Friday, July 17, 2009

ALA Notes

We're back from the American Library Association Annual Conference. Thought I'd share some of the highlights of my experience.

I'm a Leader, I'm a Follower: Middle Management Theory and Practice

John Cawthorne from San Diego State University defined what he called "shared leadership." He called it a "dynamic interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both." He discussed a survey that asked library staff about their collaboration with other departments, whether they feel accountable for their decisions, how information is shared with them, and how much input they have in library decision-making.

Joan Giesecke from University of Nebraska talked about "working leaders." Working leaders understand the work of the unit and the people in it. They also understand that business and technical issues are intertwined and that people issues and technical issues cannot be separated; that people have to be able to work together.

Megan Anderson is a manager in the San Francisco Public Library Children’s Center. Her perspective was as a novice middle manager. She talked about the shift into management. It can be painful because the shift went from being a "nuts & bolts" person who is a specialist in the work of the unit to being a "vision" person who's job it is to interpret and communicate from senior management down to the nuts & bolts people and also from the nuts & bolts workers up to senior management. Megan advocates for "helpfulness," which is not to be confused with friendliness or niceness or pleasantness. Managers can be helpful to their employees by giving them the resources they need to do their nuts & bolts work.

Creating a Culture of Learning in Your Library
Lori Reed, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County
Pat Carterette, Georgia Public Library Service

The speakers suggested that training means "to make proficient." The burden is on the trainer. This is bad because we're all responsible for our own proficiency. Learning, however, is "to acquire knowledge." Learning is participant-led, self-directed, learner-centered, anytime/anywhere, and comprised of "learning moments." I was interested in a statistic the speakers gave - 10%-20% of training transfers to the job. When training is over and new hires start to talk to their co-workers, that's where learning happens. I also loved the reminder that learning is not a way to address poor processes, counter-intuitive software, unclear expectations, or problems resulting from poor management. Training and/or learning will not fix the underlying problems in these examples.

Leadership Development in Transition
Jill Canono, State Library and Archives of Florida

Jill Canono also talked about shared leadership. Hmmm...I see a trend here. My favorite part of her talk was about staff meetings. She suggested that meetings begin with a phrase like "At today's staff meeting we are going to find a solution for..." I love this because there is a goal for the meeting, not just a complaint session or a time-waster. Something really gets accomplished. I saw a great web site yesterday called "Meeting Ticker." Meeting ticker allows you to input the average hourly rate of all of the people at a meeting. Then, when your meeting starts, you start the meeting ticker. It runs during the meeting, adding up what the meeting is costing. By the end of a one-hour meeting between six or seven professionals, an institution may have spent thousands of dollars! This is a great way to make meetings more productive.

Millenials Rising

This program was introduced by Monica Harris, and the panelists gave ideas for programming for Millennials, as well as 20- and 30-somethings. I loved all of their ideas, such as:
-Wedding Planning
-Mock Interview Workshop
-Garage Band play-off
-Interior Design for Small Spaces
I was also interested in the discussion of the idea that public libraries have started creating Teen spaces, offering Teen programs, and having Teen collections. But, once they turn 18, there isn't much for them until they have children. The 18-24 category is now underserved. Also, those in their 20's and 30's have specific needs as well. For one thing, they are usually working people who are only free for programming later in the evening. This was a new idea for me. Our library has stuff specifically for babies, toddlers, children, tweens, teens, parents, and seniors. We do not have programming for those between teen and parenthood or parenthood and senior citizen. We have lots of collections for them - downloadable audio books, current blockbuster movies on DVD, bestselling books, music CDs, etc. - but we do not have much in the way of programming for that age group.

Thank You
I also wanted to thank Katharine Johnson, who writes for Library Journal, for writing an article about one of the presentations that Mary Kelly and I gave at ALA. She covered our "Thingamabobs and Doodads: Why Tech Support IS Reference" program very nicely! Here's the article.

Another thank you to the PLA Blog for blogging about our program!

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