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No, I do not think that librarians are like rocks and that if you turn them over you will find all kinds of interesting things crawling around. I do know that librarians (or most of them) are multi-dimensional individuals that do know a lot of interesting and amazing things, if you just ask they may well tell you. In using the phrase “turning over librarians,” I am referring to the term often used by businesses, “turn-over.” This will be a two part post. In the first one I will discuss turn-over in lower level employees and in the second I will discuss turn-over and the lack thereof in upper level employees.

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Feed success

I was part of an interesting conversation the other day that stemmed from a post made by Greg on his blog Open Stacks. For today the most relevant part of his post was this:

The children’s librarian was unable to keep it going as she needed to start gearing up for summer reading.

So I did what any father/librarian would do. I offered to keep it going myself. Well, let me rephrase that. I suggested that the parents who were in attendance might do well to try to keep the momentum going and organize our own weekly storytime at the same time and in the same place as the program that was ending. There seemed to be enough interest for me to pursue it further.

It is what happened to an apparently successful program that concerns me. I do not know all the details of the situation, and never will. The apparent abandoning of a program that was working for another touched on some of my own experiences this week at the library where I work.

In two days, I encountered no less than three “because we have always done it that way” statements. This is apparently much more acceptable/common in the library profession than in the business one I come from. Businesses that stick to this mantra seldom last long and are very vulnerable to “sea changes” within an industry. Successful organizations have a culture that honors tradition and their core mission, while allowing for flexibility.

I know that Greg’s library may have been sort staffed, low on funds or in any one of a dozen other situations that may have precluded the continuation of the program he and his son where enrolled in. My point or maybe challenge is to encourage libraries, especially my own, to feed successful programs the resources and staffing need to keep them going and not end them “just because we have always done it that way.”

Libraries that can honor tradition and be flexible/responsive to the needs of their customers will be successful libraries. Not to sound to flippant, but a lot more “can do” in libraries would be refreshing.

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It seems I have become embroiled in a debate about marketing librarians and not necessarily marketing heir libraries at the same time. My friend Greg over at Open Stacks recently wrote a blog where he talked about being interest in:

“And please note, my interest is NOT in marketing libraries. There are plenty of other people worrying about that. I’m talking about marketing librarians. I hope to find ways to demonstrate the importance of that distinction to others in our profession. Who’s with me?”

I made several pithy (that’s my opinion) statements that basically disagree with this approach. After a couple ruffled feathers and back and forth’s I made the following statement:

“Nothing I said was against passion, quite t[he] opposite in my view. What I am saying is that if we are not effectively marketing our libraries, then marketing a librarian does not do us much good. Also marketing librarians outside of the context of the library and its’ services does make much sense to me. Perhaps a balance[d] approach is what is most needed.”

I stick to my statement. Libraries are struggling to find their footing in the realm of marketing their services, we do not need to redirect energy into marketing personalities, unless that effort is directly tied into supporting the libraries mission.

Perhaps a little bit of clarification of my perspective on the issue of marketing versus public relations will help other understand where I am coming from. I think what Greg and some of the others are really talking about is librarians becoming active public relations ambassadors and not really marketing. If you are marketing something you are trying to sell it or get people to use it. If you are doing the public relations things, you are trying to get people to think positively about you, to develop goodwill when they think of an individual or institution. Now if librarians are going to “market” themselves, the still need to have a library (academic, public, law, medical, special or corporate) behind them. How else are they going to give any service or have anything to market?

Now is there a time that I could see marketing the profession of librarian itself? Yes.

Now I may be totally off the mark here, but I am trying to understand, so thank you for putting up with me!

From the Marrian-Webster Online Dictionary

librarian

Main Entry: li·brar·i·an Listen to the pronunciation of librarian

Pronunciation: \lī-ˈbrer-ē-ən, –ˈbre-rē-\

Function: noun

Date:1 671

: a specialist in the care or management of a library

li·brar·i·an·ship Listen to the pronunciation of librarianship\-ˌship\ noun

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A few days ago I wrote a post where I lambasted librarians and libraries in general about not taking risks (this was part of the committee rant). I would like to briefly continue this train of thought here and perhaps offer you a different way to think about developing solutions within the library world.

Evolution!

No matter where you stand on the issues of the origins of the species, I think we can all see that, at the very least, manmade things do change over time (can you say Internet). This is call evolution. Most manmade things do not strike out on their own and decide to reinvent themselves. They require input from those that interact with them or those who are knowledgeable enough to modify them to suit their needs or the needs of others. I am sure all of you out there in library land have witnessed the demands of your job evolving over time.

Now if we can accept the fact that evolution does occur in the above fashion, we can also agree to apply the concept of evolution to the services libraries offer their customers/patrons. I hope we can anyway.

Design – Develop – Test – Deploy – Evaluate – Redesign – Do it again – and again

Above is my mantra for website and software development. Too many organizations, people and yes libraries seem to get stuck in the design stage. They so badly want to get things “right” the first time, they never make it to the deployment stage.

Take a deep breath and deploy the damn thing! Set a deployment date (make it reasonable) and deploy on that date what you have accomplished, then let the service or product evolve over time. You will learn so much more by putting it out there than you will by keeping it hidden while you search for perfection.

Not going to make your launch date? Then scale back the product and make the date with what you have ready to go. The important thing here is to get projects out the door and into the real world while accepting that it may not be perfect or “finished.”

You can do it, it is okay, I give you permission to make glorious messes and failures. That’s what we call life!

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Okay this is just too good not to share with the rest of the world. One of the first projects that I worked on here at my library was developing and deploying an Intranet. As part of our intranet, each department has a blog. These blogs have been up for about six weeks now and one department has already written 45 posts! Things are growing much faster than I had hoped and the acceptance is growing at a reasonable rate.

With our internal blogs, we have been very careful to not limit what people can post, so you never know what you will get, which keeps things fun. With that being said here is a post from a couple of days ago that is worth sharing.

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The Monkey Ate My Library Card

You may have thought you have heard it all, but I am willing to bet that you have never heard someone say, “Can I get a new library card? A monkey ate it.” I paused for a moment and thought, she has to be messing with me…I’ll go along with it. So, I said, “What kind of monkey was it?” She rattled off the formal name for a Peruvian monkey and she was completely serious. At this point I had to get more information, “How did a monkey manage to eat your library card?” She had worked in Peru for a while (doing what I don’t know…something with monkeys). She had her keys with her library card on them in her cargo pocket of her skirt and the monkey snagged them and promptly started eating them. Even today, three days later a smile comes to my face when I think about the library card eating monkey.
Posted April 10, 2008

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This is a classic! Feel free to share your favorite ones!

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