Magazine article American Libraries

Lead with the Value of You: Don't Discount the Worth of Your Staff and Your Own Expertise

Magazine article American Libraries

Lead with the Value of You: Don't Discount the Worth of Your Staff and Your Own Expertise

Article excerpt

In the previous issue of American Libraries, I outlined my ALA initiatives for the coming year, with a focus on ALA's public awareness campaign, Libraries Transform, which was launched last year. This year, we're building on the momentum with an additional focus for the initiative--Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library. In talking about this, I always envision myself looking a little like Steve Martin in The Jerk, shouting proudly, "I'm in print!" I think this feeling comes from my years of pushing people to step up and credential themselves to their decision makers and constituents.

But the need to credential comes from years of hearing people say, "Do you have to have training to do this job?" and "I'd love to have your job--I would love to read all day!" My favorite request occurred while I was at the reference desk, when a student walked up to me and asked, "Could you babysit my child while I go to class?" Honestly, I find it hard to believe that any other person in a public position at any desk gets those questions or comments, but they just keep coming!

Early in my career, many decision makers frighteningly rolled back taxes to a previous decade that in some institutions caused cuts in the high double digits. These same decision makers suggested that we accomplish balancing our budgets with draconian cuts through staff salary savings. We could use volunteers or just eliminate staff while keeping a high level of services, it was argued.

Amazingly, in previous organizations I had been asked to cut deeply and not tell constituents, and to make those changes invisible to the public so that decision makers would not have to field complaints.

Then there are the leaders who plan a new building and leave out space for staff, expecting librarians to sit at a public desk all day or have office space in another building but travel to the library for their reference shift. …

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