NJLA Program: Notes from: "How DO They Do It All? Tips from Effective Library Leaders"

A big thanks to Kathy Schalk-Greene, Mount Laurel Library for organizing this program, inviting me to be on it, moderating it, and sharing her great notes with us! -pete

Notes from: “How DO They Do It All? Tips from Effective Library Leaders”
NJLA Conference, April 25, 2006 Sponsored by the NJLA Member Services Committee
A 50 minute program…

Speakers:

Peter Bromberg (bromberg@sjrlc.org) is the Program Development Coordinator for the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative in Gibbsboro, NJ.

Leslie Burger (lburger@princetonlibrary.org) has directed the Princeton Public Library since 1999 and is the president-elect of the American Library Association.

Mary Martin (martin@bccls.org) is currently working as Assistant Director of Glen Rock Public Library, a small public library in Bergen County.

Kurt W. Wagner (WagnerK@wpunj.edu) coordinates Library Systems and web management at the David and Lorraine Cheng Library at William Paterson University.

Q1: Was there any decision you made or skill you learned early in your career that has served you well?

Leslie:

  • Don’t wear a skirt while working at a library with glass floors
  • Always ask why
  • Never take no for an answer
  • Continually challenge yourself
  • Be flexible

Mary:

  • Don’t let fear rule you
  • If you make a mistake, you don’t die
  • Don’t assume that everyone knows less that you do (It’s hard to ask for help if you think you’re perfect)
  • Thank people for what they do

Q2: What role does technology play in how you do what you do?

Kurt:

  • Help others to understand the interrelated nature of these systems in libraries
  • Always learn something new

Pete:

  • I use technology to control and manage my time
  • Not an early adopter … finally got a cell phone when I saw the benefit to me.
  • Five specific technologies that make my life better:
  1. GoToMyPC to access my desktop from anywhere
  2. Yahoo calendar and listservs
  3. RSS Feeds to scan headlines on 100+ blogs/sites (I use firefox live bookmarks and have just fallen in love with blogbridge.)
  4. FURL – great for project management, reading lists, general bookmarking and serendipitous discoveries!
  5. AIM Chat for online meetings .
  6. (Thought of this one late) Google Desktop–the lifesaving app for the perpetually disorganized. I love you Google Desktop. Don’t ever leave me.


Q3: Do you have a life outside your job? How do you find a balance between your personal and professional lives?

Mary:

  • You don’t find balance on the street like loose change
  • Most choices can be revisited later
  • Sometimes you can’t help being out of balance

Kurt:

  • Always have a sense of proportion
  • Have activities outside of work
  • Don’t worry about this too much

Q4: How do you foster good communication with your staff?

Pete

  • You have to model good communication and show a willingness to listen without judgment
  • Realize that all communication is good, even “negative” feedback … it’s always better to know.
  • Proper response to negative feedback … “Thank you” (props to Pat Wagner for that tip)
  • Ask for what you need
  • Be fact-based (rather than judgmental) in your speech to others
  • Provide options… “where do we go from here?”
  • Give others the benefit of the doubt. We’re all passionate and deeply concerned about the health of our libraries.

Leslie:

  • Send staff wide emails (even if you’re not sure they check it)
  • Communicate in many different ways
  • Library has an internal blog (encourage others to make this the default home page)
  • Lots of meetings (staff wide, department, librarians, task based)
  • Face book of pictures and names of all library staff, trustees, Friends, volunteers (on the blog, in a notebook in the staff room)
  • Write a personal blog (Leslie’s is de-mystifying the ALA presidency)

Q5: Do you ever feel overwhelmed? What do you when that happens?

Mary:

  • First, freak out
  • Afterwards, get a grip
  • Then, prioritize what needs to be done
  • And after that identify those things you can do while trying to avoid the things that need to get done

Pete:

  • I generally feel some amount of feeling overwhelmed. I go home more aware of everything that didn’t get done, but I’ve learned to manage this much better
  • Have other people in your life who can help keep things in perspective
  • Exercise regularly


Q6: What single piece of advice would you give to a librarian at the beginning of their career?

Kurt:

  • Learn to communicate well
  • Avoid energy vampires

Leslie:

  • Be open to new possibilities
  • Be willing to change your route
  • Conquer your fear, let it go
  • Never stop learning

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See more NJLA program summaries at the official NJLA blog: http://blog.njla.org