Provide Magical Face-to-Face Service

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!)

Providing Magical Face-to-Face Reference Services (1)

Advertisements

Programming Basics – Sell Yourself, Then Your Program

Image

So now that I’m getting into the swing of things on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library I’m able to start programming.

This. Is. My. Passion.

Which makes it at times almost uncontrollably hard to rein in.  I always want to go way overboard when it comes to programming and it can be hard to just pick one thing to start with.  I tend to focus on what a program could turn into (An entire gaggle of crafty teens meeting weekly to yarn bomb the city together!  A fleet of girls who Skype with Amy Poehler about the frustrations of being ballsy, creative young women as we create a zine!  A group who study the acoustics of ukuleles, design crazy versions we 3D print, then have an impromptu “Learn Your First Chord w/ Amanda Palmer in 5 Minutes” program that turns into weekly Uke sessions. Seriously, it’s like this in my brain ALL DAY…) instead of how to build the fan base to make those big programs work.  Luckily, with a few locations and years under my belt I’m finally getting better at the start up of such programs.

So here’s what I’m gonna do:  I’m gonna’ delve into my own childhood and give a few of my choice memories away to a new generation.  First Up? I’m gonna teach 8-18 year olds how to make and then use a Knitting Nancy.  Anyone remember those?  I spent HOURS when I was about 9 creating endless chains of yarn and dreaming about what I’d turn them into.

I picked this for four reasons:

  1. Because DIY is hot right now.
  2. Because Retro is hot right now.
  3. Because Kids can smell a fake a mile away and unless I’m totally into what we’re doing they’ll hate it/me.
  4. Because the kids who freakin’ love it will come back for more.

This program will be fabulous and these kids will want to come back.  Next time I’ll hook them again and this is how I’ll build my crafty fan base.  Eventually, we’ll get to those big ideas but first, I’ve gotta sell myself to them.

Oh, in case you’re interested in teaching kids Spool Knitting (also known as French Knitting) I HIGHLY recommend this video which I’ll be showing them on Saturday. Seriously, this 6 Year Old Boy might be my new hero…

My First Week in Chattanooga

If there’s anything I’ve learned from realistic tween fiction it’s that being the new girl can be hard.  Really hard. Roving bullies, countless social faux pas, missing friends and family, it’s really just a wasteland strewn with mortification and terror.  Growing up I never exactly “fit in”.  My clothes were different, my hairstyles were different, my sense of humor was different and the things I liked to do for fun were really different. (If you’ve just moved to a new town I do NOT recommend jumping straight into imaginary downhill skiing on your roller-skates in front of the cool kids.)  When we moved to Maine I was nine and I had all of the aforementioned things going for me.  It was like walking straight into one of those novels except there was no turning the page when things got too hard to read.  I couldn’t finish the book and be glad I wasn’t in some other girl’s shoes.  I embraced the strange though.  I liked standing out as a societal rebel, I took pleasure in scaring the other kids with my sense of humor and while my lack of friends bothered me I didn’t want to compromise who I was.  After about a year of this I found Rachel, another outsider, and we took solace in one another’s company. All of a sudden the world with bullies didn’t exist anymore, all that was real was the world we created for ourselves.

Some folks have been asking what my first week has been like since joining the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. There’s interest about having gaming equipment for teens available all day (even if teens are skipping school), there are questions about letting kids have access to expensive equipment like our 3D printer, there is wonder about the fact that we have 14,000 sq feet for JUST ages 8-18, and there are questions about what we’ve got up our sleeves, what big, crazy things we want to do next.

The fancy equipment is wonderful to have right off the bat, but it’s not the best part.  I’ve always pushed to get games in my previous libraries and the responsibilities libraries have to reflecting our communities and bridging gaps makes it easy to justify the need for 3D printers or maker spaces in grant funding if you can’t find room for it in your budgets.  

We have lots of space to grow, be noisy and even run around if we want to which is incredible but it’s also not the best part.  This week we had the room to create music and a gigantic 20 foot jellyfish at the same time.  When the kids excitement led them to get rambunctious they were encouraged to run, no, stampede to the other end of our floor to get drinks of water and burn it off.  I know space is hard to come by for many libraries but even at my first library when we didn’t have enough space to run around we could go outside to burn off energy.  At my last library when we needed to burn energy we occasionally just let the kids be kids and run if needed.  There can be creative ways to deal with small spaces and locations that don’t have the great outdoors at your disposal.

The best part about working in the Chattanooga Public Library and specifically on the 2nd Floor is being in a building filled with people like me.  People who have also had their programming ideas received with raised eyebrows, people who might not look like other librarians and certainly don’t talk like them.  It’s like I’ve found a hive of Rachels and we’re just getting started in creating those big, crazy programs everyone is waiting to hear about.  I am supported, I am inspired, I am encouraged and I am flourishing.  That’s what it’s like to work here.