The Transparent Library: Dear MLS Grad….

What’s the library policy on blogging and social networking for staff? Can you maintain your personal/professional blog if you accept a position? We’d urge hiring librarians to encourage new staffers to continue their blogging or participation in social networks.

Does the library employ vertical teams for planning and implementation of new services? Can new hires participate and share their voices from day one? Inviting new staffers to play a role in service creation signals a willingness to hear new ideas. Ask for examples.

What mentoring opportunities are there? A recent job listing from Davidson College in North Carolina included this bit: “We want your newbie enthusiasm and fresh ideas, and we’ll mentor you in your growth.” This is a promising trend; it’s vital for veterans to mentor and encourage new librarians.

Read the whole column here

AND, don’t miss this comment from Andrea Pearson:

Many recent graduates work as substitutes or work part time. Ask about mentoring and career paths if you are applying for these positions, too Our library system (Hennepin County, MN) has great training opportunities which are open to FT, PT, and subs. The HCL substitute librarians are creating a Library Sub wiki, “Librarian Substitutes 2.0,” in order to keep in touch with each other and keep up professionally. Right now it’s in a very early stage, but we welcome subs and PT librarians to visit at librariansubs at wetpaint.

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4 thoughts on “The Transparent Library: Dear MLS Grad….”

  1. Full Article and location of

    Millet, Michelle S. “Libraries Have Cliques Too! Understanding Interpersonal Relationships in Libraries.”

    http://www.liscareer.com/cunningham_eiq.htm

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    Millet, Michelle S. “Libraries Have Cliques Too! Understanding Interpersonal Relationships in Libraries.”

    In Search of an Emotionally Healthy Library
    by Nancy Cunningham

    Your job search involves not only finding the right position, but also the right kind of library that will support your professional goals and allow you to flourish. Libraries, like people, have an emotional IQ and their cultures can be characterized as healthy or unhealthy. Emotionally healthy libraries allow you to fulfill your personal and professional goals. Working in a library with an unhealthy culture may drain you, prevent you from reaching goals, and keep you distracted by “drama,” no matter how positive, professional, well trained and focused you are. In the worst circumstances, an unhealthy library culture undermines your self-esteem, your sense of professional direction, and your commitment to the profession.

    A library’s emotional health is unaffected by level of funding, technology, collections or perceived prestige. The most emotionally unhealthy libraries can be housed in fabulous facilities, contain prestigious collections, access cutting-edge technology, and fund a well-paid and trained staff. Likewise, there are emotionally healthy libraries plagued by a constant lack of funding, poor and substandard facilities, or a small, underpaid staff.

    Often an unhealthy culture results from an amalgam of unhealthy personalities and characteristics, lack of oversight by an outside body such a library board of directors or university administration, and other factors. Staff turnover, administration changes, re-organizations, and outside changes from stakeholder groups can all serve as catalysts for the re-emergence of healthy culture in a library.

    Characteristics of Emotionally Healthy Libraries

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    Positive attitude toward library’s patrons
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    Desire to continually improve visible through new services & projects
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    Visible respect for all staff at all levels
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    Decision making process is open and shared
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    Criteria for decision making grounded in fairness and commitment to mission
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    Meetings in general are well organized, well facilitated, focused and appropriate
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    Committees are well structured and both professional and paraprofessionals have opportunities to chair committees
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    Communicating regularly with the library’s stakeholder groups
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    Constructive criticism from stakeholder groups is responded to appropriately and in a timely fashion
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    Visible dedication on the part of the outside bodies (i.e., University Administration, Library Board of Directors) to the mission of the library
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    Mechanisms to celebrate everyone’s contribution
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    All staff included in planning
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    Managers at all levels work together and share the same vision
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    Ongoing training for all levels of library staff
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    Socializing is inclusive and open

    Characteristics of Emotionally Unhealthy Libraries

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    No meetings (“We don’t have time for meetings” or “Too many meetings waste everyone’s time”)
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    Too many meetings, meetings are long, and are not well facilitated
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    Imposition of one person’s views on the rest of the library
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    Invisible administration – library administrators are not in the library but are busy at conferences and other duties outside the library
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    Committees that do not change leadership or constituents
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    Lack of communication between divisions, lack of mechanisms for communication
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    Lack of mission and vision articulated by the administration
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    Library lacks good communication with its stakeholder groups (i.e., community, faculty, students, etc.)
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    Culture is dominated by a few negative personalities that “act out” their own personal agendas or decrease staff morale.
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    Passive library administration that seeks no conflict or resolution to unhealthy situations
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    Complaints are ignored or are used against the staff member who complains.
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    Library administration not held responsible by stakeholders
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    Double standard for performance by library administrators and staff (i.e., staff may not arrive late but administrators can).
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    Hiding behind prestige of collections or “good old days” image
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    Publishing requirements for tenure are unlinked to the goals and objectives of the library; tenure is given a greater priority than the need to improve the library’s own services, collections, and operations
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    Lack of respect for the staff by the library administration
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    Lack of clear direction from library administration.

    How do you avoid an unhealthy library? Here are some questions you might ask during your interview.

    Meeting and Committees

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    How is information shared in the library?
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    How many committees do you have? How long do they last? How do they communicate with the rest of the library? When results of the task are ready, how long does the administration take to respond?

    Management of Operations

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    How does the library handle budget cuts? What gets cut and how is the decision reached? Who had input into the decision?
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    Describe a crisis situation and how was it handled.

    Library Culture and Communication

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    Describe the morale in the library. How does the staff socialize together?
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    What are some of the frustrations of the professional and paraprofessional staff?
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    How is information communicated in the library?
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    How are executive decisions made and communicated?
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    How do departments communicate in the library? Are there mechanisms set up for communication across divisions and departments?

    Staff Tenure

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    How long has the staff and the library administration been here?
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    What has been the staff turnover rate? Why?
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    How long has the director been here? What is the director’s relationship with the staff?

    Interview Warning Signs:

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    How did your interviewers answer your questions? Did they seem uncomfortable or guarded? Did they seem to resent the questions?
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    Whom in the library did you meet? Only a select few? Why? Did you get the opportunity to meet everyone you will be working with or supervising?
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    Does staff generally seem to enjoy what they do? Did staff complain or seem guarded when they interviewed with you?
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    Were there a lot of “inside jokes” made during the time you were there? Did you feel left out while you were with the search committee?
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    Were your requests for more information fulfilled in a timely manner?
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    Were you made to feel guilty about your requests for information on benefits or salary?
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    How did your interviewers interact with each other?

    There are no perfect answers to these questions. Try to find out as much about the library’s culture as you can, to determine if it is the right library for you. If you feel uncomfortable with something you hear or observe in the interview, don’t ignore it. Share your perceptions with other friends, mentors, professors, and colleagues. Use the “library grapevine” and your professional contacts to find out what you can about the library and the people who work there.

    Getting a great position in unhealthy library may lead to frustration, personal disappointment, and an inability to reach professional goals. I hope you can use these tips to decide whether an environment will be right for you.

    About the Author:

    At the time she wrote this article, Nancy Cunningham was the Associate Director for Public Services at the Mary & Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. She is now Director of the Learning Resources Center at Southwest Florida College in Ft. Myers. She received her MLS at University of California, Berkeley in 1983 and an MBA in 1997 from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Nancy has been active in the Texas Library Association with the Texas-Mexico Relations Committee and in ALA serving on the Staff Development Committee of the Human Resources section of ALA’s LAMA division.

    Article submitted Dec 2001

    Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.

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    Page last updated 10/03/2005
    LIScareer.com is © copyright 2001-present Priscilla Shontz

  2. Good Article, High expectations, obvious short-comings in all organizations often have to be weighed over time. Having been a technology recruiter in a past life, there is little all of this criteria will do to help in advance, but may act as a checklist of reasons to keep a resume current and wait twelve mos. (minimum) before looking for another job.

    Too many frequent moves on a resume makes you look like the problem instead of the environment. You may have a lower threshold for bureaucracy and problems or others just may be more accepting of a poor environment and do not readily accept change easily.

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