Think good thoughts

We put in an offer on a house yesterday… please think good thoughts for us and keep your fingers crossed!!!

Other than that semi-big news, there’s nothing new to report.

We scattered Mom’s ashes near Big Tree Wayside in the California Redwoods. The area we chose had a baby tree growing out of a burned out shell of a tree, surrounded by a grove of cathedral trees. Super pretty – and I remember visiting that area with Mom so many years ago!

We also had her memorial. I gave her eulogy. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Maybe I just practiced it enough that it became more comfortable. The weird thing about me is that I’m much more comfortable going up in front of a crowd and giving a speech than I am to go into a small group and make small talk. That’s something I need to work on, I think.

On February 23rd we had a little get together at our house to watch the first female UFC fight. I had fun and met a couple of the people DH does Jiu Jitsu with.

One of our long-time librarians is retiring, so her work is being divvied up among everyone until we can fill her vacancy. I’ll be taking over adult book displays, teen volunteers and meeting room calendars. I’m looking forward to the book displays – I’ve had a few ideas over the years. The teen volunteers kinda feels like a hydra just because of the scale, but it’s something I’m familiar with from all of my time at my old branches. The meeting room calendars are a pain, but I’ll suck it up and do it.

That’s it for now… time to figure out lunch and then see about dinner.

Pull-out Collections

Since I’ve gotten my MLIS, I’ve been working the reference desks at work more often.  Usually it’s just an hour here or there to cover a lunch or give someone some time off desk to set up for a program.  This, combined with my history on the circulation side of the library, has led me to realize that pull-out collections are annoying at best and evil at worst.

I realize that some of my readers are not part of the library world, so they may not understand what a pull-out collection is.  Basically, it’s a collection of books or other items that are shelved separate from the same type of item simply because a librarian has deemed them “special” in some way.  They usually have some kind of a label that’s supposed to alert you to their special status.  Let’s hope that label doesn’t fall off!

For instance, let’s say you’re looking for any book that’s part of the “Junie B. Jones” series.  You don’t have a particular title in mind, you just want to browse.  Well, you could look in children’s fiction under the author’s last name, but you’d only find a small portion of that series.  And if you looked in the series paperbacks under J (for Junie), you’d find some more – probably the bulk of the collection.  But what about those elusive few in the pull-out collection we call “Moving Up”?  You’d miss out on those simply because you didn’t know that collection exists.  It’s bad enough that we have to look in fiction and series paperbacks (the two almost make sense), but then you throw moving up into the mix.  Oh! And if there’s a new one that’s cataloged as fiction, you’ll have to look in the new books area as well.  *sigh*

What about books by Lois Lowry?  They could be in the children’s fiction, children’s non-series paperbacks, or in the Newbery Award section.

Some libraries have pull-out collections for specific types of picture books, such as seasons/holidays, number learning, abc’s, and concepts.

My own library is guilty of having pull out collections within adult DVDs (get your mind out of the gutter!  Adult simply means not child and not teen).

OK, now put yourself in my position.  I’m trying to show a child or their parent where to find these things.  “Well, it could be here… or here… or here…”  The pages are trying to fill a hold, which means there could be up to 4 places for an item to be shelved (or mis-shelved).  The clerks are trying to search the shelves for an item the patron strongly believes they have returned – again they’ll have to search in several places.

Seriously.  I hate pull-out collections.  Your goal is to highlight a particular collection, but all that’s really happening is that we’re having to look in multiple places!  And it increases chances for something to be mis-shelved.  It’s really frustrating.

I know this little rant won’t change anything.  Librarians are funny when it comes to their ideas of the best way to shelve things.  I just wanted to get it off my chest, ya know?

Thursday’s Group

The Thursday group was a little more challenging than the Tuesday group.  Even still, they weren’t bad.  They just took a little bit more refocusing than the group on Tuesday.

I thought it was very interesting that both groups had so much overlap in their ideas for making the greeter desk work.  They both said that the desk works best when the library is busy and when there are two people on the membership desk.  This helps the person working the greeter feel better about “not working” (as they put it). They also suggested morphing the greeter desk into a new library card welcome center.

The current greeter desk is really more of a rolling kiosk.  When asked what they would do if money were no object, both groups said that they would purchase a more substantial desk.  The Tuesday group also said that they would hire additional reference staff because they don’t believe people feel welcomed by having to stand in line for answers to their reference questions.

Both groups felt strongly about the need for signage.  They included signage as something necessary for operations no matter how much money was being spent in our hypothetical situation.  They differed on what they thought the signs should say.  One group wanted a list of tasks that could be accomplished at the greeter desk, the other said that they just wanted something that said “welcome.”

The two groups disagreed on a couple of points.  The Thursday group said that they might be interested in having a receipt printer installed at the greeter desk.  The Tuesday group said that they were mostly against this option because they were concerned with the addition of a printer making the greeter desk into “just another membership desk.”

They also disagreed with staffing the desk when the library is quiet.  Tuesday’s group said that they thought it would be OK to staff the desk if it were changed into something like a “roving greeter.”  The explanation was that the roving greeter wouldn’t be tied to the desk, and could instead walk around the immediate area to greet people, offer assistance with the computers, answer the security alarms and handle other tasks as needed.  This way our branch would continue to be the most welcoming in the system.  Thursday’s group said that they would prefer to avoid staffing the desk during quiet times no matter what.

Both groups asked for increased communication about programs, meetings and events within the branch.  The Tuesday group wanted information so that they could tell our members where the programs are taking place.  The Thursday group wanted information so that they would know when to expect the library to be its busiest.

Overall, this was an interesting exercise.  I got some really great input from staff that I believe we can implement.  The key is to be nimble.  If something isn’t working, we need to scrap it and try something new.  Part of the challenge in that, is that we’re not used to doing things that way.  This will be a learning experience for all of us.  Now it’s time for us to come up with a plan and work to achieve it.

Attitudes are contagious.

“Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?”  -Dennis and Wendy Mannering

This is another quote I came across in the motivational quotes section of SparkPeople.  I happen to think that, in a lot of ways, this quote is pretty true.  You can see it in groups all the time.  If one person is always judgmental, rude, negative, or whatever, the rest of the group usually is too.  But when that person leaves it’s like the group’s dynamic changes.

I saw this a little bit at work on Tuesday, and I know I’ll see it today too.

In a previous post I talked about a book I’m reading for work called “Switch.”  We’ve been asked to find something in our library branches to which we can apply what we’ve learned in the first 98 pages.  I chose our greeter desk as the thing to work on with the tools we’ve picked up from the first section of reading. I’ve been asked to present on my “project” at an upcoming managers meeting.

The idea is that you want to “paint a picture postcard” so that everyone will have the same destination in mind for a particular project.  I actually have two for the greeter desk:

  1. BE the model that everyone else will copy (meaning: if we make it successful, other branches will have to copy us)
  2. The most welcoming library in our system (meaning: welcome everyone, make them feel good about using the library, keep them coming back for more)

With those two postcards in mind, I’m meeting with the staff who will be working at the greeter desk.  The problem is that the greeter desk is the least favorite desk to work at in my branch.  The staff has complained about it being boring, especially when the library is slow (my staff go a little stir crazy when they run out of things to do).  They’ve also said that they don’t like working at that desk when there’s so much work to be completed in the back and/or when there’s a long line at the membership desk (they don’t feel like team players when others are doing all the work).  Patrons don’t know what the desk is for.  Many of them try to come up and use the staff computer.  There isn’t a place for a chair.  The list goes on.

I wanted to get some input from my staff on what they think would make the greeter desk work best to meet the two postcards above.  The branch can’t operate if we’re all at a meeting, so I’ve split my circulation clerks up into two meetings.  The first group met on Tuesday.  The other group meets today.

I was/am actually nervous about meeting in these groups.  Some of my staff can be negative and will tell me all the reasons why something isn’t working or won’t work.  They are reluctant to give options a chance before negating them.  Tuesday’s group only had one negative person, but it seemed to work out OK.  I did my best to maintain control of the meeting/brainstorm.  I kept bringing the group back to the biggest questions:

  • When does this desk work best? (looking for the bright spot!)
  • What would you do with unlimited money to make the desk work better?
  • What would you do with minimal money to make the desk work better?

The other group members helped refocus the negative person with their positivity.  Eventually he came on board with looking for solutions and actually offered one of the best solutions from that meeting.  Getting back to the quote that started this blog: The group’s attitude was contagious, and it was worth catching.  They came up with some great solutions they could all agree on.

Today’s group has 2 people that tend to be more negative.  They’re also very vocal.  I’m hoping they won’t be too much of a challenge.  And if they are then I hope their attitude is not contagious.  We need solutions and ideas of the ways we can meet the destination postcards – not more reasons why one desk doesn’t work and resistance against making it work.

So, wish me luck!  It’ll be interesting to see what solutions today’s group comes up with for our desk.  I wonder if they’ll be along the same lines as Tuesday’s group.  I guess we’ll see!


Switch (Click the cover to buy the book)

My library system recently hired a new Deputy County Librarian.  One of the first things she’s done is lead a focused training for managers that’s based on the book Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.  I think the idea behind this training is that we’ll need to make changes system-wide if we’re to avoid making incredibly painful cuts.  Since making change is often very difficult, we need to be able to lead our staff when the time to act comes.

Our first reading assignment was to read the first 98 pages.  This section of the book focuses on surprising information about change, and “directing the rider.”  For those not in the know: the prevailing metaphor in this book is the idea of an elephant, a rider, and a path.  The elephant represents our emotional side, the rider is the intellectual side, and the path is the path they’re on.  The rider can control the elephant for a while, but he cannot keep it up indefinitely.  And really, if the elephant truly wants to do something, the rider cannot really stop him.  So, to effect change, you must appeal to both the rider and the elephant while shaping the path that they’re on.

Sounds simple enough, right?  I can see how simple it is.  I can also see how it might be difficult to do.

OK, so think about the times when you’ve successfully made changes in your life.  One of the biggest changes in my life has to do with my health.  You’re all familiar with the story that my mom had a really bad stroke in November 2008.  That was also the month that the County hosted a health fair, where employees could get cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI screenings and more.  I was already devastated by my mom’s stroke.  I could see myself heading down that same path.  I didn’t know where to start to make the changes necessary, but I figured the health fair was a good place to get an idea.  The people at the health fair said that my numbers were all really good except for my BMI.  All I really had to do was improve my BMI and then I’d be the picture of health.  That was my switch.

  • Elephant – Scared of being like mom, scared of being unhealthy, really wants to do something to fix it
  • Rider – Initially paralyzed by too many options, but later given a doable goal (healthy BMI)
  • Path – Keep good numbers –> lose weight –> avoid being like mom

So far it’s been pretty good.  Of course there are ups and downs, but the switch has worked well overall.

Other things from the section I’ve read so far:

  • Laziness is often exhaustion – the rider has focused so hard on controlling the elephant that they can’t do it any more.
  • Resistance is often due to a lack of clarity – Be specific about what you’re changing and why the change is necessary
  • Focus on the bright spots (successful efforts worth emulating) and find out why it’s working there.  Replicate it elsewhere.
  • Big problems don’t need big solutions
  • Make a template for needed activities; script the critical moves
  • Too many choices create decision paralysis – people will almost always retreat to the most familiar habit
  • Focus on what you CAN change with the resources available – all other problems are TBU (true, but useless)
  • People want to fit in with each other – behavior is contagious; change the behavior change the people
  • Script the beginning and the end; the middle will shape itself
  • Create a “destination postcard” – a vivid picture of the goal for the near-future

I don’t really have a specific reason for writing this post.  I think it’s acting more as a brain dump for me.  These kinds of books are often interesting but I don’t tend to read them unless someone “makes” me.

Do you have any “must reads” for change management and/or self improvement?  Why do you like those particular titles so much?

Rough Evening = Poor Sleep

I did not sleep well at all last night.  It was a vicious cycle of dozing for 20 minutes or so and then being wide awake for 10 minutes before I dozed off again.  So you can imagine that when the alarm went off for my 6am run I was totally not feeling it.  Seriously.  I was dizzy from such poor sleep.  I turned the alarm off and decided to get up with my husband’s alarm in 40 minutes.  Imagine my surprise to be wide awake at 6:30.

I’m wondering how much of my poor sleep last night had to do with having to call the sheriff at work yesterday.  There were 3 kids fighting at the library.  The kids that were watching the fight pulled the 3 off each other when I went over there and started yelling.  I can be pretty scary, I guess.  I kept the 3 fighters with me and waited for the sheriff; the other kids scattered.

While we were waiting for the sheriff, one of the kids was sobbing and begging me to let him leave.  When I told him that I couldn’t and that he needed to wait for the sheriff to talk to them, he said “You don’t understand, my parents beat me.  My step-dad kicks me in the back and punches me.  My mom doesn’t do anything about it.”  Then he wrapped his arms around our security guard and couldn’t let go.  My heart was breaking.

We’re not mandated reporters, but when the sheriff arrived I pulled him aside and told him what the boy said.  He said that he would tell the school resource officer, and that the other officer would take care of things from there.  He also indicated that he thought the boy was saying something along the lines of “Oh my God, my parents are going to kill me” that kids say when they’re getting in trouble.

I’ve seen that reaction so many times that I feel like I can tell the difference between a child saying “my parents are going to kill me” and one saying “my step-dad kicks and punches me, please let me go so he doesn’t find out and hit me worse.”  I feel like I can tell the difference between resignation and outright fear.  I don’t hold out hope that this boy’s situation will be improved.

This child was on my mind for much of the night last night, and is still there this morning.  I know I’ve done what I can to get him out of that situation, but I worry that I did make his situation worse by not letting him leave and find a way to hide his injuries from his parents.

More Library Shifting

When we moved into our beautiful new building a little over a year ago the shelves were a bit bare.  Who would have guessed that between our shared collections and our collection development program our shelves would be getting tight in some areas?  There are a couple of ways to handle such a problem: collection review and shifting.    We have reviewed our collection a bit but even still we need to shift certain areas.

Last week we shifted children’s early readers, picture books and moving up.  This week we shifted children’s audio-visual (DVDs and Books on CD) and paperbacks.  We also shifted adult/teen science fiction.

When I was a library page (a shelver), shifting wasn’t on my list of favorite things to do.  It was labor intensive and time consuming.  I always felt that I could be spending my time better (shelving, organizing, setting up programs), but I did the shifting when it was asked.  Now that I’m a supervisor, I actually miss getting out there and doing the shifting.  I think that’s why I spent so much time last week doing it, and an hour today too.

One of the best parts of getting out there and shifting is that I get to spend a bit more time with the pages as they take a break from shelving to shift.  We’re typically so busy that I see the pages in passing as they drop off an empty shelving cart and pick up a full one.   So, I got to spend some time with my newer pages and get to know them a bit better.  It was nice.

There’s still more shifting to be done.  I definitely look forward to doing it.


One of our staff was injured a few months ago with a repetitive stress injury.  They’re actually a very common injury in library work because we make the same motions over and over, which repeatedly stresses the same muscles and tendons throughout the day.  She received treatment for the injury and a small settlement.  During the time that she was receiving treatments, her ability to work at the same pace and at the same tasks was hindered.  The rest of the staff stepped in to help and never complained once.  As a way of saying thank you to her coworkers, the staff member handed me some money and asked that we plan a party.  So we did.

The staff was so excited to plan this party!  After discussing the options, they decided that the best use of the money was to bring a barbecue and grill some carne asada for a fiesta.  They went to the Mexican Supermarket and bought a bunch of meat, vegetables, corn tortillas, and flour tortillas.  One of the staff made homemade refried beans.  Another made Mexican rice.  Someone else made a margarita cheesecake.  Yet another took care of the decorations.

Today was party day.  It was so nice!  Everyone was so relaxed and happy.  Oh yeah – and full of excellent food.  They played Latin music too.

One of our newer staff members said that every day they’re reminded of why they’re thankful to be working at my library.  Today their reminder was that we all like each other and that we know how to throw a great party!

The Library Workout

I just thought of an awesome new workout: the Library Workout!  Basically it involves things we do every day at the library, but more concentrated.  And of course it would have to be done in a library setting.

Want a general, low impact aerobic workout?  Push a full cart of books up and down each aisle 2-3 times.

Want to work your lower body?  Do squats as you shelve on the lower shelves.  Bonus points if you stay in that squat position as you move from section to section.   Ooooh!  Or do lunges from section to section.  Do calf raises as you shelve at eye-height.

Want to work your upper body?  Shift a collection of books (move the whole collection from one spot to another).  You can also use this as an opportunity to work your abs if you keep them tight as you twist and bend.

What do you think?  Will it sell?

I re-learned the Library Workout yesterday during our shift of the Children’s collection.  Early Readers are being moved to where Moving Up used to be.  Moving Up is being moved to where New Picture Books used to be.  New Picture Books are on a gondola at the entrance to the department…  Today and tomorrow includes shifting the old Picture Books to create more room for that collection; moving old Board Books down a shelving unit; and displaying New Picture Books and New Board Books on another shelving unit.

So, yesterday’s Library Workout focused on the upper body portion.  My abs and arms are so sore!  It’s good, but there’s still 2 more days of this.  Eeek!

Half Mast

Yesterday, the flags at my library were lowered to half mast in response to the terrible tragedy in Arizona.  Members of my staff told me how much they appreciated seeing a visual tribute for the victims of the crazy man.  A couple of patrons also expressed their appreciation of this action.

Would you believe I also received a negative comment about it?  The patron asked me if the flags were lowered “because of what happened in Arizona.”  When I answered that this was the reason, he responded that it’s a shame the library felt it necessary to honor “all those crooks.”  I said “Surely you don’t think that 9 year old girl was a crook.” When he sputtered angrily, I just gave him my disapproving librarian look, shook my head and walked away.  I couldn’t do anything else.  I knew if I stuck around I would have given him a bigger piece of my mind.

No matter what you think about someone’s politics, gunning down innocents is never the right move.  I’m not surprised, but I am disgusted that someone in my community believed that the shooter was justified in his actions and that we shouldn’t grieve for the victims.

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