So I’ve just wrapped up my second semester of Library School. It was fun, it was a lot of work, and I’m SO glad I’ve been working in libraries for what will be a decade next month. Pulling from my own widely varied experiences have made studying so relatable.
Among fellow librarians I’ve talked with during this semester it’s agreed: if you’re toying with working in a library someday and want to get the degree GO WORK IN A LIBRARY. Make sure you really like working with the public. ALL of the public, not just what you see on television. (It’s less Desk Set and more Buffy in real life.)
For one of my last assignments I had to create an infographic so I took the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for years. I made a flow chart about offering basic excellent customer service to our face-to-face patrons. When I was nearly done I had my buddy Sarah Anne take a peek at it since she’s the head of our Circulation Department and she asked for a copy when I was done to hang in her department! It made me realize it may be helpful to folks working in libraries or those who are curious about what those interactions should look like.
I’m frequently told how uncanny it is I can give folks bad news (“No, sir, you can not use the children’s restroom.” “No, sweetheart, you can not hit her in the face with a laptop.”) and they leave happy about it. I firmly believe this can be chalked up to genuinely caring and entering each transaction believing the request I’m about to receive is important and worth my full attention. Folks respond to that. They appreciate feeling heard and important. And I never leave them simply shut down, I provide options. (“No, sir, you can not use the restrooms in the Children’s Department but did you know there are adult restrooms on the 1st and 3rd Floors? I’d be happy to show you where!” “No, sweetheart, you can’t hit her in the face with that laptop. Did you know that the library’s rules say we’re supposed to ask people not to come back for a year if they act violently towards another person? I know you were playing but it’s something to keep in mind. No laptops to the face, no aggressive tickling with spaghetti, no karate chops to your friends’ ponytails.”)
So here, have a peek at my work! (I got a 100%, btw – Woohoo!)
Stacie is rad. SUPER rad. I met Stacie last year at Public Library Association (PLA) and we got jazzed on the oddball things we were both creating at our libraries. Soon after we became Facebook and twitter buddies where I learned more about the amazing initiatives she’s involved in which include Outside the Lines (http://getoutsidethelines.org/ – #getOTL) and being one of the minds behind R-Squared – The Risk + Reward Conference (http://rsquaredconference.org/). Seriously, this woman is a prime example of why people from the non-library world NEED to be involved in what we’re all trying to create.
Over the course of our interview (or should I refer to it as more of a conversation which occasionally reached fevered pitches?) we discussed a lot of big ideas.
First we tackled what people in Youth Departments can bring to a leadership role. Her thoughts? Youth librarians have the ability to add whimsy, color, and opportunities for all ages to learn through play. Anythink Director Pam Sandlian Smith was once a youth librarian and during a visit last year from Rebecca Miller, editor of SLJ, Rebecca remarked that Pam had basically turned the whole place into a children’s library. Stacie found that exciting and believes these opportunities for libraries to capture the attention of adults using methods youth librarians already apply – color, marketing, and attention – have the ability to focus on our audiences in a way they aren’t used to receiving. That attention will make youth librarians valuable voices at a leadership table and will keep our public involved in a dialogue we need to stay relevant. She believes we can’t simply rely on the fact that people love us forever, we need to involve them.
We also threw around the idea of not viewing failure as failure. That each experience, be it good or bad, is always an opportunity. Being in a position of innovation she gets asked a lot about failure and never feels she’s giving the answer people are looking for. My question is are we looking for stories of failure to learn how to weather our own? If so, when is moving forward not the answer to encountering failure? We both agree what is important is to recognize the quiet failures, our dying or dead ideas and to throw them away. Holding onto them is maybe the only true form of failure.
There’s far more to our conversation and to Stacie than could ever be captured in 500 words. She’s someone I feel a deep commune with. A fellow library outsider who loves the driving force of libraries and has always been a librarian. We have no piece of paper to prove it, but it drives us from the most deep down punk rock place. It is the only way to stay hardcore and facilitate change from within a system. The best way to create change by actually embodying the change. Becoming the system instead of railing against it.
We all know it’s important to focus on the small things from time to time so I thought I’d just share a bunch of stuff that I love about where I live.
- My town is a bird sanctuary. Yup. My WHOLE TOWN. Not just the parks, the whole freakin’ thing. Our house came with a bird feeder and Karl is REALLY into keeping our feathered friends well fed. His absolute favorite birds are a couple of cardinals who hang out on a branch nearby and take turns carefully choosing seed from our feeder and then flying back to feed the seed to one another. It’s adorable. (Still working on an action shot of this phenomenon.)
- Dibley is a muppet. He looks like a muppet, he makes muppet noises and sometimes he also moves like a muppet. Do you know how hard it is to say goodbye to a muppet every morning and then see that muppet looking at you sadly through a window as you walk away? It’s shocking that I make it to work every day.
- My house is straight outta’ Mad Men. It’s a midcentury modern ranch that is almost entirely original. When inside it I drink as many liquids out of martini glasses as possible.
- Surprise flowers! There are so many cool plants that I can have now that I live in the south. Whenever I get into a new house I love the year long unfolding mystery of what plants are living with me. So far we’ve discovered wild roses, day lilies and ton of mature tulip trees surrounding our house.
Take a couple minutes to look around and appreciate, folks. We get one ride on this big spinning ball and the more you can appreciate the small stuff the happier your ride will be.