The Road Ahead

By Michael Casey & Michael Stephens

We’ve been writing this column for more than two years, and though it’s been a wonderful experience, it’s time to move on to other projects and topics. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received on the LJ site, via emails, and in person—including all of those wonderful “please keep this anonymous” stories.” Since April 2007, we’ve seen the rise of Twitter, the closing of libraries, and the burgeoning of social applications, among numerous changes. One constant: an open, flowing conversation is best to involve and engage everyone. In closing this column, we present one more list of suggestions.

Be kind.

Kate Sheehan, Darien Library, CT, told a group at the Computers in Libraries conference that the “chief export of the library is kindness.” That rings so true with us. Michael S. recently suggested performing a “Kindness Audit” of your spaces and services. How user-friendly are your policies and spaces? What message does your signage carry to your clientele? Can you justify limits on services? How do you treat staff? And in an era when people go to libraries for everything from job searches to filing for government assistance, how do we treat them?

Be human.

As stated in The Cluetrain Manifesto, “A human voice sounds human.” Indeed, we’d much rather hear the real story about anything related to your library than a PR message. Monitor the social networks for talk about your services and respond in a true voice, supported by library administration. Managers, if this makes you uncomfortable, get a grip. It’s not going away.

Teach them.

Who knew we’d become teachers in our jobs as librarians? Take every opportunity to teach your patrons how to access collections and get the most out of the library. Ranganathan said it best: “Books are for use.” These days everything in your buildings and online should be as available as possible to all. Don’t have time or resources to do this? Re-allocate. Managers and administrators should spend time on the front lines helping out.

Learn always.

Roy Tennant offered this touchstone: “We are born to learn, but somewhere along the way many of us pick up the idea that we must be taught in order to learn.” —”Strategies for Keeping Current,” LJ 9/15/03.
In the age of Learning 2.0 and the content-rich web, there’s no excuse to fall behind on current practices and emerging trends. Conference budgets are tight, but we can still learn and exchange ideas, locally or online. Launch a learning blog for your staff and accept contributions from all. Record a video at your desk about your recent successes in tough times and share it.

Shine, but be humble. In our “Be Selfish, Promote Service” column, we urged library staff to shine—to do their best helping users and promoting the profession. Those writing blogs and making presentations at conferences should shine, too. The biblioblogosphere and other online venues have allowed many librarians to stand out.

But, shining stars, please be humble and acknowledge your home library and those who have helped you. You are representing the profession to the next wave. They will learn from what you do, what you say, and how you act online and at that vendor reception.

Encourage one another.

Administrators and colleagues should let the stars at your library shine—and everyone can be a star in some way. Celebrate little successes and big ones, outside achievements, and inside accolades. Acknowledge great customer service and rewarding ideas brought to fruition.

We still hear whispered horror stories of recent Movers & Shakers who feel like outcasts at their jobs or who have had to leave for other pastures. Remember “Check Your Ego at the Door”? Administrators, remember to grow your talent, encourage staff, and promote their accomplishments—big and small.

Finally, say yes.

New ideas, new methods, and new services can thrive in a culture of yes. Our column “Turning ‘No’ into ‘Yes'” argued that the culture of perfection can hurt an organization while a culture of experience and curiosity can lead to better things, such as library use, public awareness, and recognition.

Consider the DOK Delft Library and its innovations with Microsoft Surface and user interaction. Its motto “keeping stories, sharing stories, and making stories” should be part of every Transparent Library’s mission.

We hope these columns have helped you toward transparency.

Michael Casey is Information Technology Division Director, Gwinnett County Public Library, Lawrenceville, CA, and co-author of Library 2.0.

September 15, 2009 Library Journal