Speaking for us?

I just got done reading “Spotlight on EDI in Community Colleges” addressing how community colleges are approaching equity, diversity, and inclusion. Unfortunately, rather than find a community college librarian to write the post, it was written by a university librarian. There are many qualified community college librarians who could speak to how we are addressed these important issues within our libraries and on our campuses. These are topics that come up often in discussions about how to meet the varied needs of our students; needs that go beyond the classroom.

Community college students are diverse. This is a fact. What diversity looks like at one college may be different at another college. But we all can agree that our students come from different backgrounds, races, ages, economic classes, abilities, etc. And we have to acknowledge all of that mix and find ways to serve everyone where they are and where they want to be.

If any librarians in higher education can ill afford to maintain neutrality, it is community college librarians. We must stand on the side of our students and support them. We need to be vigilant and examine our own policies, procedures, and practices for ways in which we exclude people whether it’s overt or not. We should continue to educate ourselves about how to better provide service and who are students are so we can respond with empathy and compassion.

I hope the discussion on EDI continues among community college librarians. I hope those in other areas of higher ed listen to what we have to say, because we have valuable insights to share. Our students are worth listening to as well.

Planning ahead

planningIt’s getting to that time of year – budget writing. I’ve been thinking about the next fiscal year for awhile. Honestly, I probably start thinking about the next year around the time we work on our amended budgets in January. At that point, I’m already starting to get an idea of how things might look in terms of increases for our databases, future needs for equipment, and possible travel for conferences and workshops for staff in the next fiscal year.

Now I’m in full planning mode. Like any manager could tell you, it’s complicated. There are many pieces in a library budget. I’m looking at different lines for our databases, print materials (which have two different budgets – books and periodicals), salaries for our student employees and part-time librarians, supplies budget, professional development line, etc. As the college has implemented a new strategic plan, we are doing some planning in the library for how our work will align with goals and objectives. I’ll be looking at how to more closely align our budget with some of our plans for the next year. As we are becoming more involved in various ways in different events throughout the college, our budget needs to reflect this.

Something I’ve been exploring more in depth over the past few years is how to use data to make budget decisions. An invaluable resource going forward will be Financial Management in Academic Libraries: Data-Driven Planning and Budgeting by Robert E. Dugan and Peter Hernon.

I don’t believe in doing more with less. It simply isn’t possible. We can’t provide materials or resources if we don’t have the money to support those things. In general, I’ve been very fortunate to be at a college that does provide what I need in those regards.





What this librarian wants you to know

Before you think I’ve lost my sense of humor, I haven’t. However, I don’t think you have to make jokes at the expense of others, particularly if those people are the ones we, as librarians, want to help. The snark was strong in a recent column and I felt like a rebuttal with some compassion and kindness was in order.

As National Library Week ends, there are a few things I’d like my library users to know.

I will always try to greet you with a smile. Smiles are a lot like yawns. It’s hard not to smile back when you see someone else smile.

Forgot your library card? We may be able to work with you so you can check out the materials you need. 

We understand life gets in the way sometimes. We can renew your items over the phone or show you how to renew yourself online.  If you get a fine and paying might be a problem, talk to us. 

Feel free to bring a snack or drink with you. We also have vending machines. There are garbage cans and recycling bins located conveniently around the building where you can dispose of your trash.

Phone calls are fine. All we ask is you are considerate of others. Keep them short, speak quietly, and keep your ringer at a low level. We do ask that you don’t take calls in our silent zone or in the computer lab.

That physical card catalog you remember from years ago is gone. We’re happy to show you how to use the online catalog. There are some great features, like book reviews and suggestions for related titles, that we’d be willing to show you.

Please do come and see me when you have a question. I may not realize a snap, whistle, hand wave or other signal is meant for me. 

We enjoy seeing children in the library. We know it can be boring for them. We do have coloring books and crayons and a great collection of children’s literature.

Damaged books happen. We won’t yell at you. But we are going to ask you to pay for a replacement.  

We will always try to treat you with respect. Please do the same. We want to hear what you have to say, but talking is better than yelling.

We announce our closing time ten minutes before the service desks shut down. We are very appreciative when people take those announcements to heart and pack up. 

There are carts at the end of the shelves where you can put books and other materials when you are done using them. Don’t worry about putting things back on the shelves. We keep track of what is being used and you’re helping us out by using those carts.

We will not judge you based on your clothes, what questions you ask, how clean your fingernails are, etc. We want to help you with your information needs no matter what they may be.

We don’t require gifts. Most of us won’t eat the cake. If you are able and you want to support the library, we’ll let you know how you can donate money to our Friends organization. Better yet, become a Friend.

Most library users are good people. I don’t think it serves us well to point out the failings of the few. I hope my list is a good counterbalance to those librarians who would rather focus, rather humorously or otherwise, on the few bad apples.


If we build it…

IMG_20190213_134730563_HDRI read a post this week about how academic libraries don’t have Libraries of Things. That doesn’t seem true. Lots of academic libraries check out non-print things, like laptops, cameras, calculators, and even skeletons. Of course, compared to what you see on offer at public libraries, that’s not all that exciting, even if it is based on what students might really need while in the library or on campus.

But, there are academic libraries who are developing more comprehensive Libraries of Things. We’re one of them.

First a disclaimer. I can’t take the credit for this project. Our Acquisitions & Cataloging Librarian came to me last fall about writing a mini-grant for funding to finally get one going at our library. We did with my name as lead with hope we’d score more money (I can explain the ins and outs of our President’s mini-grant program if you’re interested.) But she did the bulk of the work on the grant language. I did some proofreading and tweaking. We got the grant. Since then we’ve worked together some on the project. I wrote the mid-year grant update. Overall, though, I’m giving her credit for the project. She developed the initial list of items, did the background research, has provided me with examples of policies and procedures to use when developing our own, and has contacted various other campus entities for feedback and input.

Okay. What I can tell you about our Library of Things. It’s still in development. We have already received things like a ukulele, guitar, piano keyboard, bongos, record player with the ability to convert vinyl to CD/MP3, air quality meter, graphing calculators, sewing machine, Ellison Die Cut machine and assorted dies, SAD lights, a karaoke machine and a variety of board games.  We thought about things that would be useful for our students and things they might not have access to normally.

We’re finishing up our basic policy. There will also be a user agreement that each person will sign when they check out an item. A copy will be kept on file at the library and the patron will get a copy to keep.

Storage is an issue. We’re still figuring this one out. Our Circulation staff have been involved in those discussions.

We plan to have a petting zoo/open house event when we’re ready to go live. This will be a chance to demo some of the things that require some instruction and show off the collection.

I’m excited about this new collection. It’s been a process getting it set up. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re managing this at an academic library, I hope we’ll be presenting a poster session this fall. In the meantime, I’ll get you in contact with the librarian here. She’d be happy to chat.

Leading, following, and being a turtle

Last week I attended our state library conference. It was a good conference, by which I mean I learned a lot, was inspired at times, made a few good connections, picked up some new ideas to try, and connected with old and new colleagues. It was an enjoyable three days and I can’t think of a moment where I felt disconnected. Perhaps it had something to do with being on the planning committee. But I think it was more than that. This was one of those conferences that had a good energy. People were generally engaged, in positive moods, and seemed to be having fun.

The general theme was “Check Out & Renew.”

Brenda Viola spoke during the opening session and explained the concept of the “turtle” in caring for ourselves and others relating to situational leadership. We’ve all heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. She gave us a new spin on it. The hare carries the turtle until they come to a river. The tortoise carries the hare on its back as it swims across the river. The hare carries the tortoise again until they cross the finish line. Together, they both win.

But, the “turtle” is also an acronym for how we can be better leaders. Part of good teamwork is allowing the person with the right skills take the lead. That might not always be the “boss.” Depends on the situation. How many “leaders” are willing to step back and allow someone else to step forward? I know some that are very good at this. I know some that aren’t.

Brenda also talked about unity, rest, transparency, encouragement, and heart as being important parts of caring for yourself as a leader. Don’t forget. Anyone can be a leader. It’s not just those sitting in the boss’s chair.


I’m flagging

Every year, HR puts together a big employee appreciation event. This year’s theme is some sort of Olympics thing. For a non-athletic, injured klutz the theme itself isn’t exciting. They also are going to have an avenue of flags and departments were invited to make a flag that represents our area. This is our humble offering. Three of us whipped this up in a week or so. And it’s a sun because the library is the center of the universe. Don’t you know?!


National Library Week

It’s the time of the year. We celebrate all things library. It’s an understated celebration here – a small display, some bookmarks, a question on the whiteboard, a big Optimus Prime (because Transformers…)

I did an adult thing and decided I need to take a break from all musical activity except singing (because I can sing without my arms.) My shoulder/upper arm isn’t healing well. Lots of pain still. I’m being stubborn because that’s what I do and I’ve not been back to the doctor. Not like any doctor has actually done all that much for me so far anyway. After everything over the past several months, I’m tired of doctors.  So, it’s back to rest and maybe some icing and Aleve for a few more weeks. Then, we’ll see…

A Library Travesty

Normally I will not use this place for any sort of politicking. But there are some things that get my blood boiling. One of those things is a library in turmoil. I’m sharing something that never should have been on a professional library listserv. A good Library Board President, an ethical Library Board President, a professional Library Board President, and a Library Board President who understands his role as an advocate and positive voice for the library. This person is not an example of those things.

The administrators of the listserv did remove this post because it contained potentially confidential employment information regarding a former employee of the William P. Faust Public Library in Westland, Michigan.

I have redacted the name of the employee. The Library Board President has continued to attack this person in other posts on Facebook.

“A recent post by a former employee REDACTED of the Wm P. Faust Public Library of Westland has brought some negative attention to our library.  As such, a response is required.

The Westland Library Board and I, are strong advocates for libraries and library services.  The Library staff and Board worked very hard to save the library from financial collapse 5 years ago by sponsoring and supporting a special library millage.  Just because we were successful in obtaining the special millage, does not mean that we should abandon our financial responsibility to manage public money.  We cherish and support our wonderful library staff and do all that we can to provide the staff and our patrons with everything they need to make our library an important and successful part of our community.  We are currently planning a 6,500 square foot addition to provide quiet study areas, expand Youth Services, expand Teen Services, expand Adult Services  and provide additional space for Friends of the Library.  This 3.2 million dollar project will also allow for a complete renovation of the existing library floor plan.  These changes came about in response to a lengthy survey of our patrons.

The Westland Library Board has total confidence in our Director’s ability to assess the staffing requirements and manage the library.  The Board asked the Director to work with her supervisory staff to suggest cost efficiencies in material purchases, professional services and personnel.  We received many recommendations for cost elimination and/or reduction.  It was the Directors observation that we had many more Librarians than needed for the services we provided.  We have accepted the Director’s recommendations and staff’s recommendations which include material cost savings as well.  We have reduced our total budgeted staff by two people.  Laid off personnel were released by seniority.  This new level still represents more than an 80% increase in staffing levels as compared to 5 ½ years ago. The new staffing is more than adequate to provide the services we offer.  Our Board understands that it is our obligation to manage the citizens tax dollars by providing excellent services without unnecessary expense.  We still far exceed the number of librarians required to maintain our state certified Class VI requirements.

REDACTED suggests that she has some understanding of the Library budget process even though she has never been a part of the budget planning or service planning process.  Her suggestion that the Board cannot make mid-budget-year changes is a clear indication of her lack of understanding of budgets and the Board’s fiduciary duty.  The Library Board makes mid-year budget changes every year that may include increases or decreases in budgeted amounts and/or expenditures.

REDACTED states that with “…the dismissal of these librarians, a number of critical programs have been cutoff with no transition plan…”.  Yes, we do have a temporary reduction in programs.  What REDACTED did not tell you is that the outgoing Librarians took control of the Library’s Teen Facebook page and Library facebook page with the purposeful intent to cause damage to the Library.  They also posted false statements on the stolen sites to create the impression that the notices they were posting were official Library notices of failed service.  They tried to create concern with the library patrons.   They also did not release their locked lists containing the names and contact information of Homebound patrons and Teen Advisory Board members (then laughed at the Library Board Meeting about the trouble it would cause).  The Adult Services Supervisor refused to manage her remaining department personnel and walked out, without notice to anyone, leaving her staff without direction.  Several days later she resigned.  No programs would have been cancelled had the Adult Services Supervisor cooperated with the transition phase of our reorganization.  Although I understand the outgoing librarian’s disappointment,  I am sure that you might agree that the librarians did not have the patrons best interests in mind. REDACTED states that, “…librarians in Westland are committed to the community…”, and I think the Board would wholeheartedly agree with REDACTED’s statement except for the fact that the departing librarians seemed to set themselves apart from the other librarians, and their actions indicate otherwise.  Our IT Department is in the process restoring all information lost and our postponed program services will resume next month.

Please do not let the false narrative of a disgruntled ex-employee (REDACTED), affect your confidence in the Westland Library.  You should know that REDACTED resigned from her position more than four (4) years ago when, after completing her maternity leave, she proposed to continue to stay home with her child and have the Library pay her to work from home.  We do not offer that type of benefit and did not feel that it would serve our patrons very well to have a librarian work from home and not be available to the patrons.  The Library Board did not approve her suggestion and she chose to resign.  I should note that I do commend REDACTED for choosing to be with her newborn…it speaks well of her dedication to family.

Mark F. Neal

President, Westland Library Board”

This was written in response to a plea for librarians to take notice of the action taken against five librarians at the William P. Faust Public Library. Shortly after indicating their intent to form a union, those five librarians were laid off. They were told it was due to restructuring. As of this time, no one has been able to obtain the restructuring plans for the library staff. What has occurred, however, is a hiring of three library associates with approximately the same education level (MLS) for 36 hours a week and no benefits. The Library Board President has claimed the savings after the lay off of the five full-time librarians will allow the library to continue with plans to expand the library building.

I could say more. But if librarians are reading this, you know how to do a good search. This library needs our support. These librarians need our support. This community needs our support. They need our voices, our expertise, and our advocacy.

That is all.

I did a thing

We have displays. Libraries do that. We like to have displays. I worked on our kiosk one for April. It’s National Poetry Month. But I wasn’t content with only a display. There will also be some passive programming, starting with magnetic poetry. Here are some pictures of the thing.

Getting Cultural

We had a Middle East/North Africa Culture Day and the library had a table. We tried something new and checked out books. Had a few takers. Lots of people seemed surprised we’d actually let them take one of the display books home. I’m all – “We WANT you to read these books!” It was a nice way to spend the afternoon. Here’s some pictures. Because you know you want to look at pictures.

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