of one building teen services from the ground up, and super-especially because I did all of that on 19-28 hours a week (I got more hours over time).
Transitions always make me contemplative, and I’m not only thinking about what I did and didn’t accomplish in New Canaan and what my new job will be like and how I’ll grow and change as a librarian and as a person — I’m also thinking about how disappointed I am that I was always too busy to write about my experiences building teen services as they were happening. (more…)
January 14, 2013