SLA, 7/17: Success Stories of Solos, or How to Make your Library into a Place that’s Good for More than Napping
This session is one the Solo Division organizes each year to allow solos to tell their positive stories. Tanya Whippie of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development began by encouraging us to celebrate even small victories and successes.
Tanya has been at HUD for almost 2 years. Some people build libraries from nothing. Others build them from messes. HUD didn’t have librarians for a while. Hierarchically, the library falls within the research division. She’s done a lot to create allies, improve the resources and access to them, and do outreach, like a speaker’s series. Before Tanya began working her magic, many people thought of the library as being a place where they could nap during work hours.
Hildy Dworkin of the New York City of Department of Social Services (and now the division’s past chair) opened by emphasizing the importance of marketing. People contested a banner she wanted for the library because everyone would want one. Her agency does not allow departments to have newsletters, so she’s figured a way to produce an occasional electronic publication with a date that doesn’t qualify as a newsletter, yet highlights what the library can do for employees. For this publication, she looks for things other people are doing that have great information value about which other people should know. Having a logo and sharing contact information is valuable, even if it’s passing bookmarks out to coworkers for their teams.
“Don’t be thrown by the word ‘know.’” Don’t say “I don’t know” when someone asks you to do something you don’t know how to do. People usually don’t ask you to do anything they don’t think you can handle. “I don’t have that at the top of my head right now. Let me check and I’ll get back to you later.”
Don’t be afraid to take things on. Be prepared for the surprise drop-in.
Kevin Adams of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research in New Zealand had some major challenges to overcome after some sizable earthquakes in 2010. He discussed how he uses various partnerships and professional colleagues to bolster the professional services he can provide while his library’s collection is in storage. Maybe libraries are in the same situation of having displaced collections due to earthquake-damaged buildings and such. In some cases, materials are in storage. In others, items are in parts of buildings that are closed off for safety reasons. He mentioned some photos available via the University of Canterbury’s Web site, but they might not be available anymore.
He looks forward to having a conversation with an architect about rebuilding the library. He recognizes he needs to strengthen certain relationships to make sure he’s involved in the rebuilding process and help his coworkers understand why he ought to be at the table for those conversations.
Kevin orients new employees to the library. He points out he’s as much of a resource as the collection is and that he is available to be used for everything: searches, document delivery, etc. Kevin approaches it as the scientist does the micro-level, being focused on a specialty, while Kevin handles the macro picture. He’s had positive results with that approach. He also sometimes mentions other things he’s found in his search, like trends or tangential articles. His company is small enough that he can still walk around and talk to people. He believes that’s the most important activity he can do as a librarian. It’s good marketing, it gets you out there. Let your clients be your advocates. Some will tell their coworkers how helpful you can be by showing what you’ve done for them.
One customer’s assistance request became a new Sharepoint section. Kevin was going to send him a list of links to local government sites to get him started on finding certain local reports. When he pondered what amount of work that left the customer, he decided to make a list on Sharepoint with more direct links to the reports and maybe some copies of the reports.
Hildy added some thoughts on how being a leader in professional associations has helped her in her career. In some cases, we don’t have leadership opportunities where we work, but managers sometimes recognize talents people use outside of work.