A Day (er, make that 3 months) in the life of a librarian
Earlier this summer a meme made the rounds of the biblioblogosphere asking librarians to answer the question, “What is a librarian’s day like” by posting about a normal day in their life. At the time the meme was going around I left the following comment over at Strange Librarian, “I feel like I’d have to do 3 mos. in the life of a librarian to give any kind of real picture of my job since every day and every week and every month is so dern’d differn’t.”
When we library gardeners first started this blog, part of our vision was that we would each post from our unique perspectives in librarianship. On our original roster of authors we had a little bit of everything: school media specialists, academics and public librarians, LIS instructors. The mix has changed a bit, but we still tend to blog from our own unique perspectives. My posts are supposed to be from the angle of a regional consortium (and I’m sure they are informed by job), but I don’t think I generally blog from that perspective, per se. This post, however, is more directly tied to my perspective as a “nontraditional librarian” working at SJRLC, a multitype library cooperative serving over 600 libraries in South Jersey.
One of my goals in writing this longish “look-at-everything-I-do” post is to offer myself as a resource and promote future connections between you, gentle reader, and me. One of the things I enjoy most is helping others network and connect with each other. But sometimes it seems as if even my closest professional colleagues don’t really know what I do–my job doesn’t lend itself easily to an elevator speech (“shared services for you from 600+ libraries” is what I told ‘em at the Chamber of Commerce meeting this morning.) So by revealing what I do in (I hope not too painful) detail, my hope is that you might find something of interest — some connection– between what you do, or ever may want to do, and what I do. May any of my experiences be of value to you.
SO WHAT THE HECK DO YOU DO ALREADY?
When I was first hired at SJRLC as the Program Coordinator my job was largely about providing continuing education (CE) opportunities to our 630 member libraries. Historically, CE accounted for about 90% of the job duties for the position. Now it accounts for about 10%. I still do all the CE I used to do but now I also do a lot more. It’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s sometimes exhausting. But it’s always interesting, and it’s always different. There is no such thing as an average day in my work life. So this summer, on any given day, I was working on …
- Continuing Education: Scheduling workshops for library staff in over 630 libraries in the southern seven counties of New Jersey. This includes doing needs assessment, reviewing evaluations, reviewing class requests, developing new class ideas, developing and/or finding speakers, arranging dates, booking rooms, being present on day of the workshop (sometimes) for tech support, etc. I try and schedule classes two months out, and I try to batch my CE scheduling activities as much as possible. Classes this summer included:
- Book Repair workshops (basic and advanced)
- Reference Interview Skills for Paraprofessionals
- Serving Customer With Mental Health Issues
- Access Classes (Beginner and Intermediate)
- Customer Service Fundamentals
- EbscoHost Bootcamp
- Great Readers Advisory with Novelist Plus
- Using Facebook to Connect With Customers
- Open Source for Libraries
- Web 2.0 Synergy: Putting the Pieces Together
Classes that I worked on this summer that will take place in the Fall:
- Change Management
- Creating and Managing Budgets with Excel
- Working with the Gale Virtual Reference Library
- Gaming and Libraries
- There Oughta Be A Law: Basic Legal Reference
- Publisher (Intro and Intermediate)
- XHMTL Refresher
My other big CE goal this summer was to implement integrated online registration and calendar. I spent time evaluating different products, chose one (Evanced), and then planned a smooth implementation which included working with the vendor to tweak the look and functionality, creating in-house training materials, and training in-house staff, and developing a communication plan and trial period to ensure a smooth roll-out to our customers. We went live on October 6th and everything is going very smoothly. Yay!
- QandANJ.org: Beth Cackowski is the Project Coordinator for QandANJ and (like her predecessor Marianne Sweet) does an amazing bangup job of running this fairly large, high-profile, complex project that has many stakeholders. My current role in the project is as a laissez faire supervisor to Beth. Along with Karen Hyman (my supervisor), I work with Beth on some of the bigger picture issues including marketing. This summer we worked together to once again create and run a commercial for QandANJ. The commercial premiered during the MTV Video Music Awards and has been running during a number of shows including “Adult Swim” and “Project Runway”. The commercial run will conclude with the Project Runway finale this week.
I plan on addressing the process (and cost–cheaper than you think) of creating a commercial in another post. For now, here’s the finished product:
“The Knowledge Guru”
Additionally, I wrote a short article on QandANJ for an NJLA newsletter, revised and ordered new marketing materials (PSPrint.com–check it out), exhibited at the South Jersey Teacher’s Expo, and generally filled in for Beth answering questions and providing a little tech support here and there when she was unavailable. We also worked together to code and recode the QandANJ website and Facebook page to integrate all the commercial goodies
- Development of “Demonstration Projects” Going back to the our 2003 “Trading Spaces” project (using retails merchandising principles to reinvent the library environment; see Kathy Schalk-Greene’s guest post on LG), SJRLC has taken a new approach to continuing education by partnering and investing in “demonstration” projects. In granting a demonstration project, we offer matching dollars to a library (or libraries), to offer a new cutting edge service. In return, the library agrees to share their experiences widely (through tours, speaking engagements, website, listerv, etc.) The Trading Spaces website, and the fact that Mount Laurel Diretor Joan Bernstein and Assistant Director Kathy Schalk-Greene continue to travel the country talking about the project, has really allowed this project to be the gift that keeps on giving. It could have been a one-off workshop, but instead we’ve found a way to greatly extend the learning, and get the most value for our time and dollar. We currently have two demonstration projects in the works:
- “Books By Mail”: SJRLC has partnered with the Burlington County Library and the Gloucester County Library to offer “Netflix style” service. Customers can request that any circulating materials be mailed directly to their homes, free of charge. The services are proving to be very popular. The libraries have different ILS systems and have taken slightly different approaches to setting up and managing their respective services. At the end of the grant period, each library will report on their experiences and act as resources to other libraries that are interested in adding this highly-valued and convenient service to their customers. I’m very excited about this project because I believe that offering such convenient service greatly enhances our relevance to customers–and that’s the name of the game for libraries if we’re going to survive and thrive.
- Teen Spaces: The RFP just went out for this one on Friday… We’re looking to partner with a library to develop a teen space modeled on the wonderful teen Library Loft at the Imaginon facility at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (PLCMC). Stay tuned…
- A+ Partnership: One goal of our A+ Partnership, (kicked off last summer with an all day event) is to enhance collaboration between school and public librarians who serve teens. Another goal is to highlight the great work that libraries do with teen volunteers to enhance advocacy for libraries and teen services. To support that goal we celebrated Teen Volunteers of the Year, and honored a number of teens at our Spring membership meeting, with families and local officials in attendance. We worked with the State Legislature to give the teens official Resolutions, and also partnered with a vendor to give them cash awards. The press was on hand, and we received some great coverage. The teens and their families had a wonderful time, the great work that libraries do with teen volunteers received wonderful exposure. Everybody wins! Needless to say, lots of time went into making all this happen.
- Exhibiting: SJRLC has been exhibiting at the local business expo for a few years now. When we first started we had no idea whether or not any of the attendees would be interested in stopping at a booth devoted to library services. What we found was an incredible interest, and almost non-stop foot traffic all day long. Members of SJRLC’s Advocacy team sign up to staff the booth in shifts. I set up the night before, staff most of the day (with some time off to make the rounds of other booths) and then do break down at the end of the day. We coordinate with our member libraries to have their brochures, event calendars and promotional items on hand to distribute to their customers. This summer I also exhibited for along with Beth Cackowski at the South Jersey Teacher’s Expo to promote QandANJ.org. If you’re not exhibiting (at your local expo, farmers market, etc.) think about it. We’ve found exhibiting to be a cost-effective way to connect with customers and potential customers. And it’s good to get out and flex those marketing muscles!
- Audiobooks Consortium: Three years ago SJRLC put together a consortium of libraries to share an Overdrive audiobook content. I oversee the budget and the collection (we’ve hired a part-time collection development person to put together monthly purchase recommendations), recruit new libraries, oversee marketing, provide first-line tech support, and maintain the website. This summer was spent working with the consortium to evaluate the addition of video content, planning a smooth transition while adding new Ipod compatible mp3 formats and working with Overdrive (and on my own) to design new bookmarks, posters and web-banner ads.
- Toastmasters: Another unique continuing education/advocacy offering. SJRLC started our own Toastmasters chapter a few years ago to help librarians improve their public speaking skills. If we want librarians to go out and advocate for libraries, it makes sense to invest in developing our presentation skills. Another off-the-beaten-path idea that is inexpensive, fun and effective. Think about starting a library chapter in your area.
- Marketing/Design/Communication/Web/Blog: On any given day it seems I’m designing a bookmark, a banner, a website graphic… I don’t think I have any particular skill in this area and I make do with what I’ve taught myself on an old version of Fireworks (one of these days I’m going to learn Photoshop.) I also maintain the SJRLC website and blog, and try very hard to keep everyone in the loop through one of our listservs, blog posts or rss feeds. I spend a lot of time making sure my communications, in whatever format, are clear, well-organized and effective.
That pretty much wraps up how I spent my work time over the past three months. Additionally though (like many of you) I have quasi-work related responsibilities. The reality is (again like many of you) these responsibilities are often addressed outside of work hours. I usually do pretty well managing work/life balance (my wife may disagree), but I have to admit that this summer a number of commitments ganged up on me and it seemed like August was one big converging deadline. Goodbye August, I hardly knew you. Here are some of the professional commitments that I spent time on this summer.
- ALA Involvement
- CLENE R0und Table: I’ve been involved with the CLENE Round Table (Continuing Education Network and Exchange) for more than seven years. CLENE is all about staff development and continuing education. As Membership Chair I say to you: Go join. Thank you. As CLENE web and wiki master I say: Boy, I’m tired… This summer was particularly busy because ALA was busy transitioning to the new website. In preparation for the launch I spent many nights (and some days) getting the new website, re-coded, re-organized, etc. etc. It was a challenge, made bearable by the good people at ALA ITTS. I feel compelled to acknowledge the wonderful Louise Gruenberg without whose help I couldn’t of made it. Thank you Louise! Oh, and go check out our “unofficial” CLENE blog at http://cebuzz.wordpress.com. It’s not just about CLENE, it’s about all things trainy and staff developy. If you’d like to write for us, either as a regular author or as a guest poster, drop me a line.
- Emerging Leaders: I had a number of duties this summer vis-a-vis my position on the Emerging Leaders Task Force. I developed a project proposal, recruited a mentor, evaluated applicants, edited the wiki, and revised and managed the project selection process. Lots of time invested, but this program has such a huge impact it’s time well spent.
- Statewide participation: I was involved in a number of statewide initiatives this summer.
- Portal Advisory: I worked with the State Library and members of Committee to craft a portal RFP, evaluate proposals, and recommend action on the future of our statewide federated search service and the creation of a statewide portal.
- NJLA Future Tech Symposium: Pecha Kucha: Presented as “skeptic” at NJLA Future Tech Symposium. Some day after a few stiff drinks I may post the video. BTW, Steven Bell keynoted and moderated a discussion and, simply put, he rocked.
- Super Library Supervisor: Worked with Karen Avenick to rewrite and present a full-day workshop, “Working Together Effectively”, as part of New Jersey Regional Library Cooperatives “Super Library Supervisor” program.
- Coaching: Last year I was selected to take part in a Coaching program co-sponsored by the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative and the New Jersey State Library. Through the program I’ve received training and direct coaching from Sandy Newman, owner of Life Enhancement Coaches, and past president of the NJ Professional Coaches Association. In return, I’ve agreed to provide some gratis coaching services to librarians. I had been doing some coaching prior to receiving this training, but the training gave me a good, solid and practical foundation, as well as giving me the opportunity to practice and receive feedback from other coaches. In addition to formally coaching one client, I have been doing more and more “just in time” coaching through phone/IM/email.
Well, that about wraps up the main points. I guess the only thing I left out is the continual phone/email/IM contact I have with SJRLC members every day. That part of my job may not be sexy, but it’s the meat and potatoes of what I do (and greatly enjoy doing); providing fast, accurate, and caring customer service directly to the library staff of hundreds of libraries, so that they in turn can provide great service to the library customers of South Jersey.