Monday, March 19, 2012

PLA 2012 Thursday March 15

Thursday morning I put on this dress, this cardigan, and my denim jacket, and ran off to give my piece of a five-person panel presentation. I was invited by Rebecca Vnuk of Shelf Renewal (and Booklist magazine) to do fifteen minutes on Science Fiction, along with a stellar panel of Readers' Advisory experts on literary, historical, romance and thriller fiction. First, it was a blast to be talking about books again, and second, SO FUN to see these particular folks again. We had a good time, talking reallllly fast and urging everyone to visit the website for the handouts! The resulting list of favorites books and authors should do me for the rest of 2012.

While we were rattling off titles, my colleague was at a program entitled Abolishing Performance Evaluations: Why they Don't Work and What Does. You might well lift an eyebrow! The presenters seemed to have been relying on annual evaluations to manage staff they never saw, and "discovered" that didn't work so well. Huh. I like our performance evaluations and don't intend to discard them.

The next session was Now What? 12 Steps to Thriving in a Different World, featuring Karen Hyman and Peter Bromberg. Wandering around the enormous convention center, I was late finding the room, so I missed a couple of the steps, but loved what I did hear. See all the slides here.
  • Improv as a theme (this was everywhere at PLA). Find ways to move the "scene" forward. 
  • Action beats inaction every time. If you wait for the perfect moment, there will be lots of dead airspace, and your customer will move on.
  • Engaging customers via their senses (sight, sound, touch), action (physical movement), emotions and minds. "Mind" is what we've traditionally done well, but we have to work on the others, particularly with adults.
  • Acceptance is not acquiescence. We don't have the budget we used to, but we're still going to build, innovate, and befriend.
  • Become a black belt in time management. You are never going to "catch up", so use your time effectively on the important stuff.
The presenters showed a great short video of how a mass transit system encouraged people to use the stairs (escalators overburdened) by making the stairs really fun. Seriously, spend a minute and a half watching this and think about what you want your patrons to do more or less of in the library.

The key message, I think, was not to hunker down, but to remember how fabulous we are and how much fun we can be.

(At some point that morning I got a great cup of coffee and a hunk of soda bread at the Reading Terminal Market, just one of the many reasons why I'd like to go back to Philly tomorrow.)

My 2:00 program was Creating a Vibrant Organizational Culture at your Library, featuring Richard Mott of Jacksonville Public Library and Cheryl Gould, a library training consultant. I'm going to try to bring this duo out to Illinois, by partnering with local libraries as we have done with other great speakers. 

Richard Mott started out with a graph of JPL's last five years that looked just like ours: circ, visitors, website usage all up, $$ and staff down. Key points from their very lively and pertinent talk:
  • There is no clear road map for libraries. Be positive, confident and comfortable with ambiguity.
  • Be cautious of the expertise trap, "Our search is better than your search". Recognize and collaborate with others' expertise.
  • Shift from reactive to creative, keep moving (another common theme at PLA), experiment and take risks.
  • The "best" company has perhaps 50% of their staff truly engaged, global average is 1 in 5 employees. 15% are disengaged AND actively criticizing, undermining the organization.
  • Support your colleagues' decisions. Say "yes, and" instead of "yes, but." 
  • Use your all-staff moments (meetings, days) to self-assess and answer questions. "How are we doing?" Discover what words describe your culture (we already did this, yay!)
This program made me think in particular of activities that almost every staff member at my library are involved in, like programming. That great experience is made possible by staff creating, organizing, registering, setting up/taking down, providing technology, promoting, paying for.

After this fantastic day, my work brain was full, so I decided to exercise the shoe-shopping part of my amygdala, and went back to the Kenneth Cole store, where I'd seen a particular pair of boots on sale. Long gone in the store, but they found them in El Paso or some such, and they were only $99 (from $250)! Of course I ordered them.

Here they are, but I got them in a lovely soft tan suede. Can't wait to put them on!

The last fabulous thing about Thursday was going for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, courtesy of Mandarin Library Automation, here:

No sign of Himself, sadly, but the food was yummy. The building is a massive, dome topped, white marble former bank, with a central louge and separate private dining rooms in The Vault and The Reserve. Thank you, Mandarin! I promise I will remember you if we go ILS shopping next year!


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