Please describe your position. Your title, duties, an average day in your work life.
My job title is Assistant Library Director and Creative Director for Gretna Public Library. I also serve as Acting Director when my boss isn’t at work – the power does not go to my head and I am very relieved to give it back to her ASAP.
We are a small library, and so my duties are incredibly varied and sometimes depend on staff vacations/sick days. I shelve, clean, collection manage the Children’s, Young Adult, and Graphic Novel sections, hold mini staff meetings, market (mainly the kids’ programs), plan/execute Children’s Library themes, HR (using that as a verb), oversee the Children’s Library and its website, run our social media, and so much more! My only weak spot is covering books, but that’s on my “to learn” list for next year.
It’s rare to have an average day, which is one of the reasons that I love my job so much. But it would look like me coming in and logging onto all the library’s accounts and checking my work email. I’d touch base with the openers (even if it’s just one other person), and then open the library. If it’s slow, then I do work at my desk (number crunch reports, design flyers, etc). If it’s busy, then I’ll jump up and help. And that’s pretty much how most of the day will go. I’ll try and get up to move around the library (looking for messes to clean, and displays to be refreshed) to get a break from the desk, but to also feel more a part of what’s going on. When we have the majority of the staff here (usually around 1pm) I try and have a mini-staff meeting just to make sure everyone knows what’s going on with each other and the library. I really do spend most of my days at my desk, but I’m happy to help out at the desk since it generally offers more interesting challenges.
What attracted you to your current position? Was it an intentional move, a gut feeling, a happy accident, or a matter of convenience?
It was sort of all three. Initially I was attracted to this library itself – I fell in love with its size and how the staff had to work as a team. I was actually a bit depressed after my first visit there since I thought that I’d never get hired at a library like this. I’m so glad that I was wrong, and that my gut feeling was overall right. After being hired as the Children’s Librarian’s assistant, I absorbed everything that I could. My ultimate goal was to become a Children’s Librarian. I can’t go into details about a lot of what happened during that time, but suffice it to say, the former Assistant Director became the Library Director, and she asked me to step into her former role. What really sealed the deal, besides getting a full time position, was that it was revealed that a Children’s Library would be opening up within the next year or so, and that I was to oversee it.
What things give you the most joy in your position?
One of my favorite things in the world is to have a brainstorming session where everyone’s comfortable sharing even the most outlandish of ideas. When those sessions happen, there’s this energy where everyone brings his/her strengths into what we’re trying to accomplish. Usually that results in some of the funnest and most inspiring months here (since we try to theme our months). To go from brainstorming to seeing those amazing ideas come to life – that is incredibly awesome.
I also train the new hires, many times with assistance from other members of the staff – including my boss. I look at it as coaching vs. training. And I continue with that perspective for everyone on staff. It’s easier for me to think of myself as a coach vs. as a manager. I want to find out what my team members enjoy/excel at, and help them flourish. I also seek out ways to strengthen any weak areas. Watching employees grow and do wonderful things brings me lots of joy, but it’s also tinged with sadness since I know that they’ll likely move on to another library that can offer them better positions. But then, after the sadness, I have a lot of pride in what those employees accomplish.
What’s most challenging for you?
I could list quite a few things that challenge me, but the biggest for me right now is learning how to be a good/consistent coach while managing my fibromyalgia. One of the most painfully ironic aspects of fibro is that it tends to hit people who are Type A. I never realized how Type A I was until I was hit with this condition. If I’m having an exhaustion or pain flare at work, and there’s a parent not supervising his/her kid, then I’ve been guilty of just letting it go because I feel too tired to properly deal with the situation. That haunts me a bit, but a big portion of managing this condition is learning how to handle emotional situations in ways that won’t drain me.
If this is not your last career move, where would you like to go from here?
In my mind this is my last career move; I absolutely love my job, my team, and my community. I’ve had people tell me that I should aim to become a Director, but that’s really not what I want to do. That said, I’m open to what the universe will throw at me. After all, the job title Creative Director didn’t exist at our library until I came along and my boss recognized that talent within me.
Pretend I’m a brand new library professional, eager to figure out how to get your job. What’s the advice you’d give me?
Be open to the possibilities, and find a somewhat smaller library if possible. I recommend the smaller library since so many of the larger library systems have incredibly strict job descriptions that are tied to specific hoops that you’re expected to have jumped through. I have heard horror stories of wonderful employees getting passed over for promotions because they didn’t earn an expensive piece of paper. I almost didn’t get hired here since my resume was full of retail work. It wasn’t until I had my in-person interview that they saw my creativity and organization, and were willing to take a chance on me.
After you find a place and get your foot in the door, learn as much as possible about the workings of that library. Help out as many of your teammates as possible. Be aware of what’s happening and take the initiative to do something that obviously needs to be done (but no one seems to notice or care). Once you have a good foundation, then you can start sharing more of your creative side whether it be with arts/crafts or with problem solving. Show that side off and then when your annual review rolls around (or even sooner, depending on your Director), bringing up a Creative Directorship would be a great thing to do. Even if it’s just planting the seed, it shows initiative and a passion for what you can bring to your library.