Monday, September 24, 2012

Interested, Invested and Involved

From stepping into the building for the first time to attending my first library board meeting tonight, I can't believe how quickly my first two weeks as director have gone by. I've done everything from touring the building and meeting the staff to managing invoices, placing orders for new materials, and even interviewing and hiring new staff! I arrive every day at 8:00 a.m. and am amazed at how fast 5:00 comes around. The board of trustees, Friends of the Library and Library Foundation sponsored a great reception the Thursday evening after my first day, during which I met many members of the community, including the mayor and a few city councilmen. I interviewed with the local newspaper, the Oskaloosa Herald, Osky News, an online news site, and CRI News, the local television news station. I almost felt like a celebrity!

One of the questions I had to answer was "What are your plans for the library?" When I interviewed for the position, I told the board that I wouldn't consider any major changes within the first 6 months to a year. My first intentions were to get to know the staff, the board and the community, and then I said I would work from there. One small goal I've been working on, though, is increasing the library's social media presence. So far since I've started helping provide content, the reach of the library's Facebook page has risen to about 6,000 (up from ~250) with an average of nearly 200 people interacting with our content weekly, and we've gained a couple of new followers on Twitter. At the board meeting tonight, I presented this information, explained that I'll be forming a social media and website team with staff, and then requested the policy committee work on developing a social media policy, which will help guide and inform the team. I'm very excited to see where we can go with social media.

Facebook and Twitter aren't the only areas in which I'm getting involved, though. Day by day, I'm learning the collection, training at the desks, and working with the staff in understanding how they've gotten along so far and coming up with ways in which we, as a team, can improve the services of the library. In his closing remarks at tonight's meeting, the president of the board of trustees said that I was a breath of fresh air for the library. He explained that I was the first director to express an interest in meeting with each of the board members individually and mentioned that I was also the first to attend the teen advisory board's Annual Cemetery Walk. I'm just doing what they asked me to do, though - be interested, invested and involved in as many of the details of the library as possible. To me, that's what it means to be a library director.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Final Farewell and New Beginnings

This is the third and final post in which I am reflecting and reminiscing on my former position as Reference Librarian at the Lawrence Public Library. I'll also include a little bit about my first day as Director of the Oskaloosa Public Library in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

By the time I left the Lawrence Library, I really felt I had done almost everything. Managing the Book Club in a Bag service, scheduling and teaching computer classes, keeping track of reference desk statistics, providing technical support for eReaders and audiobooks, creating reader's advisory handouts, working on displays, serving on the staff development committee, processing interlibrary loan materials...I'm grateful that my supervisor allowed me so many avenues in which to explore my creativity as a librarian and information professional.

Reflecting on my time at LPL and in Lawrence, I really feel like I couldn't have had a better start to my career in librarianship. I had a wonderful, supportive and encouraging supervisor, Lynn, and many great coworkers who were fun to work with and easy to get along with. Lawrence, too, was a great place to be as a young adult getting started - progressive, culturally vibrant, and full of interesting, friendly people. As evident in the approval of the upcoming expansion and renovation project, the library serves a community that recognizes the value of its services - which makes working there much more fulfilling. That renovation is one thing that I'm kind of sad I'll miss out on - but I know I can always come back to visit and check it out.

I don't know how often those visit will be, though - today was my first day as a director! Bright and early at 8 a.m., I met the city manager, who's been acting as interim director, and he introduced me to some of the staff and gave me a tour of the building. One of my favorite parts: my office. My office. Going from a work space shared with about 8 others to a full size office of my own is a definite upgrade - and I'm pretty sure it made a few of my Facebook friends a little jealous. The rest of the day was spent filling out HR paperwork, setting up my email account, meeting staff and volunteers, observing, and reading over board packets, budget reports, and annual reports. Oh, and I also had the local news station come in and take a few clips of me working...or wandering around the library and straightening a few books, that is.

So what will I be doing tomorrow? Who knows?! Well...I do have a few meetings planned and I'll be receiving training on the circulation desk. I'll keep you updated on my adventures!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Farewell LPL, Part 2

This is a second post in which I am reflecting and reminiscing on my time in my former position, and giving a final farewell to the Lawrence Public Library.

Until my attempts to get a position in a library, I had never experienced trouble feeling confident in interviews and getting jobs. Because I had already met Lynn, though, I was able to relax and feel comfortable again in my interview with her and Sherri, the assistant director of LPL. Afterward, Lynn seemed very impressed and pretty much told me to expect a phone call. She told me that there were a few other people from my library school class who did a reference observation at her desk, but I was the only one who sent a thank you note - and that impressed her very much. And so, just a few days later, she called and offered me the part time Reference Assistant position and my adventure with the Lawrence Public Library began.

Me as Harry Potter at the Halloween themed
Caddy Stacks golf in the library event in
October 2010.
Once I started, I wanted to do everything. I told myself never to say no to a task asked of me, no matter how tedious. From keeping track of reference desk statistics to helping process interlibrary loan items, from shifting ranges full of books to sitting at the lower level computer lab reference desk for more than 2 hours - I never hesitated to do things some of my coworkers deemed undesirable. In retrospect, I almost feel taking the job was a big risk. I had intended to stay on at Lawrence High, but they weren't willing to work with me. As librarianship was my intended career path, I gave up the full time job; however, I definitely don't regret it.

Over the next two years, I managed to gain full time status and then a professional title through a series of fortunate events. In 2010, a coworker who was half time interlibrary loan and half time serials went on maternity leave and decided not to come back, so Lynn merged my part-time reference position with the serials half. She was determined not to lose me, because she knew I was needing a full time position badly. In 2011, the serials responsibilities that I took over were then given to the technical services department. Since I had finished my MLS at that point, administration decided to give me the official, professional title of Reference Librarian, along with all the benefits that come with it. This finally gave me the time and freedom to do what I really wanted.

To be continued again...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Farewell LPL, Part 1

Well, my last day as a Reference Librarian at the Lawrence Public Library has come and passed, and I'm just a few short hours away from driving away from Lawrence. As I look forward to my new adventure as a library director, I want to take a couple of blog posts to reflect and reminisce on my experience at LPL.

Before I started library school and was offered a job at the library, I commuted to Lawrence from a small neighboring town and worked as a paraeducator at Lawrence High School. I used to drive by the library everyday on my way home from the high school and tell myself, "Some day I'm going to work there." My supervisor laughed and thought I was being mendacious when I first told her this, but I wasn't. I knew what I wanted, and by reminding myself of that goal everyday helped me take the first steps and apply for entrance into the School of Library and Information Science at Emporia State University. I had long before decided librarianship was the career field for me, instead of education, as I wanted to work in a place where people come because they want to learn, not because the government requires them to.

Getting that job, though, was much tougher than I had imagined. With two high schools and a university, the job market in Lawrence is very tough - it always helps to have connections. I didn't. By the time I had gotten through my first semester of library school, I had applied to two different positions at LPL, and I heard very little to nothing in response. I also offered to volunteer my time, but even those opportunities are scarce. Figuring I'd have to start elsewhere, I applied and interviewed for a simple circulation desk clerk job at a small library in another town, and I was told I didn't have enough experience. I almost gave up. But then I was assigned a reference observation report for one of my classes, and that's when things started to fall into place.

I emailed the director of the Lawrence Public Library and asked if I could set up a time to observe at their reference desk. He referred me to the Adult Services Coordinator, Lynn Koenig, who was happy to let me come in and watch for a bit. When I did, she just happened to be covering the desk. She was very friendly and expressed interest in my school work, as she too graduated from Emporia. We chatted for a while, I watched her interact with a couple of patrons, and I left with enough information to write my paper. When I visited the library's website to get a little bit more information, I noticed that there an opening in Lynn's department. I promptly wrote her an email thanking her for allowing me to do the observation, and I mentioned that I would be submitting an application...

To be continued...