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The Summer Institute on Friday is about advocacy. I’m excited to hear more about how to be a better advocate for my library. At the moment, I don’t think I can even say that I’m much of an advocate at all.

It appears to me as I read things about libraries closing, librarian lay-offs, library funds being cut, etc. that we do a poor job of showing people are value. Maybe we assume too much that people see the reason for having a library in their community (and this includes universities as well!)

In the academic arena, there seems to often be a disconnect between what we as librarians feel our role is and what other academic staff want from us. It makes me think of professors that see us as a way for them to get materials that only they will use. That doesn’t make good use of our funds and can create bad feelings with other people on campus. But have we really made people understand the purpose of the library?

The state of Kansas in general does not do a good job of supporting higher education. This is a fact that is painfully evident by flat budgets this year. Yet expenses for all sorts of things continue to increase. Including things like databases fees, periodical subscriptions, etc. My university wants to expand the student population and has been adding more online classes. Yet the library hasn’t really seen any huge increase in our budget so that we can support these worthy endeavors. And these are just two examples. I’m sure libraries at other colleges and universities are facing the same thing.

We know we are important and that the students and faculty need us. But we do a poor job of explaining why. So how can we change this? I hope to get some ideas at the end of the week. I may be one small voice crying in the wilderness, but we all have to start somewhere.

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That doesn’t sound right. I should say this is the last day I’m going the “day in a librarian life” for now. Still thinking about coming back to it in the fall when things are very different around here with instruction and whatnot.

Anyway, I worked the desk first thing this morning. But even before that, I was doing stuff to get ready to head home for the weekend. Fridays are probably my favorite day of the week, because by the evening I’m back with DH and the dogs. (You might wonder why I’m applying for the job in AK if I miss my family over a week. The answer is because this is a dream that can’t be passed up. We’ll figure it out if I actually get the job…and that’s a huge long shot.)

The rest of the day has been spent mostly at my desk. Still doing little things for the Summer Institute. A couple of last minute registrations have trickled in and one cancellation. I’ll need to do a couple of updates to the catering order next week to make sure we have enough drinks for everyone for the day. And there is a bit of supply shopping I’m going to do tomorrow. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something major because this has went so smoothly.

There were a couple of other small things that I had to do today, but those were quickly taken care of. Mostly preliminary discussions/planning about some events for the fall. And I worked on my advance for an upcoming conference. Hopefully that will be waiting for me when I get back from vacation. It will help cover the hotel, so I don’t have so much initially out of pocket.

I’ve been doing some internal debate about attending Internet Librarian this fall. It’s a great conference, but it will more than blow the rest of my travel budget. At least Mountain Plains Library Association is in Kansas next year. But ACRL is in Seattle and that’s going to be an expensive one. It’s interesting to figure out how to stretch dollars until they scream. I think librarians have to do this with so many things – travel budgets, book budgets, electronic resource budgets.

Which reminds me that we’ll be starting some of those discussions early next month in Collection Development. Flat budgets and increasing costs do not equal happy librarians at all. But I work with good people and we’ll figure it out.

Even though I’m on vacation next week, I’ll probably do a bit of work from home. The main reason is because we do have a couple of things in the works and I don’t want to entirely lose momentum right now. And if I think of something that might work or have some brilliant flash of inspiration, I don’t want to forget it before I get back on July 28. Still I do intend to enjoy the in-laws visit and get some relaxing, knitting, and reading in.

There is a Reference and Instruction position open with the University of Alaska, Anchorage. It’s not Fairbanks. But it’s AK and DH would rather live closer to the MatSu valley anyway because it’s not as cold there in the winter.

I’m so happy I can barely type. Of course, there is tons of competition up there. Still…

This isn’t really how a Thursday looks. It’s a look at the library where I work.

My day today started out with a department meeting. Things to discuss before some of us head off for vacations and other places in the next couple of weeks. After that, I spent most of the day working on finishing up things for the Summer Institute. I still need to make a Staples run for a few more supplies, but I think things are good.

Tonight I’m going to the community band concert with a friend. After a nap and some dinner.

Nothing fancy today because Tuesdays in the summer look a lot like Mondays. Still working on weeding, gift books, working the reference desk, etc. No meetings today. Like I said, the usual grind…that’s not really a grind because I like my job and the work that I get to do.

I sat down last night and read The Three Signs of a Miserable Job. Not a particularly inspiring title, but it was really insightful and interesting. The basic idea is that there are three things that managers can do to make people happy with their work. First, help employees find ways to measure what they do. This is really a simple concept and doesn’t involve big lofty goals. For example, for a reference librarian, it could be something as simple as counting the number of questions that we are able to answer correctly in a day. The second concept is helping employees realize why they are relevant in the workplace. Every person makes a difference to someone somehow. And it’s important for employees to know who and how. Managers can help them see this. Easy, right? The third concept is making sure employees don’t feel anonymous. It means that managers need to get to know their employees as more than just the people who do the work around the place.

I’m not a manager right now, but there were still some really good principles that I can apply to how I approach my job. I do try to find out things about the people I work most closely with. Not because I’m nosy, but because I do want people to feel that they are important.

As to measurable stuff, my to-do list is good for that. It gives me satisfaction when I’ve made it through most of the things in a day. No big lofty goals on it, just stuff that I want to make sure I work on each day. Actually that’s why I like using Remember the Milk. There are projects that I’m working on that I set up to recur daily, a few times a week, once a week…whatever I need. But maybe I’ll start keeping track of other things, like how many smiles I can coax out of people when I’m working the desk.

The relevance thing is a bit harder to do on your own because it really requires some support and feedback from other people. I’m not the type who goes digging for compliments, but if I’m not getting feedback, these days I’ll ask for it. I know that what I do is helpful to other people, patrons and co-workers both, but I do check in occasionally to make sure that I’m on the right track. And I try to make sure that I let other people know how they are relevant to me.

There are times in the past year when I’ve really wanted to give-up. I’m glad that I didn’t cut and run because I’ve learned a lot and have come out stronger. I’m invested in making things better and working through the tough stuff. I realized this last night when I picked up the book, one of many I’ve read recently about management, employees, leadership, and other things that will help improve my workplace. Somewhere I turned a corner. It feels good.

A final thought for today relates to customer service. When I got my usual Monday coffee at the shop that’s most convenient on my commute, I saw a sign announcing that they would be going out of business yesterday. Although I was disappointed because this is truly the only drive through place on the way, I wasn’t all that surprised. See, I don’t think they ever really understood some of the principles of good customer service. (I will say that there were some other things working against them as well in terms of development in the area not happening on schedule.) The woman that always seemed to be there when I drove up on Mondays had a personality as flat and bland as a pancake. She never smiled and made you feel like she was doing you a favor to serve you. Yeah. One of the main reasons I like going to Starbuck’s here in LittleUtown (beside the convenience of the drive-up window) is the fact that baristas are always smiling, chatty, and pleasant. I know they aren’t just waiting around for me to drive by and get an over-priced cup of coffee, but they certainly make me feel that way. My point is that attitude can really make a huge difference in how successful a business (or a library) is. Guess I’ll have to start making my own coffee on Monday mornings.

For some time, I’ve been advocating for more flexible scheduling at work. Personally I’d love to be able to work at home at least one day a week. Librarians are doing it and doing it well. I don’t know if I’ll be doing any full days soon, but it looks like we might have at least achieved a consensus on scheduling our days in ways that work for us.

It’s part of the overall shift in attitudes around here that has led to a willingness to try something new. The faculty are basically deciding to stand up for what we are supposed to have because we are faculty. While there are days I’d gladly give up the whole tenure track hamster wheel, it’s not what most people around here want. But if we’re going to be tenure-track faculty, then we need the time to do everything and the ability to structure our work so that we can meet goals.

What does this all mean? While we all generally work 40 hour weeks (and usually more than that), we are going to try setting our own schedules that work for us. Of course the expectation is that we are here for meetings, desk shifts, and whatever else requires our physical presence, which in my department might mean office hours and a day when I am librarian on call. Other than that, if we want to work at home for a few hours or do a split shift, it’s going to be up to us. I don’t think that we’ll see many people doing that very often, but the fact that we have the option makes a HUGE difference.

This is just one of the shifts that are starting to happen around here. My thought is that this is OUR library. If we want it to be a good place to work and learn in, it’s OUR responsibility to make it so.

This is a great idea from another librarian to talk about a “day in the life”. But I have to agree with her that just describing one day doesn’t really provide a good representation. So, I’ll do a week for you starting with yesterday.

Monday was not typical around here (although we have had four candidates interview) since the day was basically taken up with an interview. When someone interviews for a faculty position, the department meets with him/her, there is a lunch, and then a presentation that most of us attend. So I didn’t really spend much time doing any real work yesterday.

Today (Tuesday), I was in around 9 am. For the summer, I’ve set my Tuesday office hours for 9-11 and usually you’ll find me at my desk reading email and taking care of basic things that need to be addressed right away. Then I have a desk shift from 11-1. After getting off desk, I usually eat lunch at my desk while reading more email (or blogging as the case is right now.) Then I spend the afternoon working on stuff like weeding, gift collection processing, or other projects. Today I’m doing some more work on planning for SWARM International, a future Pecha Kucha night, suggestions for some changes to our Comp I info lit classes, and whatever else I can fit in before heading out sometime between 5 or 6. Tuesday nights I also have Kiwanis meetings which I joined partly to meet some of my service requirement for tenure.

More tomorrow.


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Upcoming

Mar. 10 - Photography Class

Mar. 11 - Quad Cities SnB

Mar. 12 - Lincoln Reenactor performance at BHE

Mar. 13 - Annual budget due

Mar. 14 - SnB trip to Galena

Mar. 16-21 - Spring Break

Mar. 16-18 - On the Front Lines library conference in Springfield

Mar. 19-22 - In Kansas

Mar. 23 - Orientation in Quad Cities

Mar. 24 - Photography Class

Mar. 26 - Spring Break for Academic Librarians workshop in Peoria

Mar. 27 - Supervisor Development in Quad Cities

Apr. 2 - Using Social Technologies in Library Instruction workshop

Apr. 6 - Weight Watchers

Apr. 6 - My birthday

Apr. 7 - Photography Class

Apr. 9-12 - In Kansas

Apr. 10 - College Closed

Apr. 12 - Easter

Apr. 13-19 - National Library Week

Apr. 13 - Weight Watchers

Apr. 14 - Photography Class

Apr. 16 - Evening Instruction Session

Apr. 17 - Information Literacy Summit

Apr. 18 - A Day of Books and Quilts at Toulon Public Library

Apr. 20 - Weight Watchers

Apr. 21 - Photography Class

Apr. 22 - Renegade Reference meeting in Bloomington

Apr. 23 - Illinois Library Day

Apr. 24 - Quarterly Supervisors Meeting

Apr. 27 - Weight Watchers

Apr. 28 - Photography Class

Apr. 29 - Supervisor Training in Quad Cities

May 5 - Photography Class

May 12 - National Library Legislative Day

May 25 - Memorial Day - College Closed

June 4 - RSA Users' Group meeting in Peoria

June 6 - SIL's birthday June 6 - Brother and SIL Anniversary

June 8 - Nancy Pearl at Bradley University

June 13 - WWKIP train trip to St. Louis

July 3 - Holiday - College Closed

July 4 - Independence Day

July 10 - Mom's Birthday

July 10-15 - ALA Annual Conference in Chicago

July 17-19 - Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair in Crystal Lake, IL

July 31 - 10th Anniversary

Sept. 7 - Labor Day, College closed

Oct. 6-9 - Illinois Library Association Annual Conference in Peoria

Nov. 23 - Brother's birthday

Nov. 26 - Thanksgiving Day, College closed

Nov. 27 - College Closed

Dec. 7 - MIL's birthday

Dec. 18 - DH's birthday

Dec. 25 - Christmas Day

Dec. 26 - Dad's birthday

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