Category Archives: Library Topics

Thanks to the Leaders

Library Musings

Recently my supervisor passed along a great article by Steve McKee, entitled “Leaders don’t cry, and other lies.”  After reading it, I couldn’t help but start thinking about all the other things that leaders do, besides show emotions.  There are all kinds of articles out there about what great leaders do, or what makes a leader instead of just a manager.  But the real question is, do we ever thank them for it?

Being a leader is hard work, and the amount of work that’s put in is often overlooked.  It’s easy to take for granted all the great things that a leader does every day – after all, that’s what makes them a leader.  But if we don’t take the time to thank those leaders for what they’re doing, and give them the same encouragement that they give us, I think we’re doing them a disservice.  Why should the leaders be overlooked just because they are already great at what they do?

Maybe it’s a little cliche, but I think everyone wants to feel appreciated and recognized for what they do.  And words are powerful, more so than we give them credit for.  Something as simple as saying thank you can change someone’s day.  Several years ago, I wrote an email along a similar line thanking someone for being a leader in our organization, and for me, at a time when we needed it most.  Today, I think it’s time to thank all the leaders who have helped us become the great people and organizations that we are now.

So here it is, an open letter to all the leaders who have shaped me, and continue to shape me.

To all the leaders who helped shape me,

I know that I personally don’t thank you often enough for what you do, both for me and for our organization.  It’s easy to point out all the things that are done wrong, and all the missteps taken, but it seems like we very rarely take the time to tell others how much they are doing right.  There is so much that you are doing right, and because you show up and try to be better every day, you are making a difference.  I want to take a minute to really thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.

You have taken disjointed teams, and taught us from each mistake that we made.  Instead of seeing all the places that we fell short, you found opportunities for us to learn and improve.  You didn’t shy away from the hard conversations, or the frustration, or the tears.  Instead, you got right into the thick of it with us, and helped us to the other side.

You encourage me to grow and be more, instead of being satisfied with the status quo.  You see the talents and the skills, even the ones that are rough or buried, and you push to develop them, even when it’s hard work.  Every day, you put people like me into positions and opportunities where we can have the greatest impact.  You have given many of us the chance to shine by seeing more than a title or a job description, and instead really taking the time to know us and our goals, our dreams, our motivations, and our aspirations.  You take ownership when no one else will, and the ways that you touch our organizations are amazing.

You have challenged me to make my own decisions, to change my assumptions, to communicate better, and to become both a greater professional and a greater person.  You believe in me and encourage me, even when I hesitate to believe in myself.  No matter how many difficult conversations it takes, your door is always open.  You believe in us, and encourage us, even when we hesitate to believe in ourselves.  As many times as we need to hear it, you have never hesitated to say it.

Thank you for letting me ramble sometimes, so that I can work through to the answer.  Thank you for letting me vent.  Thank you for being amazingly patient.  Thank you for all the conversations that brought me to where I am today.  You have been a friend, a mentor, a leader, a teacher, and a manager all at once.  The best parts of myself as a leader are the ones that I learned first from your example.

You are never too busy to give your time to others, even though I know you have a million other things that need doing.  You consistently put the needs of your employees ahead of your own.  You fight for us, and with us, even when things don’t go smoothly.  You teach us to be gracious, and tenacious, and to believe in the larger dream we can accomplish together.  You see the people behind the decisions, not just the numbers.  You want the best for us, even when it doesn’t always mean the best for you.

Thank you for fielding all the requests and problems that come through your office, yet always being the positive force that we need.  There are so many things that you are doing right, even though no one tells you that.  You take on so much, just so that we don’t have to.  You lead us so that we will be ready to lead others one day.

Thank you for letting me take ownership and make my own decisions, but always being willing to help when I need it.  Thank you for guiding me away from some really bad ideas, and encouraging me toward great ones.  Thank you for always giving the credit to those around you, when it would be easier to claim it for yourself.

Thank you for all the phone calls, all the emails, all the messages and meetings that I don’t see.  Thank you for providing the strength and guidance that keep us going.  There are so many things you do that go unrecognized, but they matter.  Please know that what you are doing is changing lives.  Please know that you are seen, you are recognized, and you are appreciated.  I have been, and I continue to be, so fortunate to have your guidance and your example to learn from.

I don’t think it is said often enough, but you are doing great.


Leave a comment

Filed under Library Topics

How We View Leadership

Library Musings

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  I’m very fortunate to work in a library system that not only demands excellence of its employees, but also gives us the tools we need to succeed.  Over the past several weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about our role as leaders, how we can inspire and motivate others, and what it means to take ownership.  It’s challenging.  It’s powerful.  And it demands that we ask tough questions about ourselves to figure out the path to the next level.

If you try to define leadership, you’ll likely come up with at least 100 different answers, depending on how many people you ask.  There are thousands of great quotes to describe what leadership is, and articles and websites dedicated to defining the difference between a boss and a leader.  But if I’ve learned one thing about exploring leadership on this journey, it’s that it has to start at a much more personal level.  It has to start with you.

To be honest, leadership isn’t always the easiest thing in the world for me.  A wonderful colleague recently provided me with a variety of resources to explore leadership more personally, to start asking questions and delving deeper into what leadership really is, and what leadership means to me.  And it all started with this question:

How do you view yourself as a leader?

At first, answering that question seemed like it would be easy.  You could easily define what leadership is to you and move on, but if you stop there, are you really answering the question?  So instead of taking the first answer, the easy way out, as it were, I started really thinking about what this question is asking.

Problem #1:  I’ve never really viewed myself as a leader.  Leadership has always been a role for people who are in positions of power – the bosses, supervisors, managers, and higher-ups who have the control and the power.  Leadership has always been an idea that flows from the top, down.

Putting that on paper, I realized that maybe it’s time we challenged our assumptions about leadership.  What happens when you take an idea and flip it completely on its head, and force yourself to look at it from another perspective?

Challenge #1:  Anyone can be a leader, regardless of their role in an organization.  You can lead from any level.  If we assume that this is true, then everyone has the inherent ability to lead and inspire, provided you know how to harness that power.  With that in mind, change can be enacted from any level of an organization.  You can start to change the world simply by changing yourself, one piece at a time.

That’s a simultaneously terrifying and empowering thought.  The idea of self-reflection, of figuring out what you need to improve about yourself to be a better employee, a better person, a better leader, is scary.  You have to be willing to admit that parts that aren’t so great, that need more work.  But at the same time, if you embrace the idea that you can learn and grow and get even better, then you start to realize that what you’re doing really does make a difference.  The little changes that you’re making to be better at what you do and the type of colleague you are can really make the big differences that change an organization.

Problem #2:  I’ve never thought that other people view me as a leader.  It’s easy to say that you want to be a powerful agent of change in your organization, and that you want to lead from wherever you are.  But it can be a daunting prospect if you think that other people don’t take you seriously, or don’t see the value in what you’re doing.  How other people view us, or at least how we perceive other people view us, can have a big impact on the way we view ourselves.

Challenge #2:  Do others not see you as a leader because you don’t see yourself that way first?  Or do they see you as a leader, but you’re so caught up in self-doubt that you don’t realize it?  If we assume the first is true, then you can’t be a leader without first believing in yourself.  As hard as it may be to do, we have to start accepting the things that we are good at and the impact we are making, even if it doesn’t seem that important.  After all, from the first challenge we’re working from the idea that the little changes can really have the big impacts.

If we assume the second is true, then you must start to see the good in yourself that others are already seeing in you.  There is no space for negative self-talk or blame.  Start accepting the good things that others are seeing in you, and work with those talents.  Build up your strengths while you keep looking for other ways to improve.  What a difference it would make if you start believing that you really are the best person, the right person, to be doing exactly the job that you’re doing right now.

In either case, whichever assumption you go with, you still must answer the question:  How do you view yourself as a leader?

Challenge #3:  Assume there is no right or wrong answer, just different interpretations.  The only truth that you have is the truth you offer, so lay it out on the table, for better or worse, and let it speak for itself.  Make a start.  One of the many things my colleagues have challenged me on is the idea of “right” and “wrong,” or that there’s only one answer or way of doing things.  The more you start to think about it, though, the more you realize that’s really not the case.  We are each beautifully and wonderfully unique, with our own talents and skills and ideas, because that’s exactly what the world needs.  So take your interpretation, and the interpretations of those around you, and start to build a new understanding, one that continues to grow and evolve as you do.

Repeat after me:  I AM A LEADER.  Now believe it, and show it, whatever your interpretation of leadership is.  Do it every day, again and again.  Then listen to those around you, and grow, and change, and do it better.  Do it so often that it becomes second nature, a very part of your being.  But never stop trying, never stop improving.  Keep moving forward.

Now answer the question:  How do you view yourself as a leader?

It’s only fair that I offer an interpretation of my own:

I want to to be a leader by example.  I try to show others the characteristics that make great leaders:  honesty, integrity, dedication, commitment, hard work, sincerity, determination.  I want other people to see in me the type of person they want to be.  I want to be a reflection of all the good that others have invested in me, all the lessons that I’ve learned and that I’m still learning.  I want to be a leader by giving the time, care, and concern that others gave to me to those who, like me, need it the most.  I want to be a leader by admitting when I am wrong, and asking for help when I need it, and being gracious enough to accept that help when I do.  I want to be a leader who can put the needs of others before my own. I want to be a person who inspires others to find their own greatness.

I am a work in progress, and sometimes I can admit that’s okay.  I may not yet be a leader in all the ways that I want to be, but I am a leader because I continue to show up every day, to put the work in, and to try.

I am a leader because of those who believe in me.  I am a leader because I am working on it, EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Leave a comment

Filed under Library Topics

10 Things I Learned Library Job Searching

Library Musings

When people tell you that finding a job is a job, they aren’t kidding.  From my own recent job searching experience, I can tell you that it most certainly is.  You have to identify what you want to do, where you want to do it, and what opportunities are available.  You have to match your skill set to the skill sets that employers are looking for.  You have to fill out applications, send resumes, follow-up, interview, and follow-up again.  So, here are a few things that I learned from my recent job search.

  1. Find positives where you can.  Looking for a job is hard work, and if you’ve been looking for a long time, it’s easy to get discouraged.  Find whatever good things about your job search that you can and focus on those.  For me, that was sometimes as simple as being able to say that I found a relevant job and applied for it that day.
  2. It’s okay to be selective.  When I first found out that my company was closing, I went into job search panic mode.  But, I quickly realized that taking a job for the sake of taking a job doesn’t do you (or your employer) any good.  It’s okay to really look for what you want.  I found that by being more selective about the jobs that I applied for, I was finding positions where I was a better fit, and where I could see myself working long-term.  When I interviewed for those positions, I was more confident and invested in the process because I knew the job was one that I wanted and that I could excel at.
  3. Some interviews just don’t go well.  I learned this the hard way.  Sometimes, even when you think that you know exactly what to say, the interview doesn’t go well.  You get a question you can’t answer, or you just don’t connect with the interviewer.  I learned to accept these situations as something that I couldn’t change, and instead focus on what I could do better the next time.
  4. Cultivate and seek honesty.  Be honest about what you can and cannot do.  No one is perfect.  If you are honest about your skills and abilities, even if it means saying that you don’t know how to do something, I think it shows that you are more self-aware.  I learned to graciously admit to prospective employers if I didn’t have a particular skill that they were looking for, while also highlighting both my ability to learn new skills and other transferable skills that might benefit the company.
  5. Prepare.  Even though it seems like a no-brainer, it’s easy to go to an interview assuming that you know how to answer all the questions.  I’ve found that the more you prepare, the more confident you are in your answers and the stronger your overall presentation.  Even though you’re likely to have at least one question that stumps you, if you’re prepared, you also have strategies to cope with that.
  6. Believe in yourself.  If you don’t believe in yourself, your future employer won’t, either.  Even though your job search might not be going as planned, you have to believe that you have the skills and abilities that someone is looking for in their open position.  Know that you are a valuable contributor and that you will find the right fit for your skills and abilities.  Believe in what you do, and let that confidence show through when you interview.  Also, celebrate the little victories.  If you know that you answered a question particularly well, celebrate that success and keep it in mind for the next interview.
  7. Be patient.  This one was probably the hardest for me.  It’s easy to assume that if you don’t hear something immediately, you are not in the running and you should move on.  Sometimes, that is the case.  But more often, the interview process is just more lengthy than we care to admit.  If there is a deadline associated with the posting, or if the interviewer gives you a time frame, then do keep those in mind.  However, for many job postings, a deadline or time frame may not be listed.  Be patient and realize that the entire process takes time.  It may be months before you hear back.  Try and be realistic about the time frames that you associate with looking for positions.
  8. Learn something from each opportunity.  No matter who you are interviewing with or for what position, try to learn something from it.  Maybe it is a way to improve your presentation skills.  Maybe you learn a better approach to answering a difficult question.  Maybe you just add more questions to your repertoire that you expect to be asked, or you add a particularly good follow-up question to the interview.  Each interview is an opportunity for you to learn and improve for the next.  Take time to reflect on what you have gained from each experience, and think about what you will do with that knowledge.
  9. Keep track of your progress.  Job searching takes time, and it is easy to forget where you have applied, when, and anyone that you may have spoken with.  Keep track of your applications and job contacts so that you can follow through, and also make realistic decisions about positions.  I found that a simple spreadsheet worked well for me.  I could include the position, the location, the contact person, and then additional columns for the date the application was filed, any closing dates, the dates of follow-up communication, and also interviews.  The electronic format also made it easy for me to search and sort, so that I could focus on whatever element of my job search I needed to that day.  As an added bonus, having all the information organized in one place also helped me see how much progress I really was making on the job search as well.
  10. Know how to interview in a variety of settings.  I have interviewed with individuals, and I have interviewed with small groups.  I have done prepared presentations, and I have also been asked to prepare a demonstration with only five minutes of prep time.  I have interviewed in person, over the phone, and even via video chat.  Each situation was unique and required a slightly different approach.  Each interview is different, so try to have an idea of what to expect.  I found that something as simple as asking what to expect when being invited for an interview gave me additional details that helped me prepare and be more comfortable and confident on interview day.

Don’t give up!  I know it’s easy to say as someone who has found a job, but I firmly believe that the right position is out there for you and that you will find it.  I believe it’s okay to be angry, frustrated, and sad during the process.  I believe it’s okay to be ridiculously happy when you get the invitation to interview with company that you really want to work with.  Having an emotional connection to the job search is just natural.  Even though it’s difficult, I firmly believe that all the work is worth it the day that you start your dream job.  I’ve been lucky enough to find that, and I hope that you will, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Library Topics

Emerging Trends in Information Literacy

Library Musings

Today I’ve been thinking about trends in information literacy.  As a librarian, information literacy is something that I want to teach to my patrons.  But, how do you define it?  At its core, information literacy is your ability to do the following:

  1. Define an information need.  In other words, what do you need to know?
  2. Follow a logical process to search for and locate information.  In other words, you have the ability to think about where you will find what you need, then actually go find it.
  3. Synthesize and utilize information appropriately.  In other words, you know what information you need from all the information that you have found, and you are able to apply it to what you are working on or what you know.  You build relationships and connections with the information.
  4. Evaluate the overall effectiveness of your process.  In other words, you are able to say what worked, and what didn’t, for the next time you need to look for information.

But, what does that mean for library users today?  What strikes me as the most interesting think (or maybe the biggest emerging trend) for information literacy is that it is no longer one-dimensional.  Information literacy today is multifaceted.  Library users must learn how to navigate a variety of settings in order to effectively communicate their needs.  Where the library was once a physical building, now information encompasses mobile technologies, apps, and a variety of digital reference.  It’s not enough to be able to navigate the card catalog and find the right book.  Today, you have to decide if you want a book or a website, a peer-reviewed article or just a magazine.  You have to know what is available in each format, how to evaluate it, and the most effective use of it.

Information literacy today includes print literacy, but also digital literacy, media, visual literacy, and more.  Library users must learn to develop a more comprehensive search strategy utilizing a variety of formats, and understand the process of determining the most effective resources for a specific question.  I love being a librarian and being part of that.  Introducing others to new ways to locate information, and meeting that specific need, is one of the highlights of my job.

I have no doubt that information literacy will continue to evolve in the years to come.  While I was at TLA in April, I was able to sit in some great sessions on information literacy and library instruction, and learn new tips and tricks for helping users connect with information.  I look forward to the opportunity to continue exploring these tools, and even more to being able to share them with others.  In the constant changing dynamic of information and access, libraries (and librarians) can’t afford to stay stagnate.

Leave a comment

Filed under Library Topics