I conducted two of my informational interviews this week.  One was with an Assistant Manager, which I will mostly refer to as an AM for the rest of this post.  An AM is in charge of clerical functions of a branch, including the staff and building.  One AM per region schedules for the whole region. The other AM’s are responsible for schedule changes once a schedule has been posted (if programs are added, or someone needs time off for a doctor appointment.)

The AM I spoke with is a woman who recently went from being a librarian to being a scheduling assistant manager when our budget cuts last year led to reorganization and layoffs.  It wasn’t a strictly voluntary move–it was more of a “you take this position, or you are laid off” kind of move.  As you can imagine, there were some uncomfortable feelings around it for her, and some irritation from those staff who had worked hard to get into assistant manager positions.

I chose to interview her because of her unique ascent (descent?) into her role and because she is a single parent (as am I) and I was wondering what it was like for her to balance work and home life.  I have also admired how calmly and confidently she transitioned into the position.

In the interview she did share that it had been a blow to her self-esteem to lose her librarian title and the work that went with it.  Being an AM has a lot of responsibility, but very little of it has to do with higher functions of a library.  She has been able to bring some of those loftier goals into her job though, and I know that is something I appreciate.  Having a scheduler who understands why it is important for me to be able to get out into the community is refreshing.  I wish there was another way to do so than have a librarian work outside of their classification.

Besides being a conscientious scheduler, she also encourages her staff to think outside of their boxes.  One staff member is not technologically savvy and tends to avoid email and intranet because he isn’t comfortable.  She has set aside time for him each week to spend on the intranet and encouraged him to explore our internal website and not to worry about what might happen if he clicks on something.  Over time he has become more comfortable and I think her approach has allowed that to happen.  A less proactive manager would just let the staff member fumble along, not knowing what was going on outside of his work bubble.

One of the things that she loves about her job is motivating staff and helping them develop their skills.  When asked what her management style was, she said “silly mom”, which I found refreshing.  She’s the fun type that rewards good behavior and puts a playfulness into her discipline.  That’s not to say she doesn’t know when to be serious, but she can remove herself and not take situations personally.  She knows the rules and enforces them, even embraces them as something that makes it easier to do her job.  I have always admired someone who is consistent and fair.

Balancing work and home was difficult at first, as we are open until 8pm and most staff have to work 2 nights a week.  It was also a transition from part-time to full-time, which meant more money, but also more hours away from home.  Luckily she and her son tend to get up early and they have found a way to spend a couple of hours together in the morning before school starts–since school is right across the street from home, it’s an easy transition.  She also says that she makes sure to take time for herself, doing yoga and taking walks.  She makes a sharp distinction between home and work time and tries her best not to let one crowd into the other.  That last technique is something I need to revisit.

When I began this journey, I thought about pursuing a position like hers.  It’s the best opportunity to get lower level management experience since our reorganization eliminated branch managers.  While there are many good things about the position, I’m not sure I could give up my heart–my librarianhood–in order to learn how to schedule multiple branches and be directly in charge of a number of staff.  I admire that she’s made this position her own, but also know that she would get back into a librarian position at the first possible opportunity.