Tag Archives: transparency

Library Director: A Possible Future

Thinking about the future has been very common for me in 2011.  I’ve asked myself time and time again, “what is my place in libraries?” but I haven’t come to a final answer.  I’ve had this feeling that I can’t be a teen librarian forever, but since it is the only position I’ve ever held I’ve had a hard time looking past it.  Could I be an academic librarian?  A self employed librarian?  These ideas have come and gone, but no one answer has really stuck.  Until recently…

I started thinking about a possible future as a library director after my participation in the 2010 ALA Emerging Leaders program. Maureen Sullivan, who was the ALA Emerging Leaders Facilitator at the time shared a quote by Frances Hesselbein with the class that’s forever changed me:

“The leader’s job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”

(you can read about my ALA Emerging Leaders experience here and here)

It’s a cliche, but I’ll say it…my mind was blown.  Up until that point in my professional career, I always thought that moving up the “library ladder” allowed you to do whatever the heck you wanted to do.  You were the person in charge…the big shot…the leader.  The way that the community views the library is now in your hands and you can mold it and shape it all you want.

How silly of me to think that I was the center of attention.  How very self centered. I went back and thought of the main reason why I became a librarian in the first place…to help people…and it all clicked.  If I was to become a library director, my job wouldn’t be to dictate others, but instead help those that were around me reach their goals. I would still be helping people, but that circle was now larger. Not only I’d be helping my community, but I’d also be helping other library employees in their quest to be the best for their community.

If I was to go in this direction, I thought I better have a plan.  This is a work in progress:

Library Directors need to trust their employees 100% and get their staff on board with everything that’s happening in the library.  If you were a teen librarian before you make the jump to library director, your tools used to be video games, graphic novels, craft events, and more.  Now, as the director your tools are your staff.  Believe in them, their ideas, and their abilities.  When you have a staff that’s feeling supported, the sky is the limit.  Your library will shine, and your community will embrace the services you offer them.

On the back of the life changing quote I mentioned above, I have to add this: don’t stop having ideas, and definitely don’t stop dreaming.  I’ve always been a dreamer myself, and if I ever become a library director, I’m sure that there will not be an “off” button which I can hit and change my personality to director mode.


It’s the public library directors who need to listen. Staff members need better tools and skills, while their youth need more space, materials, and computers. As Gómez says, “We cannot view out-of-school-time programming and services as an adjunct to core library services.”

For that to be true, a lot of public library directors will need to take a hard look at their library’s resources and how they’re spent. Maybe it’s time to stop moaning about that seldom-visited reference desk (now quiet because adults are using the Internet) and hire more staff that can serve your major clients: children and teens. Maybe it’s time to take your materials and programming funds and actually align them to your usage statistics.

-Brian Kenney  http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6386666.html

If your librarian comes to you with a plan or just a random idea for something to better the library, give them the ability to go for it. While I was a librarian at the Cape May County Library (NJ), I was a teen librarian chock full of ideas. I went to my director Deb Poillon and asked her if I could start a circulating video game collection.  She thought it over, found some money, and a few months later gave me the funds to start up the collection.  Two years and 554 titles later, the collection is going strong in the county library system.

My point is simple: don’t let money or your own opinions get in the way.  Give your librarians the tools they need to embrace change and help them make something positive happen for the community.


The public library is an excellent model of government at its best. A locally controlled public good, it serves every individual freely, in as much or as little depth as he or she wants.

 -John Berry III http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA158885.html

Transparency is quite the buzz word these days, but it’s one of those buzz words I can get behind.  I define the public library as an institution that is available for the public to use which is generally funded by some kind of public sources.  Coming at it from this perspective, I see transparency not as a buzz word, but as something necessary to ensure the future of libraries.

I want to take this idea to the limit.

I wrote about this idea over 1 year ago.  While the tools may have changed, I do stand by the basic principles I set forth in this blog post.  Librarians, and to a greater extent, Library Directors, are interpreters for their communities.  We are here to listen to their needs and wants, and use our professional expertise to help make those requests come true.  As a library director, we need to clearly communicate our actions and decisions to our patrons. This involves fully embracing the idea of transparency.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor

Portland Public Teen Library: 2010 Year In Review

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

The Transparent Library Director

I’m not a library director.  Heck, who knows if I’ll ever be a library director.  But spend some time working in a public library and you’ll see a common theme: most employees and the public have no clue what a library director does.  There’s this belief that the library director is some person way high up in the sky making all these decisions and pulling all these strings to make the library work. With such little information known about the day to day happenings of a library director, employees and patrons end up getting confused about the direction of the library.  In turn, that can sometimes lean towards anger, poor morale, and communication breakdown.  The victims here?  It’s always the patrons.  When the library staff doesn’t know what the hell is going on, the patron’s suffer.  They lose out on valuable materials, services, and more.

Social media allows us to be more transparent than ever.  We can check in at every place we visit, we can tweet quotes from conversations we’re having, we can share pictures at the tap of our screen.  Blogging/Video blogging makes it super easy and quick just to share your thoughts/actions for the day.  To some folks, this transparency is scary.  Most everything you say or do can be found on the web.  Here’s where I burst your fun bubble.  THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU.  I’m just as guilty of this as you are, so I’m not pointing fingers.  We have to remember that when we’re working in a public library that we are public employees.  Our salaries and benefits are graciously paid for by public taxes paid by the people we serve.  Living in the era of the Tea Party and slashed library budgets, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our country is pretty darn upset about taxes and will do anything to get rid of what they consider unnecessary spending.

Have a UStream feed running in your office all day as well as during meetings.  What have you got to hide in these day to day meetings?  If you’re talking about people behind their back, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway.

Opening up your office and your meetings to the public will give your community the primary resource they will need to understand your direction and vision.  Instead of hearing half true rumours from other employees and around your town you’ll be giving the information to the public as it was meant to be heard.

*Yes, I understand that some meetings are meant to be private.  These meetings should totally stay that way.

Check into every place you’re visiting in the community.  Give us a little info about why you’re there.

I don’t have a solid example for this recommendation, so instead I’ll point you to my Foursquare account (http://foursquare.com/justinlibrarian).  Just imagine that all those restaurants I checked into are different meetings and locations I’m out scouting for possible collaborations.

In my own opinion, this is the perfect tool for the director who is on the go to use.  Tweet quotes from meetings you’re attending.  Give your followers a brief 140 character synopsis about what’s going on.

Don’t think you have enough time to tweet?  That’s a lame and outdated excuse that everyone uses.  Look at Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker’s Twitter stream for inspiration.  He’s running a whole city and he can still tweet! http://twitter.com/corybooker

Fire up your webcam (chances are that your laptop already has one.  If not, get this one) and start talking.  If you’re a director, you should be well spoken and ready for the cameras.  A quick 1-3 minute videoblog about your day that can then be uploaded to your library YouTube account will give your staff and patrons always valuable face time.

I couldn’t find any specific library directors already doing this (although I clearly remember seeing one out there a few years ago) so instead I turn your attention to teen author John Green and his brother Hank.  They run the Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube where they just talk about…stuff!  It keeps them connected to their rabid fan fan base and provides quick and easy updates to keep them relevant and interesting.

Jenny Levin’s blog is a beautiful example of how a lifestream can be used to keep people up to date with what you’re tweeting/blogging/sharing.  It’s easy to set up and use once you get the ball rolling and it will provide your community with more than enough information about what you’re doing while you work.


There shouldn’t be this communication breakdown in libraries anymore.  Starting at the top and leading by example, directors who embrace social media can show their staff and the public they serve just what they’re doing to keep their libraries relevant.

For further reading, I highly suggest you check out these awesome articles by Michael Casey & Michael Stephens:

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

“I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling” – Doing Something with Feedback

Library Revolution ponders “one point that kept coming up at Computers in Libraries is the importance of not asking for feedback unless you actually intend on doing something with it.”


When you ask your staff, users, and colleagues for feedback, are you prepared to do something with that feedback? Do you have a mechanism in place for handling suggestions in a productive way? Are you ready to encourage the development of the ideas offered up, constructively criticize, and put forth the effort necessary to transform raw ideas into effective, creative, and innovative efforts? How do you prove that the suggestions you’re asking for will be taken seriously… even if they involve bad 80’s dance-pop one hit wonders?

An Apology from a School Superintendent

Via Helene Blowers on Flickr:


I’d like to share an email I sent to all of our 18,000-plus employees this morning. Here it is:

Dear CMS Employees:

When you make a mistake, the best thing to do is just admit it. Folks, we blew it, and I apologize. While the decision to start random background checks for current employees was made with the best of intentions – to keep our students and staff safe – we dropped the ball, big time, in terms of communication and execution.

So where do we go from here? If you haven’t filled out the form, throw it away. If you have filled out the form, ask your supervisor to return it to you so you may destroy it. (To safeguard your identity, I suggest you shred it.)

I will share more information on this topic with you at a later time. Right now, I just want you to know how sorry I am that this was handled so badly. Our employees are the lifeblood of this organization. We count on you, every day, to do what’s right for kids. We need to do what’s right for you as well.


Peter C. Gorman

That email was one part of a very painful morning for me. Since coming to CMS, I have worked hard to build rapport with all CMS employees — teachers, administrators, staff, support folks. There are so many people in this district who work hard for our kids every day, and I appreciate all that our employees do.

This district has set ambitious goals. Our success in achieving them depends in large part on the trust and support of our employees. My apology to all of them is heartfelt, and I hope that we can move on from this and continue to work together in an atmosphere of trust and respect to do what’s best for kids.