Getting things done

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot to get done and never enough time to do it. As library employees we have many tasks and must be able to multitask like no other because you never know what is going to happen next. I remember being told to never keep a to-do list because it would only lead to frustration at the end of the day when nothing is checked off.

To help with organization, which is not my strongest quality, I do make a list, but it is more of a weekly to-do list. Every day I try to get at least one item checked off the list with the goal to get to most of it by the end of the week. As I think of new tasks that need to get done I add them to the master list. Usually, my goal is to have everything off my desk by the end of the week because I like coming back to a clean desk and desk bin on Monday morning. If most of the items end up getting checked off the list then I am satisfied.

I have also learned to delegate. When I first started as Director I understood that the employees were working hard with many responsibilities. I was very hesitant to ask for help. Now I know the employees better and I am able to ask for assistance when the task suits the strong points of an employee. This applies to all employees of the library. No matter what your position is, do not try to do everything yourself. If you are working on a project and you know another employee would be great in that area then do not be afraid to ask for help.

The most important thing I have learned is that it’s okay if everything does not get done. Tomorrow is another day. Just try your best to get your workspace clean by the end of the week to help keep you organized and at least feeling like you are top of your to-do list.

Betsy Eggers
Napoleon Public Library

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the 500 hats of library staff

In the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, the protagonist is ordered to take off his hat before the king, only to find that another hat sprouts in its place, until (you guessed it!), Cubbins gets to the 500th hat…and I will stop there, as I’d hate to ruin a wonderful story! In much the same way library directors and staff at small libraries may sometimes feel like Bartholomew–constantly switching hats to meet the demands of our jobs.

We are called upon to work the CIRC desk, catalog new materials, run programs, clean up messes, handle patron complaints/concerns, offer ready reference, and the list goes on…It is therefore imperative to our staff that we offer as many opportunities for continuing education as possible, so that we don’t just wear our 500 hats, but we rock the look!

I am encouraging folks to consider attending the Ohio Library Council Chapter Conferences or regional conferences in your home states! Here are just a few reasons to consider:

  • Lasts only one day, making it easy(ier) for library staff to get away. Consider closing the library for a Staff Training Day–tell your Board that continuing ed is a way for your staff to better serve the public!
  • Much of the content tends to be geared more toward smaller libraries, which means many ideas can be changed to fit your needs; smaller numbers also makes it easier for you to ask more questions
  • Courses offered are on a variety of pertinent topics
  • Great opportunity to network with professional peers

Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

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A Guide to Not Ending up in Jail For Stealing Digital Images

If your small library is like mine then there is a very unlikely chance that you have one of these job titles on your staff roster: Digital Initiatives Team Leader; eContent Specialist; Digital Asset Specialist; Digital Library Services Manager; Electronic Resources Specialist; eContent/Metadata Strategist; Attorney at Law; Supreme Allied Commander. Woops, that last one was Eisenhower’s title during World War II. You have to admit that IS a cool title!

My point is that in small libraries employees wear many hats. As a director in a small library, my day consists of selecting materials, unplugging toilets, shoveling snow, going to Rotary and other community meetings, checking materials for bed bugs, working on the budget, writing press releases, and taping magazines. The list goes on and on, but that is the way I like it. In our neck of the woods the title Librarian is as good as it gets because a librarian can do it all. Now that we all live in the digital age where it is expected that all libraries have a vivid website and a hip social media presence, it can be challenging to know how to handle the legalities of copyright, plagiarism, and fair use. Am I allowed to raid Google Images for a picture that I need for a library poster? It is Christmas Day. Can I search the web for a Christmas picture and plop it on our library’s Facebook page to wish everyone a Merry Christmas? Can I use that funny library eCard on our website?

I will stop you right there. If you are looking at me to give you a hard and fast answer then you are out of luck. Depending on the situation and who you talk to, the legality of using an image you did not create in the public library can be very hazy. The only true advice I can give you is this: If in doubt, do NOT use the image. You can use me as an example. A year into my position as library director at Dover I tried to set up this tech service called “Ask the Computer Guy.” The idea was to have a tech person on hand on Saturday mornings that was available in case the public had any tech related issues. Patrons would come in with eReaders, smartphones, laptops, etc., and Rob would sit down with them and help them out. The problem was that I pulled an image off of Google to use in promoting the service. The image had no copyright or trademark, so I thought I was in good shape. One day while browsing the library’s Facebook page, I noticed a comment by an outraged man, (who claims he was the artist who came up with the image I was using), stating he was appalled that a public library would “steal” his image. I, of course, changed the posting restrictions on our Facebook page, contacted the man and apologized, and smoothed things over. Moral of the story: I learned my lesson. I knew I had to get a better grasp on the use of images that I, or my staff, did not create.

Therefore, in the absence of a copyright attorney or digital images specialist, I will provide some links for those who want to know more about what they can and cannot use:

Good luck and choose your images wisely!

Jim Gill, Director
Dover Public Library, OH

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Santa!! I KNOW him!

In recent conversations with fellow library directors, a good and timely question came up: How do you find a Santa for your Christmas events at the library? We are very fortunate to have a professor from Ohio Northern University (just across the street), who is a member of the Buckeye Santas, and who does all of the events in the area, and who is kind enough to do our Library’s event free of charge. So, I went right to the source and asked Santa himself for some tips on picking a GREAT Santa. When picking a Santa:

  • Ask for a background check first!
  • Depending on your Library policy–ask if they are insured
  • Ask for references (are there other places around town who’ve hosted this Santa that would refer him?)
  • Ask for a photo (recent)
  • Talk with the Santa before the event, preferably in person, or via phone or Skype
And most importantly: anyone can put on a red suit, but not everyone can be a Santa!!!
Amanda Bennett, Director Ada Public Library, OH

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Being grateful

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I will keep this short and sweet–because as we come upon the holiday season, who has the time?!–and I will focus on gratitude.

As a Librarian I am grateful for:

  • Waking up each morning and being excited for work, knowing that might include a children’s program, paying bills, or working the CIRC desk. I love the not knowing of what I’ll be called to do.
  • Working in a state who believes in its libraries and fights hard for them. And the proof is in the pudding!
  • Getting to serve our patrons! Yes, yes, everyone deals with their fair share of grumpy and sometimes bizarre patron interactions, but just think of the great stories you get to take to the cocktail party!
  • Working alongside community organizations and a school district that are committed to helping us succeed
  • Being surprised by the kindnesses that we sometimes witness throughout our day.
  • Serving on consortium and Ohio Library Council committees where I get to meet lots of other dedicated and cool librarians!

This holiday season I hope you have much to be thankful for too. Happy Thanksgiving!


Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library
Ada, OH

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Libraries as throwbacks (in the best sense of the word)

My family recently attended a Vintage Base Ball Association game. The “ballists” (players) were following the 1858 base ball rules. These are commonly thought of as “gentleman’s” rules, and they would begin changing significantly as the sport’s popularity took off following the Civil War.

The first thing you notice at one of these games is the ballists do not use gloves. The ball was a bit softer back then, and the fielders used just their bare hands. The next thing is probably the fact that the trees, the barn, and the farm implements in the field are all in play. And the batter is “dead” (out) if a fielder catches the ball off of any of these things or even off one bounce on the ground. Then you notice that the “hurler” (pitcher) is supposed to put the ball in a good spot for the “striker” (batter), and there are no balls and strikes.

But the big difference between what we watched that day and the playoff games currently taking place is the integrity, or fairness, of all involved. And that is what made me think about our profession. (Yes, this does have something to do with libraries.)

Those old-time base ball players were playing hard – neither team wanted to lose. But the baserunners were calling themselves out on close plays. There was no need for instant replay, fielders indicated whether they caught the ball on one bounce or not.

Library marketers will cringe when seeing the terms “library” and “throwback” used in the same sentence as we try to remain relevant in a world with Google, Amazon, Apple and the like. Too many people already identify us with the clichéd image of dusty books sitting on shelves.

But I think the library definitely needs to be a throwback when it comes to how we serve our communities: with integrity and fairness.

In a public library, especially a small public library, we have a great opportunity. We get a chance to know many of our patrons. And not just know them by what web sites they visit or online purchases they make. We get to serve them directly, often actually chat with them face-to-face, listen to their problems, assist them with what we are able. And we do that for every single person we can.

In fact, the library is really the only place like that in my community, and likely also in many of yours – one of the few places that (usually) doesn’t require you to take out your wallet. The library is not focused on the bottom line – or trying to take over the world. But all of us in the profession are playing hard and trying not to lose.

So, as we try to deal with all those issues that are constantly circling and move our libraries forward; in order to thrive, we also need to be throwbacks when it comes to serving our communities.

Integrity and fairness — things that play as well in 2014 as they did in 1858.

Chris Owens, Director

Blanchester Public Library

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Think Tank 101

By Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

For many of us attending larger conferences, like the Ohio Library Council’s Expo or the American Library Association Annual Conference, isn’t always an option—tight budgets and limited staffing lead the list of reasons why. Yet our profession calls us to stay abreast of the latest trends, the most timely issues facing e-books, self-checkouts, and who know can keep track of what all else.
So, how can stay connected with your professional peers and trends within the profession?
HOST YOUR OWN CONFERENCE! Many other librarians are learning the benefits of start-up conferences or “think tanks.” (I have been fortunate enough to attend the Take Five Conference—what a group!)
• When deciding on whom to include it is easier to narrow down your group when you have a theme/topic for your conference, i.e.
“Genealogy & the Small Library,”
“ Summer Reading 2015 on a budget,”
“Adult Programs that draw a crowd”
• Now that you have a topic, who will your speakers be? Consider co-hosting the event with other impassioned peers who are bursting to share everything they know about dynamic children’s programs, or what’s hot with teens! Ask local “experts,” someone from the county genealogical society for your program on genealogy; a guest speaker from the local craft store who might have some great ideas for Adult programs. If you want to have a looser forum of sorts, ask for agenda items when you send out the email, and encourage folks to come prepared to share something on the topic.
• Who to invite? You know your library space best, and how many folks would fit comfortably, which helps you set the number of people to invite; think of other librarians in your county, region, or consortium.
• Request RSVPs from attendees (this is especially important when setting up your meeting space, or ordering lunch).
• If your meeting is running through the lunch hour, warn people to bring $ for lunch at a local restaurant or tell folks to brown bag their lunches—hey, we’re all on budgets!
• Follow up: send out a thank you to all for attending, consider including any helpful follow-up notes; encourage attendees to “reply to all,” with any helpful hints or tips which they gleaned from the meeting. Remind people to respond with the contact information for that great entertainer that such-and-such-library hosted last summer!
And as always, if you can’t make it to things, reach out to online communities, who can provide you a forum for advice and ideas; on Facebook alone I have recently discovered and joined
ALA Think Tank
Storytime Underground
Teen Librarians
Teen Think Tank

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