21st Century Librarians Make Allies of the Press

As a 21st Century Librarian, if you are innovative and cutting edge…the day will come when the press knocks on your door. Sometimes that is positive – sometimes its negative…and sometimes, if poorly handled, it can be DIRE!

Dealing with the Press (print or television or bloggers) is a situation that may cause even the most capable librarian or director’s blood to run cold. “The newspaper is on the phone for you.” Or “The channel 6 news van just pulled up outside.” is enough to make any of us want to run for the bathroom and hide. Especially if you do not know why they are there! However by keeping a few key things in mind (and with some experience) everyone can use their relationships with the press to their greatest advantage.

  1. Never Let ‘em See You Sweat!
    Whether it is a positive story and the reporter is there at your request or a surprise visit asking for a comment about some new political/policy/budget situation, remember that you are in control of YOU. Take a deep breath-focus on the questions being asked- decide what you want to say and then say it confidently! If you need a moment, take it. YOU run the interview. Do not BE run.
    There is nothing worse than finding out news FROM the reporter! Things like “SO! How do you feel about losing that $2M from next years proposed budget allocation?” Speechless doesn’t begin to cover the possible reactions!
  2. Have a Designated Library Spokesperson.
    This is not about being controlling or hampering freedom of speech. It is about controlling the message that comes from the Library. That message should convey the spirit of your culture and ethics in every phrase.
  3. Talk in Sound Bites & Manage You Own Story.
    No matter how comfortable you are with a journalist, it is never wise to talk unreservedly. When you are on the record, give them the information they need but attempt to talk in short meaningful sentences or ‘sound bites’ that will simply be too good for them to pass up printing! As you hone this skill, you can almost be assured that the journalist will pick up on your sound bites and those will be what they use. Ready-made sound bites make their job easier and help shape the story that YOU want told.
    Manage the story yourself. Do not rely on the news journalist to present the story the way that you think that they will. Or the way that they should. Make sure that you present the information that you would like to see the story reflect by crafting your responses in a way that you given the information you want highlighted.  This will give a better chance that the story will cover the ideas that you’re wanting to highlight.
  4. Go “Off the Record”!
    In addition, just as you hold your ethics dear on patron privacy, freedom to read, etc, a true journalist holds the “off the record” statements made to them very dear. If you feel that additional context would be helpful to the journalist in writing their story but you do not want to risk being quoted on delicate back stories, ask the reporter if you can talk to them off record to provide them with greater detail and more context. Almost every time they will jump at the opportunity to gather more intel even if it’s something that they can’t directly use. In employing this tactic you garner their trust, their goodwill, and maybe even a few brownie points if you point them in the right direction to gather more information for their story. However the greatest benefit of this tactic is that it provides the reporter with the appropriate context for the story and if, as you should, you have done nothing inappropriate that the newspaper is covering such as unethical handling of the patron, policy, or financial issue, etc, then you have nothing to fear. In addition, giving them a deeper understanding of the situation will often lead to a more empathetic slant of the story towards the library-if appropriate.
    In addition we all know that much of what we do is a matter of public record. If the journalist is requesting information that you know exists in the public record such as board meeting minutes agendas or other documents don’t make the reporter dig for this information. Rather–offer it up! There is a good chance they will eventually find it and if you have given it to them rather than making them work for it garners a spirit of trust, collegiality and teamwork that will often times result in better press for the library.
  5. Use the Royal “We”.
    When you’re being interviewed make sure that you refer to the library administration and Board of Trustees rather than to yourself personally as making decisions. Not only is this good form and probably completely accurate, this will give your sound bites the ring of authority. In addition Board of Trustees members love to see that credit given to them in publications and it will go a long way in garnering good will. In addition, always remember that you are not being interviewed as an individual; you ALWAYS represent the organization. Speaking on behalf is your job as the spokesperson. In that sense referring to the organization with the Royal “We” is completely acceptable and expected.
  6. Don’t Get Punked! At least not on camera!
    When it comes to a television interview, ask the reporter what questions they will be asking you BEFORE they begin filming. More specifically, BEFORE they even get the video camera out of the bag! Tell them you want to talk “off-the record” before you begin. If there is no hidden agenda, they should have absolutely no problem in telling you their interview questions. And trust me they do have the questions that they intend to ask long before they arrived at your location. If they say they are just going to “wing it” that should send up a red flag for you and then you need to push to find out what the questions are and exactly what the point of the story is.Never be shy about asking any reporter what is the point of the story they’re writing. It is entirely possible that the story may change for them over time as they gather information but it is totally appropriate for you to ask the angle that they’re planning for the story. Remember: It’s your organization.
  7. When Necessary, Be “Unavailable” instead of “No Comment”.
    In some instances you will be contacted for a story that you either for legal reasons cannot speak about or would simply prefer not to because it does not seem that there is any upside to giving a comment or statement to the press. These could include a story that you are unprepared to address, has legal ramifications of any statements, or is a personnel matter that should not be discussed.. Always use no comment as an option of last resort. Remember when you are reading a newspaper article what no comment looks like to you. Inherent in the statement no comment is a statement. What does sound much better is “The library spokesperson was unavailable or could not be reached for comment”. Use this tactic wisely. And only when you feel that you have truly ruled out that there is any acceptable statement that can be made. Consider the statement “The library is greatly distressed/disappointed/concerned that this has occurred. We are hopeful that there will be a satisfactory resolution for all concerned.” This is a broad open ended and empathetic statement that can realistically be applied to almost any distressing situation. While this is a useful tactic, be aware that you also give up the opportunity to add your organization’s perspective to the piece. Only you know if silence is better.
  8. Press Response Should be Part of Every Plan!
    Plan Ahead!! Know your response or sound bite before the reporter ever knocks on your door or rings your phone. For example- Make sure that you know how you’re going to present that fabulous new $60,000 innovative service in a time of deep budget cuts. How will you answer the tough questions? How will you explain your decision-making? Can you? A basic truth: If you Can’t defend it…Don’t DO it! If you follow this basic rule, you should never worry. Not everyone will always agree with your choices but at least they will understand them and have faith in the integrity of your decision-making process.
  9. You will be Misquoted! 
    Most important – always remember that you WILL be misquoted. It is not a matter of ‘if’ but rather ‘when’. How to respond becomes the question. If it is a significant issue that needs a retraction or correction- address it with the reporter and if you do not get an appropriate response be sure to contact the editor. However, unless the error is so substantial that it simply MUST be corrected; shrug it off and remember that this is a part of the game of playing with the press.
  10. You need the Press and They need YOU! Play Nice!
    Remember that the newspaper or television reporter needs you as badly as you need them and often times more.Yes- you need them too when you want them to cover a big piece of news or new program or award. But your story is their bread-and-butter especially when the story isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. When those tough political, policy, or budget storiescome- all the press outlets will be knocking to get the best and first scoop.With this thought in mind it is safe to consider that it is not in their best interest nor should it be their desire to make an enemy out of the library. This means they should try not to misquote you surprise you or position you in a way that is (unnecessarily) harmful for the library. (That does not mean that it will not show up in the press if you do something really stupid! They are in the business of the “public’s right to know”) If all else feels you were dealing with a journalist who has no goodwill towards the library or seeks out harmful angles to create a more “sensational” story, you have one option: Don’t deal with them. Become dramatically unavailable to them for any of their stories. Invariably, they will either realize they have to deal more fairly with you or, if the breakdown in the relationship causes the paper or channel to miss a good story or scoop, it is likely the editor will assign another reporter to your beat.

    And if, dear reader, as you are reading this blog you were thinking “Well, that’s all well and good but the only time I ever have to talk to the newspaper is to get an article in about storytime or summer reading”. That way of thinking will leave you vulnerable when the unexpected and unfortunate day comes when there is a big story and you need a relationship with the press. When a branch closes, a policy is attacked, a budget is cut or you are being sued these are the times that having a reporter that you already know and have a trusting friendly relationship with covering that story will be invaluable. Treating the journalist as a colleague that can be extremely helpful to you by allowing you to state the Library’s position publicy or giving you good PR for things that are happening in the library. That said never forget that at the in the day they are a journalist and they are there to get the story.

Because this is a tough topic…One more tip for good measure:

Be Gracious! Take the High Road.
Libraries are like Girl Scout cookies; everyone loves us. What they do not love is when public figures or groups start slinging mud. They may enjoy reading it but they will never forget that that is the type of person that you are and ergo- the type of organization the Library is.

The only thing that slinging mud does is get you dirty too. If the story they’re reporting is a Library budget slashing by the City Council, take the highroad. Give them a soundbite of: “The Library understands that the city has serious financial challenges and that tough decisions have to be made.” Then gently make your case for why and how this is going to impact the library- again without slinging mud or throwing someone else under the bus. Never take the offensive approach; because it doesn’t read well in print and in a television interview you simply come off looking bitter. In addition, you give the “opposition” something to attack. A gracious response will allow the public to have a spirit of goodwill and empathy towards the Library that all the fist pounding in the world cannot illicit.

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You may be a 21st Century Librarian if…

So as we librarians are inclined to do in our darker hours…one particularly hard day I turned to literature, specifically poetry, to give me an emotional boost. A confidence builder. An ego stroke if you will. Just a little sumthin sumthin on a particularly professionally challenging day.

My dear friend, who I’m sure you, Dear Reader, will hear more about as our time together continues, is a Fireman. When he has a hard day- or a special occasion- or a celebration, there are no END to the poems and tales that extol the virtues of not only his profession but he himself and what must be his character based upon his profession. You know the ones of which I speak! They usually begin in the following manner “I am a Firefighter…” or “Today God Made a Firefighter by…” etc…

So- as I said- on a particularly stressful day…where my patience and experience were stretched to their limit between staff, patrons, politicians and trustees…I went looking for a “I am a Librarian…” type poem or verse or sumthin!

What I found was an exceptionally funny clip from one of my favorite films! What I did NOT find was much of anything else!!

Really? REALLY!!??

SO! Dear Readers!! This is our task: To create the Perfect “I am a Librarian …” type poem. And I thought it best to do it together and – of course- put our 21st century spin on it!

And because imitation is the highest for form of flattery (Jeff Foxworthy you are a genius!) and you all KNOW you just cannot BE a 21st century librarian without a great sense of humor… We are going to use the spin: “You may be a 21st Century Librarian if…”  

I’ll go first! And Please don’t be shy! This will be so fabulous if we all collaborate!!

“You May Be A 21st Century Librarian if….”

…you have ever found yourself explaining to a patron why its a GOOD thing that the Library is NOT a quiet place!

…you regularly say to yourself “they did NOT teach me this in Library School”!

….you cannot for the LIFE of you figure out WHY anyone WOULD tweet but you still know HOW to do it for your patrons.

…you have ever had to explain to a parent the differences between the summer reading program and summer camp.

…your day can run from helping a child find the perfect book, to unstopping a toilet, to helping an adult look for a job, to patiently explaining why late videos are $1 a day for the thousandth time to the same patron, to dancing with toddlers in storytime, to listening to that same patron tell YOU for the thousandth time why it is absolutely not their fault (and potentially its yours) that those videos are late…again, to being thanked by an excited patron who 3 weeks ago you helped fill out an online job ad and today was their first day of work in 2 years, to walking to your car exhausted but happy with your B&T bag from 2 ALA conference’s ago containing the remnants of the lunch you didn’t have time to eat.

…you have answered the in-depth reference question “Where is the bathroom?” so many times you have seriously considered having it tattooed on your forehead!


Ok- now it’s your turn!





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eBooks and the 21st Century Library: How Libraries have (almost) sold their soul

In my 2+ decades in this profession I have often worried about the struggles facing our profession and Public Libraries in general.  If I allow my imagination to run amok I ponder the eventual demise of the free public library at the hands of politicians slashing budgets or an apathetic citizenry… What I never imagined was the notion that one day- sitting at my desk- inquisitively researching a library topic that I would discover that we had sold our soul.  In hindsight, maybe I should have seen it coming….


It started innocently enough- I was sent the following article that intrigued me and set me off researching:


Like many librarians and administrators eBooks are definitely on my radar.  As a reader and consumer they are at the foremost of the online products I buy!  I knew there were controversy’s but honestly- I was taking the “sit back and let them fight it out” approach.  And let’s be frank…I’m busy and have to pick my issues.  I didn’t realize this should be the top of my list.

If your are curious- below are the links I followed in my research:









To summarize so that you don’t have to read them all if you haven’t (this blog is a long one- pace yourself!)- in broad strokes and boiled down to its simplest (and yes- simple and broad means I won’t hit everything):

The primary hot issues appeared to be- permanence, access, ownership, and availability.  A BIG issue in the string I was following seemed to boil down to “licensed” vs “owned”.  Who owns it? What can you do with it?

Advocates of resale:

You bought it. It’s yours- do what you want with it-resell it, loan it to a friend, etc.

Opponents of resale:

You licensed it.  It’s yours to read and keep- but nothing more. For if we open the door to resale then piracy will run rampant- technology cannot stem the tide, publishing will meet its demise as the world spins out of control!

(Side note: Props to Marilynn Byerly because they are due to anyone who can work the coming Zombie Apocalypse into an article on eBooks. And yes I said ‘coming’…you’ve all been warned…no excuses!! )

So based on my read of the issues at hand- I begin to formulate the following opinion:

As someone who has made their life’s work about the free access to information and thus, inherently, the loaning of materials to many people… GET IT STRAIGHT SELLERS/PUBLISHERS.  You are either selling the book or loaning it.

  • If you  sell someone something it becomes theirs to do with as they will.
  • If you loan it, then you can set parameters for use.

Publishers can’t have their cake and eat it too.  If making it clear to buyers that you are loaning the eBook rather than selling it cuts into sales then that is simply the way it is.  If and informed buyer  chooses not to plunk down their money because of that information- tough nuggies.  But when sellers use terms like “buy”, “bought, “digital edition” in the purchase process they should not wonder why BUYERS believe they have BOUGHT the book.

Sell ebooks or loan them or both…decide!!

And when these issues continue to be on the table- is it any wonder that librarians continue to worry about the ownership and right to items in their collection that are in a digital format? We are all experiencing the effect of those slimmed down reference collections that seemed like such a great idea- right up until our access to those pricey online databases started to dwindle.

Those were my thoughts on the topic…and in fact, I thought I was finished and about to put “The End” on my blog…but then I noticed that all the info I was surfing seemed a tad old.  So I went looking for new news!  And what I found was so chilling it made Byerly’s Zombie Apocalypse pale in comparison.

Now perhaps it was due to the massive avalanche of information all at one time, like watching all the Game of Throne for the first time one season after another over a weekend marathon when you finally get “On Demand”.  But the articles I started with in 2012 and 13 seemed concerned, questioning, strong…  Librarians actively working to carve out a Library ‘clause’ in the business of eBooks.   Librarians outlining our expectations in this world of eBooks for access, retention, collection, buy-power, and managing our collections vs being TOLD how we would manage our collections. Yeah! Go us!!!

And then somewhere along the way it was as if we ‘drank the Kool-Aid’.

When I went looking for ‘new news’ I found VERY new… Something I had yet to stumble upon or hear about from any of my regular sources in Libraryland.

April 24, 2014

“Brooklyn Public Library Strikes deal with Simon & Schuster” :

Due to financial ‘woes’ the Library has struck a deal with Simon&Schuster to participate in a ‘pilot’ program that will bring the publishers entire collection of eBooks to the Library’s Patrons! Eventually rolling out to the NYC and Queens Borough Systems.

This seems great! So why is my blood running cold?  Ahh…the rub…

Only ONE of each title will be available. When it is checked out, patrons will be asked if they would like to BUY (or is it license?) the book instead.  And in return, the library will get 2% of the profits!!

This reminds me of some other model where the first taste is always free and everyone in the selling chain gets a bit of the profit…hmmm… can’t place it…


Head swimming- I sat back in my chair stunned.  How have I not heard about this?? How is the Library community not standing on tables somewhere screaming??!!  How did we sell our negotiating position in the world of eBooks without any of us feeling a disturbance like a “million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced?”

Better yet- how did we sell our foundation of free and open access like a 30sec time slot during the Super Bowl??



And then I find them- providing an encouraging smile while we tentatively hold our solo cup of KoolAid

June 26, 2014

ALA Pres Barbara Stripling announces on the first day of annual conference that the program will go national!

“Today represents an important milestone for improving the ability of libraries to serve the public in the digital age. America’s libraries are the quintessential institution in connecting authors and readers. We have always known that library lending encourages patrons to experiment by sampling new authors, topics and genres. This experimentation stimulates the market for books—with the library serving as a critical de facto discovery, promotion and awareness service for authors and publishers.”

REALLY?? Because I thought America’s libraries existed to provide equal open access to enable an informed citizenry that can self-govern???  Now I find out we are a marketing service for authors and publishers?  Well, to be fair, Ms. Stripling couldn’t have been more blunt! I at least appreciate her honesty about the sell out.

She goes on in her statement to say that these conversations began in 2012 and the players had very different perspectives on the lending of eBooks. But that much has changed and ALA is pleased they have moved the effort from a pilot to a ‘mainstream business’ for the company.  Again, thank you for your honesty Ms. Stripling.


But wait! As with any good Zombie Apocalypse tale there has to be some hope! The band of hold outs rushing up in their Mad Max vehicles and big weapons just as the zombies close in on the bedraggled band of non-zombies (yes, dear reader I watch to many movies…but back to the point).  This tale can still have that too!!

June 28, 2014


“…libraries have public trust because they are funded by community dollars. People have disclosed that they feel that libraries are leveraging their public trust in order to become a bookseller.”

Over a century of public trust risked for 2%….really? Is that what it is worth to some?

Now Read that last bit:

“The buzz around ALA was uniformly nasty.  Librarians do not want to play the role of showroom or bookstore.  Others claim this is a slippery slope with the potential to lose the public trust.”

Librarians:  If you have thought to yourself, as I did, “This can’t be happening!!” You are not alone! “Uniformly Nasty!!” GO US!!! Throw out that KoolAid.  Stand up and be counted.  So many times we think, as I did, “I’ll let the ‘big players’ sort this out” or “I can’t really do anything about this issue. ALA and the big systems have gotten the ball rolling”.  NO! Enough! THIS  is too much!!

The selectors, the management teams, the administrators, the librarians in every library small or large have the ultimate power to stop this.  Stand on our ethics.  We are not bookstores.  We are not a marketing service for the publishers. And HOW DARE anyone- including and especially ALA-  try to tell us otherwise!!  We are the FREE PUBLIC LIBRARY in everytown.  We are entrusted by the public to create the one space they know will never be a pawn of the marketplace or swayed by commerce or make any decision based on profitability.

The zombies are banging on the locked door.  Grab your pen and when the invoice or email or option to sign up comes…strike it down!



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Visionary Leader for the 21st Century Library or Control Freak?

I always say I’m not a control freak. Some would say I am. I think what they mistake as control is actually having a clear vision of my organization’s potential and direction.

Much like the artist creation of a movie- a library (or and organization) is a collaboration. Cinematographers, gaffers, scenic design, costumers, art directors, foley artist = librarians of all specialties, facilities managers, pages, trustees, community collaborators, security officers.
But it is the director that creates and holds the creative vision for the whole and communicates that effectively to the entire collaborative team.  The director must always retain a clear vision of the final product to avoid wasted resources, the team getting ‘lost in the weeds’, or a mangled final result.
In that setting no one says the director is a control freak. Rather they may say that he/she is a perfectionist that works tirelessly and brings out the best in everyone to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The ability to skillfully guide the multitude of contributors (like a symphony) to bring their skill set to the table and create a product that resembles on screen the vision the director had in his/her head is essential.  I believe that leaders of great organizations must practice the same approach.
Visionary Leaders must:
  • Have clear vision and a grasp of how the parts will come together.
  • Think many moves ahead.
  • Plan for exceptions. Allow for opportunities.
  • Be open to spectacular unexpected contributions that make the whole better and Reject the opposite with equal vigor and determination.   (This does not make you a micro manager or a control freak. If a screenwriter had suggested trotting a cowboy on a horse thru the final scene in Casablance-no one would have snarked that the director was a control freak for saying no to the idea.)
  • Do not become complacent. Divide the long haul future into a series of attainable goals or projects. Your time with an organization is the career of a filmmaker with each new stage or project the equivalent of a completed film.
And… Like we all want in a good movie…
Be EPIC!!!

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We say we are cutting edge…but are we?

Recently, I spoke at the NJLA annual conference on 21st century library titles. It was a panel discussion and the premise was  to introduce and discuss “cutting edge” librarian titles of the future!!

I was asked to presented my library’s two newest titles “Circulation Reengineering Project Leader” and “Innovation Catalyst Librarian”. The other panelist actually held the positions they were presenting. But as our people were just getting started in their new roles, I presented them.
I was very excited to discuss these new positions and get input! Our Circulation Reengineering Project Leader is a 12 month contract position created to infuse our Circulation Department with a more “Retail-like” customer service tone and revamp our training based on best-practices from a retail environment! The goal: to up-level our front line customer service and training program.  Our Innovation Catalyst Librarian position is even MORE exciting!! Here is a blurb from the position ad:
“The Trenton Free Public Library is in search of a passionate, creative, type-A professional who will be instrumental in helping lead our organization into significant and meaningful Change!!  Our Library is poised to leap into the future and we are looking for someone to assist.  We are not interested in snail paced incremental change- but rather overhauling everything from policy to staff training, from technology to programming and more immediately.
This position is a rare opportunity to shape a dream job!   We are NOT looking for someone to run our Facebook page and Tweet; but rather an individual who is focused on the future.  We want to create an environment where you won’t just advise us on the next ‘big thing’— with only your own vision as the limit-  we want you to CREATE the next big thing!
The successful candidate will, with a great deal of autonomy, work directly for the Library Director. They will engage in all aspect of professional Librarianship.  They will work in all areas of the Library so as to be versed in where and what improvements and change are needed with an eye always on innovation.  They will assist other Librarians in pulling together divergent areas of the Library’s services to create cohesion and thus improve our performance.  They will take the lead on grant applications to assist in the funding of  innovative services and opportunities.
The Librarian must have strong leadership skills, passion, and a clear vision of 21st Century Librarianship and Library Services in all aspects of Library Service. “
I arrived at conference! I was ready to be energized and inspired!!
Going first, I gave a brief intro of our titles and sat back to be awed as everyone else did the same.
Next up: “Digital Librarian”
Then:  “Emerging Technologies Librarian”
And rounding out the line-up:  “Acquisitions and Emerging Technology Librarian”
Um..ok. Hmmm…
I thought to myself “Maybe there is more. Just wait”. So we trudged through the descriptions of their positions.
“Manage our digital services”
and “Training the staff in new technology”
finally “Recommending new technology “
Um…ok. Hmmm…
So there I sat. I was so disappointed!! I was ready to be WOWed!!  The panel had been billed as the latest and greatest new types of librarian jobs.  Attendees were prepped to come and discover what skills were necessary to successfully apply to these “positions of the future!!”
Emerging technologies?  Digital librarian?

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being too harsh. But these are not new titles.

And as I sat there heartily crushed and disappointed. Was this the best we had..? Was this our profession at its most cutting edge??  I realize that my true disappointment was not in the panel- the speakers were all wonderful and engaged and passionate!  The source of my disappointment is that it appears that once again, as a profession we are lulling. Remember the paradigm shift? Libraries without walls!! No Ssssh-ing!!!  New ways of serving our public!! That was amazing! And that went on for what….20 years?  Why? Was it that our patrons were so to acclimate?  Was it that Library Boards were slow to embrace the new trends? Or was it that the Librarians were slow to implement?
Or- what I fear the most- That we embraced the shift and then said “TA-DA!!!” and sat for years feeling satisfied with our progress and “cutting-edge-bad-self”!!!! Rather than driving forward into the next big- thing…the next paradigm shift…we rested…regrouped…basked in the glow of our successful shift.
And the world moved on. Bigger, faster, more, digital, content, apps, smart-things, iThings…
And we watched.
And, when once again the shift was logical and apparent and….safe…we shifted!  Emerging technologies, digital content, bigger, faster, more… YIPEE!!! We are once again enjoying our “cutting-edge-bad-self” image.
And we are watching…
If libraries were businesses we would be out of business. We move so slow!!  We wait and watch. When something is tried and true by the typical handful of Library risk takers (we all know them- like LAPL and their Career Online High School program. GO LAPL!!! The David Lee King’s, etc) THEN we all jump safely on.
Simple fact: If it’s safe it isn’t cutting edge!!! We must be risk takers. It is how we will stay vital and important to people’s everyday lives!
We can do it!!


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First Day

You will slowly start to see changes in the look of the blog in coming weeks.  This is only natural.  Just as when someone moves into a new apartment or house they put their own stamp on the place to make it cozy and feel like home.

This is something we do with our organizations as well.  We show up on the scene and take a look around.   Remember that first day?  You looked at your new space, organization, processes, procedures, policies, teammates, etc with fresh eyes.  In that moment you have something you will never have again- a First Impression of your Library.  So grab a note pad and start writing.  Its only for you so don’t edit yourself.  If you don’t like the carpet or you love the weird blue painting at the circulation desk, write it all down.  Is it hard to find something or someone? Write it down! Do you hear a rule or policy and think “That’s great!” or “Are they serious?”?  Write it down!! Keep that pad secure and handy and keep writing for at least the first few weeks.

And then what you ask?  When that constant bombardment of “new” and first impressions has slowed to a point you haven’t written anything in a few days, Stow your little note pad in the top drawer of your desk and wait.

….and wait

….and wait

Do your job, make changes, be amazing! …..and wait….

Wait for that day maybe a year from now when you walk in and everything feels familiar and cozy.  On that day, pull out your list and read.  Read your first impressions of what has now become comfortable.

In all likelihood you will probably find that you have changed some of the things you didn’t like…and kept some of those you did.  But, as is the nature with any job, we get busy.  When we get busy some things become a lower priority.  New projects pop up and take center stage or the daily onslaught just pushes the “little things” off to tomorrow’s tomorrow.  Sometimes those lower priority items may even drift out of our consciousness completely.

Your little note pad has given you a great gift.  First Impression that can now be viewed through a lens of context and experience.

Now you can say “Oh I know why it is that way…” or “Wow, I can’t believe I got use to that! I need to make improving X a priority again!”


Now- if you are thinking- Kimberly! This sounds great.  Wish I had read this before I started but now what good does it do me?  Well, I’m sure you have new folks starting in your organization from time to time :). Pass this suggestion along as part of their welcome and orientation! Perhaps even start them off by giving them a notepad for their observations.  In addition to benefiting from their observations, you will be setting a tone from the first day by letting them know that the organization values them and their ideas!  That you are a open environment striving always to be better!



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Picking up the Torch…

It is with pleasure and with a great deal of trepidation that I take on Dr. Matthews’, my father’s, blog.  As I voiced to him, I fear that it will not continue to be the high level of scholarly work and academic reflection that he has made a hallmark of this blog over the last four years.  There is a reason he has those two initials in front of his name and those three initials at the back.  I do not. I am what I am and what that is is a 21st-century library director. Or at least that’s how I like to think of myself.  And that is exactly how I will continue this blog.
So for those who’ve come to read the reviews of and reflections upon scholarly works for writings about our field, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. As a library director I have a stack of periodicals and professional journals on my desk at all times… Very rarely do I actually have the time to Peruse them.
For those who may have come for philosophical reviews of other blogs and articles about Librarianship, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. I have many blogs bookmarked on my iPad and computer that I attempt to follow… Very rarely in the cast of the day do I find time to check them.
For those who come seeking theoretical and academic analysis on the trending themes of our profession, I fear you will be disappointed. I try to keep up with everyone’s ideas of what is happening on the front lines of Librarianship and I’m sure if I did I would have a million opinions.
Unfortunately, as a  library director, I find myself spending my days dealing with the issues that come across my desk from staff, vendors, politicians, trustees, budget, marketing, the latest technology being hawked in my email Inbox, etc.
Therefore as I continue this blog doing my very best to honor my father and what he has built here, I will do it by blogging about what I know… And that is the 21st-century library in action.  Names and specifics will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not so innocent). I hold paramount the tenants of ethics and privacy that are the foundation of our profession and will, in no way shape or form, forgo those in my blog postings. I will talk about the issues that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, the random thoughts that I have, and my musings for the future of our libraries and our profession.
Occasionally I will be off base or I may write something that you read and think “OH She doesn’t know about x,y,z…!”  You will be absolutely right! So drop me a comment! I hope this blog will inspire conversation, debate, and sharing of ideas and information.  That it will continue to be a spot where librarians everywhere who are busy ‘fightin the fight’ can drop by now and again and be inspired, informed, and, hopefully, amused.  A place to rest, recharge, and rearm to forge through our Library-Land with a bigger tool bag and fresher smile.
So buckle your seat belts, hold on and let’s take this baby out for a spin! Because the one thing I have learned about libraries during my 20+ year career that they did NOT teach me in library school is:  Libraryland is crazy ~ You can’t make this stuff up!!
Hopefully you will enjoy the ride with me.
Kimberly Matthews


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