I completed two more interviews and job shadowed an Assistant Managing Librarian (AML) at our Central Branch. Then I lost my notebook. Definitely something I have to work on if I’m going to be a responsible manager.
I do have my notes on the job shadowing though, so I’ll go ahead with that, then piece together what I can remember from the other two interviews in another post.
The Assistant Managing Librarian (AML) that I job shadowed used to be in the same work group as I, although she has several years of seniority. In fact, when I started at the system five years ago–she was Teen Services Librarian at the second busiest branch in the system (the first being our large central branch). In the time between then and now, she held several temporary and permanent branch manager positions, then applied and was chosen for her current Assistant Managing Librarian position of Teen and Children’s services at the Central Library.
I got to jump right into a meeting between the AML and our new Graphic Designer (GD) to talk about marketing our upcoming Reading Marathon (discussed in the previous post). I thought I would just observe, but I ended up contributing, since I am involved in the reading marathon and had some valuable information about how we can market to parents and students at the middle schools. The AML and the GD brainstormed various outlets for information, types of promotion and what kind of timeline we needed. I had to remind myself that the GD was not trying to blow holes in our plans, just trying to help us make sure we’d covered all our bases. I’d gone in thinking that we were just getting information from her about what she could do for us, but soon realized this was a marketing plan we were creating. Both the AML and GD asked good clarifying questions and contributed valuable information, creating a plan that included a timeline and checks and balances. I’ve since seen the first step of this come to fruition with the creation of a flyer we were able to send out to the teachers and librarians electronically before winter break.
After the meeting I observed as the AML checked in with her staff. Mostly she stopped by desks and asked how things were going. If she knew of something specific that might be affecting someone, she made sure to inquire about it–upcoming story times, school visits, programs or mobile deliveries. Everyone seemed very comfortable telling her about their day, their concerns or their triumphs. The AML told me that she tries to do this once a day with everyone. She didn’t have to spend long–a couple of minutes with each person–but I could tell she learned a lot about the department’s current culture from her visits.
For the last bit of time I had with her, she showed me her follow-up list. This wasn’t her task list, necessarily, but a list of things that might get away from her if she didn’t have them down in front of her. Those little things (and sometimes big things) that go unfixed and get passed on from generation to generation of manager. One of the things I have been impressed with at my system is the ability to get things resolved. The bathroom door lock was broken on my first day and the next day it was fixed. In my previous life of grocery service, things would go unfixed for months or even years. Here, as long as you let the right person know, it can be fixed within 24 hours most of the time.
Included in the AML’s list were the lights in the teen area that are out and are too high to replace. She is looking for a way to either get them fixed or find an alternative, such as area lights on tables. I fully expect that the next time I come to Central, there will be a solution.
She also has a task list that lives on the wall–a moving wall of post-its in different colors signifying different types of tasks for different areas. She uses her calendar to keep track of meetings and obligations and flags emails in outlook for follow-up.
I asked her about her management philosophy and she said her vision is to strike a balance between passion and service. She has had to initiate a lot of change since taking this position in January 2011. Mobile services was integrated into the Central library in April and a major part of that was children’s mobile services. It changed everyone’s schedule in the department and required staff to go on mobile runs who hadn’t had that responsibility in the past. The AML says she tries to keep things positive, communicating with staff and attempting to make the changes work in as many staffs best interest as possible, or easing the burden of a less optimal schedule by giving something somewhere else. She is thankful that she had the time to work things out slowly, to try out solutions and find the right fit. She’s created smaller teams out of her bigger departments to accomplish or oversee tasks and allowed librarians to find leadership roles in those teams.
One of the things she misses about being part of the Teen Services is the feeling of being part of a cohesive group. Teen librarians support each other in their creative goals as well as in their daily service efforts. Management is isolated, despite being surrounded by coworkers.
Following her that day has inspired me to continue to pursue management. There is a very small window in my system to move up from a librarian position, but I realize that I am not quite ready yet. I am working with my mentor on a skill gap analysis to try to fill some of my experience holes. I will start looking at positions posted on the job lists to see what they’re looking for, but I won’t be applying for anything outside of the area until my son graduates from high school at the end of the next school year. Perhaps, in the mean time, a perfect storm will create a place for me here.