The continuing transparent director series from Library Journal puts out another gem. I wasn't a fan of the Libraries are too timid piece, but the current one, Going to the Field, has some great advice. I will share my favorite part of the piece and then refer to some other blog posts talking about the same thing. One from another library director.
Going to the Field - 9/15/2007 - Library Journal: "We're not trying to turn accountants and administrators into desk librarians. But we do want them to see and comprehend the multitude of issues that branch or department staff and management deal with every day. If support and administrative staff see the processes for what they really are, then, we hope, they'll begin to view their roles in a new light."
(One other fun thing to do is to have your IT staff fix a computer or perform repairs on a down computer while the library is open. People learn really fast that the library is a busy place and the demand level is very high.)
Sites and Soundbytes: Library Directors and Customers - What's Our Role?: "Directors should work the service desks at their libraries. Do you know the feel and service your patrons are receiving? (I am posting this from our library's reference desk while the staff has a department meeting, so this is one I personally do whenever I get the chance.) I find that I get a real sense of our patrons, their needs and how the library inter-relates when I do even a short stint at desk." (click the link to read more)
END SNIP (I posted more about this here.)
Church of the Customer Blog: "# He mingles with passengers in the gate area # He makes gate announcements himself, updating passengers about weather conditions and sets realistic expectations for delays # He uses his cellphone to call United operations to ask about connections for passengers # He passes out information cards to passengers with fun facts about the plane; he signs two of them, whose owners will win a bottle of wine # He snaps pictures of animals in the cargo hold to show owners their pets are safely on board # He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business # He personally calls parents of unaccompanied children to give them updates # He instructs flight attendants to pass out napkins asking passengers to write notes about experiences on United, good or bad # He orders 200 McDonald's hamburgers for passengers if his flight is delayed or diverted"
Lastly, (when this presentation posts), you need to listen to Gina Millsap and Rob Banks from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library District, Dump the Org. Chart: Get `Er Done!: Management for a 2.0 Library A wonderful presentation on how to transform your library to a responsive and positive team environment. Or read Rob Banks blog here.
Library directors really need to man the front desk, talk to their staff, and be involved in what is going on. Understanding the problems will result in better solutions and increased morale. The more staff know that you are listening and that you are communicating what you are doing to solve the problem, the better they will feel. This is true even if you don't actually solve the problem. When know that you understand their problems, they will trust what you are doing and trust your decision-making.
So go ahead and try it:
- Work the circulation desk while your staff has a circulation meeting
- Get higher ups over at the library during the rush of post-storytime
- Sit at the front desk and watch what staff have to deal with day in and day out
- Understand the best ways to communicate with staff so they feel they hear you and you hear them
In the end, you will be an administrator that understands the problems and has built trust with staff to move forward wherever you go.