In the past few years, Canadian librarians have been made aware of the financial troubles of the Canadian Library Association. Membership has been on the decline and the very future of the association’s existence has been questioned. When I was a MLIS student at McGill’s School of Information Studies, student memberships were inexpensive and I was consequently the member of three different library associations including the CLA. However, when one becomes a professional the membership fees jump in price and they can be rather expensive especially when I am paying them out of my own pocket (as opposed to the fees being covered by my library institution which is the case for many lucky librarians). I have consequently had to be more selective of what associations I join. I kept my membership with CLA because I believe strongly in the benefits of a national library association. However, since I was dishing out my own money to become a member of CLA and to attend the conferences it was very important that the annual conference last week in Halifax be “worth it”.
As for my experience at CLA 2011, I can only vouch for the specific sessions that I attended and the awesome people that I hung out with. My conference experience might have greatly differed from someone else’s but I personally feel that the past week was totally worth it!
Since I started as a library director, there have been so many things that I have found challenging. Everyone has moments when they say to themselves “they never taught me that in library school” and I feel that this is probably even more the case for managers and directors.
Luckily for me, there seemed to be an abundance of sessions that spoke directly to the information needs of managers and directors. One of the most useful sessions that I attended was Performance Metrics: Helping Boards Understand Library Statistics presented by John Shepherd, a university accounting instructor, and Allan Wilson, the Chief Librarian of the Prince George Public Library and the 2011 recipient of the CLA/Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship. I loved this session because the information it offered was so practical. John Shepherd got into the nitty gritty of how to better design statistical charts and Allan Wilson provided great ideas on establishing meaningful metrics that will communicate more effectively the value of the public library to the community, the library board, and the municipality. This session actually succeeded in transforming my perception of statistics and performance metrics and made statistics seem almost fun.
This conference was also fantastic in terms of catching up with friends and meeting new people. At first I was intimidated by what appeared to be an older demographic of librarians who all seemed to know each other. Then I realized that this “old boys club” (there seemed to be a surprising number of baby boomer men at this conference) was the result of decades of the same people attending conferences together. In many cases, the older librarians had probably even attended library school together “back in the day”. This thought inspired me to think that my friends and I will one day also rule the CLA conferences. There are so many dynamic young librarians who have only just begun their professional careers in the past few years. We are still testing the waters of what it means to be professional librarians and attending the CLA conference definitely helped to establish a foundation for our new professional identities. We all seemed to value the importance of coming together to share stories and advice on being librarians. We had a lot of fun together and it reinforced my opinion that librarianship is full of interesting and dynamic people.
CLA 2011 in Halifax was totally worth it and I am looking forward to continuing to be active in the CLA throughout my career.
Are you a member of a library association? Do you think that it is worth it?
Libraries are spaces that foster learning. Most librarians love helping users and teaching information literacy skills has become a fundamental concept in librarianship studies. So what happens when it is the librarians who need help learning? We are all conscious that libraries are constantly evolving; systems are updated with new features, new services are added, policies change to better reflect the times, etc. Yet are we doing a good job of making sure that all staff are aware and comfortable responding to these changes? In a large library system like mine, we can receive several memos a day informing us of new additions to the catalogue/circulation system, services, policies, etc. There is a huge difference between staff reading these memos and being vaguely aware of them and then having staff who actually understand the changes on a level that permits them to integrate them into their work or confidently explain them to a user.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately specifically in relation to our provincial library system’s introduction of OverDrive. In the fall, our Public Service Librarian from our regional office provided us with a brief OverDrive training session. This training was unfortunately during opening hours of the library which meant that we were constantly being interrupted by users with questions and having to answer the phone. With all the distractions, it was very difficult to assimilate what we were being shown and as we know, OverDrive is full of little hiccups regarding compatibility issues and software which are hard to address until you run into them. As time goes on, more and more users have been asking about Overdrive and I realized that staff were completely reliant on me to answer all OverDrive related questions. People who work in libraries are very intelligent. However, without being taught the knowledge necessary to accurately respond to users’ inquiries, the situation between staff and users can be very discouraging and possibly even embarrassing.
Last week, I decided that it was time to sit down in front of a computer with a full-time librarian assistant and a library volunteer and download together an audiobook onto my Ipod. It was informal and during the process I was asked so many questions that went much beyond OverDrive concerning the differences between devices like iPads, iPods, MP3 players, smartphones, etc. I was happy that even though I am not the most tech-savvy person out there, I was still able to share knowledge that I do have. It was extremely rewarding to see how appreciative both women for the informal training. They now feel better prepared responding to inquiries and conversing with others on the subject of the different formats of e-books/audiobooks and how to download them.
It is fantastic that libraries present themselves as keeping up with the tech trends including providing the download of e-books. However, how well is staff being trained to respond to all the new technology in their workplace?
What is the environment like at your library for training librarians and staff and then working together as a team so that everyone feels comfortable with their new knowledge and skills?
Becoming the director of a public library straight out of a MLIS program can be extremely daunting. I have fairly high expectations of what a library director should be accomplishing at their library and in their community but the past month especially I have felt particularly overwhelmed trying to live up to these expectations. Perhaps because it is February and February is known to be the most depressing month of the year, I find myself getting discouraged more easily and reacting more sensitively when faced with my own professional shortcomings.
One of the areas that I am particularly struggling with is the concept of leadership. In the past, I have definitely never considered myself to be a leader. No one can question that I am very dedicated to my library and that I work hard but do I have innovative ideas? Do I have the creative approach to motivate others to work towards a common goal?
Prior to starting a MLIS, my formal leadership experiences were limited to being a camp counsellor and I certainly had no experience as a manager. During the one SIS management course at McGill University, we spoke a lot about management and leadership. However, there is a huge difference between discussing these matters using theoretical examples and being faced with real life situations. Unfortunately, real people do not always react the way that you thought they would when doing a case study!
Luckily, in the fall of 2010, I applied and was accepted to attend the 2011 edition of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute. NELI, as it is often called, is a leadership training institute in Canada that is designed specifically to assist in the development of future leaders in the library and information profession. Even after a few months of learning that my nomination was accepted, I am still incredibly stoked to be participating in this highly reputed institute! I know librarians who have attended in the past and they all agree that it is a truly transforming week professionally and personally. Yet I feel that it could not come soon enough…
In the meantime, I am still trying to find ways to improve my theoretical baggage on management and leadership in hopes that some of it will transfer over to real life situations. I have discovered an interesting conference PowerPoint Presentation entitled Creating Leaders put together by Daniel Phelan who conducted an interesting survey of NELI participants and who also provides a recap of some key leadership theory. I would be extremely open to any other suggestions you know of have of resources that might help me provide my library and my employees with the leadership that I know they deserve!