Irons in the fire

In spite of some public appearances, Infopeople isn’t limiting our scope of activities to the various projects required in order to get library staff up and aware of the Affordable Care Act. Here are some other initiatives that have us busy—so that we can better help library staff with the variety of training and information needs we face:

The Infopeople website is being updated with the latest Drupal release and with an always improving interface for users. If your interest in coding and content management systems is limited, your attention to this project need not be: presentation of upcoming trainings and webinars are better displayed and the new registration interface should make it easier for would-be training participants to make their selections and go through the enrollment process.

Eureka! has been rolling along for some years now. One effect of that is a growing number of Eureka Fellow cohorts working on specific projects and celebrating reunions. You can dig into the archived webinars Fellows have provided as well–another way to harvest great library leadership info or to access when you mentor someone else in the library field.

And on the topic of webinars, tomorrow (20 August), we have a much needed and welcome one on the boards at 12 Noon, Pacific Time, when Kathy Middleton, Noelle Burch and Alison McKee address Inclusive Library Programming for People with Intellectual Disabilities. As with all Infopeople webinars (including 9 September’s Get Covered @ the Library: Affordable Care Resources for Libraries), there’s no registration fee and the session will live on the webinar archives page after production.

We also have a mostly developed–and rich–slate of online course offerings for the Fall. There are eight online courses now open for registration,  You can also use the Calendar tab on the training page to get a view into September, October and even November. Whether you’re planning your personal professional development, or formulating the training calendar for staff you manage, it’s not too soon to look ahead!


Socrates in the Library Manager’s Office

How does a library leader manage him/herself when someone else is the library manager? That was the first part of the question posed to me by a colleague yesterday. How does the leader, in such a position, maintain that internal flame of creativity? How does such a leader lead in practical terms?

My own go-to resource, when faced with a matter that requires a political frame in which to examine how best to synthesize a way forward where paths appear to divide, is Socrates.  (If you know all matters of library management are political, then you can probably manage–not knowing this already, however, is no preclusion to your blossoming as a leader–albeit, a leader who best learn that all library management matters do, indeed, have a vein of politics threaded through.  Thus the big[ger] bucks). Socrates, unlike a manager, did not direct, supervise or set performance standards. Socrates asked questions, and not just random questions but questions that demand reflection, imagination and a willingness to experience some level of personal ambiguity or discomfort on the part of the person who works to find the best response to each such question.

The nonmanager leader in the library needs to learn how to frame such questions. The best questions a leader poses bring the management forward; they don’t push a personal agenda, coerce, or belittle management as it is. The best questions focus management attention on how to synthesize the leader’s new, perhaps strange (to the nonleader) vision with political reality.

And what do managers who are fairly certain that their forte is administrative rather than visionary have to offer such leaders to forestall their disaffection with outgrowing the library that needs their guiding light? Cetainly the top of the possible heap of responses to that one is a willingness for ambiguity and mild intellectual discomfort (conditions from which no one dies and unfortunately too many recover with no after effects).

Managers and leaders rarely stumble unconsciously into a healthy symbiotic relationship. It takes conscious–and conscientious–work on the parts of both to synthesize how to manage and move a library forward.

Mountaintop Experiences

Next week, Infopeople is sending a few California librarians to a new and unusual library conference. “R-Squared” (Risk x Reward) promises an exciting “mountaintop experience,” both in that cheesy life-changing sense and also in a completely literal sense, as we’ll be spending a few breathless days in Telluride, Colorado, at close to 10,000 feet. We’ve received advisory emails about drinking extra water, toning down weekend exercise goals, and coming with open minds. The conference focuses on experiences that will vividly demonstrate how to lead libraries in taking healthy but meaningful risks–risks with rewards that will revitalize libraries, keeping us relevant and even innovative in a changing world.
Although I now live and work at sea-level in Los Angeles, I grew up on Cobb Mountain in Lake County, and just a few summers ago spent 13 weeks in the Sierra, so I’m pretty familiar with mountaintop experiences. I remember the exhilaration, the inspiration–and needing to sleep a lot. Here’s hoping for a week of beautiful perspectives on the Rockies and libraries, new dreams and ideas to bring back to California, and a conference schedule with mandatory nap-time built in!
Sarah Vantrease is a Branch Manager at Los Angeles Public Library and was a participant in the 2010 Eureka! Leadership Institute.

Leaders Need to Understand the Risk and Trust Relationship

In my talks with directors and library managers, I often hear “we want more accountability” or “how can we get staff to make more decisions on their own, they always come to us for answers”.  It’s like a riddle that everyone asks but few people answer.

If people are afraid to make decisions or are afraid to be held accountable, then there’s a good chance that somewhere in their past, they were chastised, judged or blamed for what they perceived as taking a risk. The risk could have been as simple as making an exception for a customer or offering an idea at a meeting or changing a book display or sign without permission.  It only has to happen once for some to decide that “sticking their neck out” is too much of a risk. They no longer trust that it’s safe to take a risk.  If you’re the leader or manager, it wasn’t necessarily you who perpetrated the crime.  Or maybe it was you but you didn’t know it 😉  Regardless, there is something that can be done.

If you want people to take chances, you need to lower the perception of risk.  You have to make them feel safe by finding ways, or better yet, have them find a way, to take a risk that you can support no matter what the outcome.  You then need to follow up with positive feedback about their actions and the outcome.  If the outcome isn’t what you wanted or hoped for, you need to applaud the risk-taking and look together at what was learned from the experience so you create a positive experience of risk-taking.

That’s how you’ll teach them to trust that it’s safe to take risks.  It may feel slow and time-consuming at first but the benefits will pay off hugely over time.

George and Joan, Thinking Out Loud about Bosses

podcastIn this edition of Thinking Out Loud, George and Joan talk about bosses. While it’s easy to gripe about bosses, George and Joan take a deeper look and explore the idea that the problem isn’t always just the boss – it can also be the employee and/or the workplace. Are you using your boss to make it easier for you to not take some responsibility for the problems in your organization? As they point out, it takes both parties, the leader and the follower (or the boss and the employee) to make something great happen – or conversely for bad things to happen. Thought-provoking as always!

Mentioned in the podcast: The Courageous Follower by Ira Chaleff.