As we near the end of the intensity that has been 2016 I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite things from the year. Enjoy!
Favorite Movies & TV
I've been thinking a great deal about the concept of safe spaces lately. What a huge relief to see statements from our organizations start to come about. If you haven't yet, check out the statements by both ALA and PLA. One particular paragraph from the PLA statement stands out to me,
As such, our nation’s public libraries stand as a bulwark to intolerance and a beacon of opportunity. We are committed to ensuring a safe place for all that reflects and serves the diversity of our nation in our collections, programs and services. With thousands of public libraries in towns and neighborhoods across the country, we invite community conversations and action that further understanding and address local needs.”
What a strong and totally badass statement about the role of public libraries in the United States right now. It makes me want to stand on my chair and scream YES.
But I also think this is a call to action for public libraries. If we are going to call ourselves a safe place then we have to be ready - ready to support, intervene, to act, to educate, and to possibly offend people by stating that racism and bigotry is not allowed in the library. It blows my mind that right now saying that racism and bigotry isn't allowed in an institution is considered a partisan act by some because the fact is that it is not partisan. In fact, most public libraries already have something along these lines in their behavior policies. This isn't new. But actually enforcing this rule may be new for some and the time is now to enforce it.
Yes, libraries are for everyone. But far too often for fear of conflict, public libraries and librarians use that statement as a shield to hide and avoid. And when we do this we fail to protect our community from hate speech and bullying. It is too easy to say 'everyone' but really mean people of privilege - people who are yelling the loudest.
Another statement from the ALA statement stood out to me,
As an association representing these libraries, librarians and library workers, ALA believes that the struggle against racism, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination is central to our mission. As we have throughout our 140 year-long history, we will continue to support efforts to abolish intolerance and cultural invisibility, stand up for all the members of the communities we serve, and promote understanding and inclusion through our work.
That's a strong statement. It says that we will stand up. We will support efforts against racism. Let that sink in. Realize what that means. That means action. It's too easy not to act. And if we are truly going to be a safe place for our community, it's time to put our feet down and say "Enough."
So what does this look like? In my library it looks like programming and support groups and conversations and statements and equipping staff with the means to deal with discriminatory behaviors. It means taking a serious look at ourselves as workers to recognize our own biases and work beyond them. And it is hard work. But it's worth it. We owe this to our communities.
I spent some time yesterday in a YWCA facilitated discussion at my library. (This partnership is a good example of something libraries can do.) The goal is to learn how to talk through issues of racism and equity instead of around them. And it was a productive and sometimes emotional discussion. Not everyone agreed but it was civil and well moderated. And the topic of the safety pin came up. The facilitator from the YWCA brought up an important point - it's a good idea but be ready to act. If you are calling yourself an ally, if you are a safe person for people who are experiencing oppression, be ready. Don't just wear it to make yourself feel better.
The same can be said for public libraries - do not call yourself a safe place unless you intend to actually be one.
Are you doing something at your library that creates a safe space for all? Please share below in the comments.
During my time as the Head of Popular Materials at the Ela Area Public Library, I oversaw and managed passport service. I also oversaw a significant increase in this service, to the point where a big part of my mission became recruiting area libraries to get on board.
Why? Mainly because people need it so desperately but there are many reasons to add passport service to your community. Simply put, the post office is no longer able to maintain it's place as the nearly sole provider of this service. Their severe budget cuts impacts front-line staffing the most and those front-line workers are the ones who process passports. So they need our help.
Also it helps you bring difficult to reach populations into the library, often those who need the library the most, like immigrants, new citizens, or people who may not be citizens but their children are. Sometimes these patrons come from countries where a public library system may not exist, so this is an opportunity! You bring people in for passport service but also introduce them to all the library offers - ESL classes, voter registration, lifelong learning, programs, books, etc. And considering recent events, introducing new Americans to a welcoming, inclusive community is more important than ever.
Passports also helps to bring in people who think they don’t need the library - people who generally buy things and have the kind of disposable income that enables them to travel. These people frequently don’t even know what the library does anymore. Passport service brings value to those people and also helps educate them about all the things they can do at the library beyond their preconceived notions.
Is equity a part of your mission as an organization? Then providing this service is vital. Most facilities, like a local clerk offices or post offices, offer extremely limited hours that only people privileged enough to have paid time off can afford. Weekdays during work hours and appointment only. Someone with multiple jobs and no paid time off cannot come in Monday through Thursday between 9am and 1pm, in addition to the hassle of getting their children out of school for the day. For working families on a limited income, this can have a major impact on their lives. Now I don’t know the hours of all of your libraries but I’m willing to bet you have a least a few evenings where you’re open and at least one of the weekend days. This is why your patrons and the State Department needs you to add passport service. Nights and weekends, which provides equitable access to this important citizen service.
The increase in foot traffic has a positive ripple effect on the other stats throughout the library. The Ela Library has seen an increase in the following stats: passive programs and crafts, drop in programs, library card holders, registered cards from other libraries, circulation, notary services, voter registration, and a record breaking door count. And to top it off, there is a financial benefit to being a passport processing facility as well. Currently, the Library makes $25 per application. Considering that we processed 7,493 passports last year? Well, I'll let you do the math on that.
So if all of this sounds like a service you're interested in adding, here are some useful resources for you:
One of the things I'm developing in my new role at the Skokie Public Library is internal leadership training. So this morning, I was reading Leading Change by John P. Kotter, which is a really fantastic book, but it got me thinking.
I realized that almost all the books I've read on leadership until this point have been written by white men. And as I started looking around a bit, I found that whole lot of what is considered to be classic writting on the topic is pretty white and very male. So I did what I always do in times like this - I asked for help.
The responses and feedback (which are still coming) are outstanding. And a few really excellent points were brought up within the conversation. First, lots of texts that revolve around leadership topics by women and people of color are not considered books about leadership, which is frustrating but also makes them harder to find. And the books that are "leadership for the rest of us" type stuff are often about changing yourself to fit into a patriarchal structure. Two of my favorite library leaders and friends put it this way.
This means there is no quick fix for finding these resources. Which leads me to this post. Here is a collection of what was suggested. I'll add more as more things get suggested and hopefully this will become a living list. And if you have any thoughts or resources, please share them in the comments below. I'll work them into the list too.
Enjoy. Learn. And hopefully, lead.
Last updated: 12/2/16
About three years ago, I posted to this blog that I was leaving the Northbrook Public Library to become a manager at the Ela Area Public Library. I have served as the Head of Popular Materials since that time and if you haven't noticed, my postings dropped dramatically. That's because I was BUSY. So many things have happened and I have learned so much. I'm so proud of the things we have done at Ela and every moment has been engaging and challenging, and just a little insane...but in the best possible way, of course.
I oversaw a dramatic increase in services, such as passports, and helped to manage a major library renovation, creating a makerspace and a new teen space. We were able to create new jobs, like the Makerspace Assistants and Passport Assistant. I was totally honored to be a part of the final class of Synergy, the Illinois State Library leadership initiative. And all the while, I managed a dynamic and energetic staff who are always bubbling with ideas and enthusiasm for libraries and the good we can do in a community. I developed collections, the most I've overseen in my career - purchasing all of adult fiction and more. We even created a few new collections, like a purchase-on-demand system and a boutique collection for the makerspace. It's been amazing and challenging and rewarding and I've loved it.
I also commuted very far on a daily basis, spending anywhere from 2.5 to occasionally 4 hours in the car a day. When I applied to the job in Lake Zurich, around 30 miles from my home, I contacted a friend who lived near me and also worked at Ela. She was honest. The commute is rough. But the library worth it. And boy was she right.
Leaving the Ela Library isn't easy because it's the one of the best places I have ever had the pleasure to work at. The community is engaged and diverse. The administration is the best I've ever worked for - supportive, creative, excited, and just damn good people. Both Matt Womack and Erica Christianson have taught me so much about what it means to be a compassionate and strong leader. I cannot thank them enough. The library board is supportive and they're all active library users. The staff cares. They really care. Everyone is in on the mission.
With all that said, I'm thrilled that I will be joining the administrative team at the Skokie Public Library as their Learning & Development Coordinator. I will be overseeing and coordinating all staff training and development, something I've always been so passionate about, and now I get to do this as my full-time job for one of the best libraries and communities in the country. I'm moving from a public service focus to staff focus, which is so new and so different and so totally awesome. And with the new director, Richard Kong, I know I have so much to learn and I cannot wait to collaborate and support this team. This is such an exciting next step in my career and I am humbled to be a part of it.
I begin work in early October and while sad to say goodbye to Ela, I cannot wait to see what challenges will come in this next phase. And I'm hoping with the decreased commute time that I will be able to start writing again because I miss it! So a big thank you to everyone who has supported me the past three years. I couldn't have made it without you! And here's to the next step, in a role where I hope to do as much good as I possibly can.
I don't typically put personal information on this blog but today is the one year anniversary of the death of my dog, Shinji.
Shinji was my Pomeranian, a pup that meant so much to me that it's hard to put into words. He had his own hashtag on Instagram and a very small (but very dedicated) internet following. Shinji weighed about 10 pounds but had a personality the size of Texas. He was 11 years old when he passed, young for a Pomeranian, and he passed away from a year long battle with kidney failure that you can read about on my tumblr if you're interested: http://bit.ly/28RIhFS
I'm writing about Shinji here because one year ago, he passed away and then two days latter, I left town for the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco and I presented on a national scale for the very first time. It was one of the most challenging things emotionally I've gone through as an adult. And I never, ever, would have made it through that week if it hadn't been for my library community.
Since I tend to spend a lot of time online, many of my fellow librarians knew about our loss and they rallied around me. One friend took me under her wing, made sure I went to dinners and sessions. A group of us went to watch the Pride Parade, which was such a historical event after the Marriage Equality ruling. Another librarian friend came with me to explore the city of San Francisco, which was such a day of healing for me. We took a touristy boat tour, walked around the city, and I ended the day at a beautiful restaurant on the bay with some staggeringly talented women in the field. I was sun burnt and still broken and sad. But so inspired and just a little better than I was when I left Chicago.
So this is a belated thank you to my amazing fellow librarians, my friends, to the people who surrounded me with love and knowledge and compassion during our annual conference last year. I can't think of many fields with such a support system. I feel so blessed to be among you all.
When I think about the numbers of librarians heading towards Orlando right now, I feel so confident that the compassion I was shown last year will be shown in that city that needs so much peace. What an amazing community that I get to be a part of. I will not be in there with you guys but I know you will learn a lot, spread love and knowledge, and in a small way, help Orlando to heal.
Have a wonderful conference, my friends. And thank you.
About one month ago, I was contacted by Skip Dye at Penguin Random House about possibly joining their Library Advisory Board. As a longtime fan of PRH, I was thrilled. PRH, hands down, has the best library marketing team I've ever had the pleasure to encounter and it's abundantly clear that they truly care about libraries. If you haven't visited their website, check it out: http://randomhouselibrary.com/ and if you haven't met your rep yet for PRH contact them!! Their Reps are helpful, innovative, supportive, and care about the readers in your community.
So for the past three days, I have been in New York City with a small group of librarians, talking libraries and library issues with the folks at Penguin Random House. It's been an absolutely pleasure to not only talk about books and promoting a love of reading but how we can engage readers and get people into the doors of our libraries, with PRH's help.
Quite possibly one of the most exciting things I found out about at this meeting is the Penguin Random House Foundation Award for Library Innovation. You have until October 1, 2016 to submit your community focused library programs and you have the potential to win a $10,000 grant! Four people will win $1,000 and all grant recipients will win $1,000 in PRH books. The company has partnered with ALA for this award and I think it is one of the coolest and best things I've heard about in library land in some time! I know, for a fact, that libraries are doing amazing things worthy of this prize. While editing the Library Innovation Toolkit I had to pleasure to read about SO MANY of these programs!! You just have to apply.
This is a great opportunity, my friends. Find out all the details here: http://bit.ly/210irTt and I wish you the best of luck with your submissions!!
I'm not sure when I first heard about the I Need a Library Job (INALJ) site but it feels like one of those resources that is so necessary that you forget there was a time it didn't exist. But it hasn't always existed and Naomi House, CEO and creator of INALJ, started the website back in 2010. (You can listen to the history and my interview with Naomi on the Circulating Ideas podcast...it's seriosuly interesting! It started as a PDF email list!)
Now after five years of running the website for free with a fleet of hardworking volunteers, Naomi needs your help to keep this invaluable resource going. We know how this works. With crowdfunding, every dollar helps. If you can give a bit more, do that. If you only have $5, that helps too. But the fact is that every single one of us in the library field has either used this website ourselves or we know someone who found a job through it. It is important and worthy of your donation.
So please, help #saveINALJ and then spread the word! More info here: http://inalj.com/?p=100713
It's been an amazing 6 months and I would love to catch everyone up on the projects I've worked on!
The biggest project is participating in Synergy: The Illinois Library Leadership Initiative. I am incredibly honored to have been selected for the 2015 class,the first session back since a 5 or 6 year hiatus from the program due to funding. Before I attended Synergy, I kept referring to it as Leadership Camp and in many ways, that is exactly what it is - a very difficult, self-evaluative and team work focused camp. It was the most challenging thing I've accomplished in my career (besides the book of course!) and I learned so much about myself and others in the process. I can't thank the State Library enough for bringing back such a life-changing program. And if you have the opportunity to apply, Illinois Librarians, get to it! You won't regret it.
It is hard to believe it but the first summer of managing the makerspace is now at a close. Quite frankly this wouldn't have gone over nearly as well as it did without the help of my amazing co-workers and the sincere enthusiasm of the community we serve. Through our partnerships and outreach, we have identified several community members who are now instructors in the space. We're also learning a great deal about who uses the space and why (future blog post on that!) and are now identifying ways to bring in a wider age demographic to Forge programs. Forge has been embraced by our community and it's a truly amazing thing to experience.
I am positively thrilled to be working on an article about innovation in libraries for the ILA Reporter. I haven't done any formal writing since the book, so it feels amazing to get back on the writing horse. The biggest problem so far is that there is so much to cover and so little word count available! I cannot wait to highlight all the things I learned while working on the Library Innovation Toolkit.
It's hard to believe it but after years (that's right...years!) of hard work The Library Innovation Toolkit is now available! The book is available for purchase here and here.
In celebration of the release, I am giving away a copy of the book to three lucky people! All you have to do is fill out the form below.
A few details: the giveaway begins today and ends one week from today on Sunday, April 19th. Sadly due to shipping costs, you must be a U.S. resident to enter. And in case it isn't super obvious, I will not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner.
I wish you the best of luck! Post your favorite library related innovation in the comments below. The more we share our ideas and projects, the better we can serve our communities!