You Must Be Very Polite With Yourself

What’s the most important thing you learned in 2009?

This is a question posed by ALALearning on Twitter.  I’ve been pondering it over the last several hours.  I’m not one to normally do a review of the year gone by at the end of the year (although I know it is perfectly natural to do so).  I was having a hard time answering the question.

To me learned implies that I’ve mastered it to some degree.  I feel like I’m still learning photography (of course I am I’ve been doing it less than a year) so that couldn’t be my answer.  I thought some more.  I’m still learning so many things and even if I feel confident in them I don’t ever see myself as mastering them (which to me is a good thing as I think once you’ve mastered something you might rest on your laurels and not learn anything else).

While soaking in a hot bubble bath tonight (sorry for the TMI) I was reading “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I came to a sentence on page 56 that just struck me.  “Liz, you must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new.”  I had an ah-ha moment.  The light bulb went off.  As a trainer I feel that (and have been told as well) I’m very patient with folks learning new skills.  However, I know for a fact that I’m not very patient (or polite) with myself when learning.  I am impatient, I want to get to the next level, I want to master it (sounds ironic considering what I’ve said in the previous paragraph).

I think, no strike that I know it is my biggest stumbling block when it comes to my photography.  I so want to be at a better level than I am yet I have failed to see that to get to it I need to learn all the little steps in between.  I need to be more polite, more patient with myself when I’m learning something new.  I need to remember the patience I have when a student has asked for the umpteenth time how to copy/paste – I grin and quietly, calmly instruct them once again on how to do it perhaps trying a different tactic so this time it sinks in for them.

So, although I still can not answer the question posed to me, I am hoping that the bath time revelation I had will prove to be something that I try to do when I’m learning something new.  I need to treat myself as I would one of my students.  So maybe next year I can answer that I’ve learned to be polite/patient with myself (and others) when learning something new.

Before There Was Twitter…

…we had blogs, email or word of mouth.  None of these things have gone away it’s just that Twitter has taken the forefront when it comes to expressing our feelings about how presenters.   After reading Tom Whitby’s blog post about the effect Twitter has on presentations I was struck by the concern he had over Twittering during presentations.  I’m not condoning people being rude but some presenters really shouldn’t present.  Just because you may be an expert in your knowledge about ___ does not mean you are a good speaker.  But more to the point, those of us who have attended conferences have always had a way to express their feelings about a presenter – word of mouth.   Walk down the crowded hallway, stand in the lunch line or attend lobby-con after a particularly bad (or good)  speaker and you know what I mean.  Then in the last 10-15 years we added things like web-based email and more recently blogs.

Now grant it not everyone hears what say or reads what you have to written but the same goes for Twitter – not everyone is reading your Tweets.   I have been on the giving and receiving end of Twitter during presentations.  I presented with 2 co-presenters and it was great when you weren’t speaking to read what was being said about our presentation while it was still going on.  I’ve Tweeted while others have presented more as a way to take notes for myself (as I find live blogging a bit hard but twittering comes naturally to me).   I’ve read other people’s Tweets from conferences that are states away and I’ve found them helpful.

Okay, I must know all the kind, helpful people in the world and none of the nasty ones.  I’m sure that is true.  But I think we are all being a bit naive if we think our presentations are perfect and no one is out there saying anything negative about us (they are you just aren’t hearing it).  Maybe we need to hear it?  Should they be so mean spirited?  No.  Can we learn from it?  Well, maybe we can.  Depending on the comments being made you might be able to adjust your style.  Depending on the comments being made you may just have to consider the source and ignore it (just as you would if you walked down a crowded hall at a conference and overheard a nasty comment).  Maybe it’s a perfect opportunity to contact that person who tweeted and see just what they would have done differently.  You never know, it might actually turn into a productive conversation.  Maybe having to worry just a little about what is being said on Twitter isn’t such a bad thing – maybe it will raise the bar.

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Noticings – Game or Sociologist’s Pipe Dream?

noticings
Image by Ben Terrett via Flickr

I read a blog post at Next Web that peaked my curiosity as a budding photographer.  It was this game called Noticings and the main point behind it was to slow down, look around then document via camera/camera phone what you noticed. I immediately thought what a great way to not only give me more practice with my camera but to do something I really need to do when taking pictures – S L OW DOWN!

There are a few rules which are in flux (e.g. a noticing isn’t a person, you can’t submit more than 1 photo of a thing, etc.) and points are awarded for different criteria (being noticed, being the 1st noticing in a neighborhood, etc.).  But the thing that is most interesting (other than the excuse to get out and take some photos) are the people.  Since the rules are in flux and they have a Get Satisfaction site set up to take questions as well as suggestions,  a sociologist could have a field day there.  Human nature is always something fun to watch and this game let’s you enjoy it as well as some interesting photographs.

As the creators have said, everyone has their own definition of what a “noticing” is.  One man’s interesting is another’s ordinary.  I have to remind myself of that some days since there are no real die hard rules.  It is interesting to see what playing a game with no real rules brings out in people – humans tend to be naturally competitive.  But I play not to compete (I’ve been at the bottom and the top of the standings) but in order to practice the craft or art of photography and make myself slow down (some days I succeed at this and others I do not).  So why don’t you play along and see what you notice.

Interesting links:

Noticings web site

Unofficial Flick group

Noticings clusters on Flickr

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Library101

3883707406_7b0bd34066I was excited, honored, thrilled and other adjectives that end in “-ed” to be able to contribute to Michael Porter and David Lee King‘s Library101 project.  It first started out with a call (via Twitter) from Michael asking for pictures of library staff holding up a giant 1 or 0.  At the time I wasn’t sure what this was all about but I was game.  Anything to help me hone my photography skills I was able to get many of my fellow co-workers to pose for me.

I was then surprised, elated to help Michael beta test his Zazzle store for the Library 101 merchandise.  The final surprise came when Michael asked me if I’d like to contribute an essay to the web site he was creating to launch the Library 101 project. Here it is in the original unedited version:

New Library 101

So what exactly does the New Library 101 need to be part of the future? In my opinion there is one very important piece that needs to be there for the library of the future to stay afloat – customer service. Without our customers we won’t be here no matter what fancy words we use, what new fangled gadgets we have, what exciting programs we offer. Now customer service is nothing new to libraries, however, my version of customer service includes three aspects. If the library of the future will focus on these aspects they will grow and stay relevant.

Technology

Recently I got a Tweet from Jimmy Willis (@katannsky2) asking me if I had any career tips for a future librarian. My words of wisdom where “to learn technology. Embrace it. It will be a very big part of your job.” Be current. What are the latest trends? Adopt them, learn about them and use them. If you don’t you’ll be left behind because your customers are using this technology. And more than likely they are coming to you for help with it

Technology means not only the hardware/software we use in our branches but includes your presence on the web. Whether it is your web site, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or other social web sites – remember that not every customer walks through your physical doors. Make sure you have a presence out there in the digital world. But don’t limit it to just a Facebook page or a bunch of pictures on Flickr – engage your customers, start a conversation with them, bring them back to you (whether it is into your physical building or your catalog or one of your programs).

Education

I understand that funding doesn’t always allow every library to have tons of the latest and greatest hardware or even software. However, you can still educate yourself about technology even if your library can’t afford a Kindle, a new fancy web site or you don’t have an iPhone. Use what technology you do have to your benefit. Get out on the web and socially network. So many of your fellow librarians are on the social web, network with them and find out what they already know. Ask questions or use your searching skills so when that customer invariably asks you how do they do ___ you can use your network as a resource.

Please, don’t ever tell a customer you don’t know and let that be the end of the conversation. That is not an acceptable customer service response. Sure, it’s okay to say you don’t know but continue. “You know I’m curious about this too. Let’s research this together so we can both learn.” Customers come to you for help and hey would much rather have a real human admit they don’t know but work together to find the answer than some cold response that boils down to “go away I can’t be bothered”.

Audience

Above all the library of the future must remember who it’s audience is and what they want or need. As Thomas Brevik (@Miromurr) tweeted from the Internet Librarian International 2009:

* #ili2009 Stop insulting the user by guessing what the user want!

* #ili2009 start with the question: is this what our users want?

Once you have figured out what your customer wants not only meet that need but exceed it. But how to find out what the customer wants. Don’t rely on surveys on your OPACs or your web site, you have an opportunity every single day in every single interaction with your customers (via email, chat, face to face, or phone). Just go that extra step and see what need isn’t being met. Keeping in mind that meeting someone’s need doesn’t always require a big budget – sometimes just listening to them makes all the difference in the world and you’ll have a lifelong return customer.

Is it a guarantee that if the library of the future follows these three aspects of customer service they will survive? Well nothing is a sure beat but I would put good money on the library of the future (if it focuses on customer service) will be around for all of us to enjoy.

So here is to the future of libraries.  Long may they reign.

#sillyhatday October 21

Winner of the Silly Hats Competition
Image by Arty Smokes via Flickr

@strnglibrarian mentioned on Twitter that she was cooking up some department fun at MarylandAskUsNow! She wants to have crazy hat day and karaoke night.  She invited the Twitterverse to call her the Queen of Positive Vibes and Silly Fun.  So I did.  And she is.  Her attitude is infectious and comes across not only on her blog, her Tweets but in the customer service and leadership she provides at Maryland AskUsNow!

So the gauntlet has been thrown down.  Let’s make October 21st officially Silly Hat Day.  Take a picture of yourself in a silly hat and post it to Twitter and tag it #sillyhatday.  Why?  Well, why not?  More importantly let this fun and a bit of play infect your work that day.  Let it spill over into your customer service with the public.  Sometimes being a little be unexpected is just what is needed.  It helps to shake up the status quo, helps put a smile on your face which in turn can be just what the customer needs (be it an internal or external customer) to have a bright spot in their day.

So show your creativity – make your own or buy a silly hat, wear it on 10/21, take a picture and post it on Twitter or Flickr or other social web sites.  Don’t forget to tag it #sillyhatday.  Have fun and hats off to you!

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Half Empty or Half Full?

9/11 Reflections
Image by Sister72 via Flickr

Don’t call me Pollyanna, I”m not that upbeat all the time but I am probably in the minority today.   All over the social web (and the non-social web) are remembrances of the horrific events that happened on September 11, 2001.   Before I go any further I must express my condolences to all the families and friends that lost someone on that day.  I can’t begin to imagine how much your life has been changed and how you are still dealing with that.

I mean no disrespect to anyone.  I know everyone has to mourn, remember, and move on in their own way.   I seriously doubt that that day will  ever be erased from my mind but I don’t need to be repeatedly bombarded with  images/words/sounds of what happened that day (or what you were doing).  Instead I prefer to focus on the good that I have now.  I’d rather like to see the glass as half full.  This isn’t to say that in any way what happened was a good thing but let’s celebrate the good not harp on the bad.

Let’s celebrate all the people who helped other people they didn’t know on that day.  Let’s celebrate that even though it was an awful loss of life it could have been a lot worst.  Let’s celebrate that even though we can’t always agree as a nation on politics or religion we all became a little bit closer to each other.  The solidarity I saw and felt after 9/11 was something I hadn’t witnessed before in this country.    Let’s give thanks that these attacks did not break us individually or as a nation.

So how should we really remember today?  By celebrating.  By doing a random act of kindness.  By doing something kind to one of your fellow countrymen.  Let us make good be what we take away from this day not the bad.  Maybe this should be a real day of thanks and not that day in November when we stuff our faces with turkey.

What I’m grateful for today:

My health/My life

  • without this we have nothing

My family

  • Hubby is gainfully employed after being laid off and puts up with all my silly ups and downs (love ya)
  • Son is well adjusted 18 yo (well as well as any 18 yo can be) and attending college – love you too
  • Parents – gratefully after a bit of a medical scare this summer Mom is currently doing well as is my Dad

My job

  • I have one and it is something I love doing
  • My boss who has been extremely supportive of ideas I’ve had
  • My co-workers who teach me something new every day and make my work family a lot of fun

My friends

  • work friends certainly make 37.5 hours a week a lot of fun
  • life friends whom without I’d not have much of a life
  • library friends around the world – I learn so much from you, thank you

My home

  • I have one and even though it does have issue when it rains a lot it is still my haven

My country

  • although we are far from perfect, I appreciate the freedoms and rights that are afforded me – I don’t look at them as

And there is so much more to be grateful for.  My wish is that everyone today can find at least one thing they can be grateful for.  What’s yours?

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Sorry Mr. Roddenberry and Ms. Franklin

Star Trek
Image via Wikipedia

I used to hold out hope.  I believed that at some point in the future mankind would all get along.   We’d stop fighting each other (over territory or over ideals) and be buying each other a Coke.  That utopia just isn’t ever going to happen.

Sure, sure the Klignons are still looking for a good day to die, and the Romulans don’t seem to like anyone but most of the races that were part of the Federation seemed to get along peacefully.   I’m convinced that at least the humans of this stardate won’t ever make it to the world envisioned by Gene Roddenberry.

We can’t agree on whether or not this little piece of land belongs to you or to me.  We can’t allow each other to have different views of a higher being, and we certainly can’t seem to allow each other to have different views of how our leadership should run things.  I’m not advocating automatons that simply go along with everything like mindless sheep.  What I’d like to see is some plain and simple R-E-S-P-E-C-T (thank you Aretha).

If you are arrogant enough to think that YOUR way is the only way then we are at an impasse.  There is no dialog, there is no give and take, there is nothing for me to do but accept your way and forsake whatever I believe/feel/know is right for ME.  No one culture, religion, or political party has the rights on being right.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have in common let us focus on what we do have in common.  Maybe we’d find out that we aren’t so different after all.  Take the time to get to know your opponent’s view point – he may actually have something worth while to say.  I am not naive.  I know there are very extreme people out there with diametrically opposing viewpoints.  But take a moment to listen, to really listen and possibly learn what they are passionate about.  Will this mean you have to believe what they believe?  No!  But I think that if we just gave each other the same amount of respect we expect then things might just be a tiny bit different.

Will this change things over night?  Will we all become automatons?  No, but since when has respect killed  people or brainwashed children or taken land away from someone?  All I’m asking for is a little respect.

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Why Libraries Rock

3835642932_1981254635In order to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Louisville Free Public Library but libraries everywhere I decided to participate in the Blogathon that Andy Woodworth got started.

So why are libraries awesome or rock or kick butt?   All libraries rock because they allow free access to all information (be it print, audio, visual or world wide webable).   We do a lot more than that but since each library focuses on different aspects of their community I thought I’d blog about why MY library rocks!

My library rocks starting at the top and it works it’s way down through every staff member.

  • Our Library Board is very supportive of what we do and sees that our mission & vision stays current and provides our customer base with what they expect.
  • Our Executive Director and CEO has seen that we are not only aligned with  but synonymous with education.  Education is the corner stone of what we do.  We educate all the time – whether it is a story time class, book promotion, or customer service staff helping a customer log into their account.  Each interaction is based in educating, in training.  This is just one of the many initiatives she has implemented since coming to Howard County.
  • Our Public Relations department that produces an outstanding newsletter every quarter that highlights our classes, events, and seminars.  They have created the Howard County Library brand and oversee everything from our flyers, to our signs, to our social web presence making sure  we are consistently presenting the correct image and wording.
  • Our Information Technology department which not only supports over 300 computers (and more coming)  for our public to use (using a Linux operating system which allows us to save our tax payers money while providing a stable, secure environment on which to work) but also the staff desktops (in Linux, Mac and Windows).  We also maintain the web site, catalogs, and databases so our customers may  self-direct their education.
  • Our Children’s & Teen Curriculum – what can I say about all the wonderful classes our children’s services provide?  I’ve been privy to many (taking photos or just walking by) – the amount of energy, time, thought and fun (while learning) that goes into these classes is second to none.  These instructors really have  a calling and put our youngest customers on the path to lifelong learning.  The teen events are no less spectacular.  Making purses from old jeans,  “Hogwarts Summer School” to celebrate the latest Harry Potter movie, Duct Tape flip-flops and gaming nights give our teens a safe environment to socialize, learn and interact.
  • Our Events and Seminars – the learning and fun isn’t just for our children and teens.  Author visits, book club discussions, classes on technology, health, finances or travel and recreation are just some of the great offerings our adult customers can enjoy.
  • Our Passport facility.  Our East Columbia Branch is now an official Passport Acceptance Facility.  Another great service for our customers.  They can use all the wonders of the library while applying for their passports.
  • Community Education and Partnerships.  No library is an island, we are very  much a part of the community.  Our partnerships – Howard County Public School system, Howard Community College, Lincoln Technical Institute, Leadership Howard County, Choose Civility, Horizon Foundation, Howard County Autism Society, Lazarus Foundation – (PCs4Kids), HC DrugFree, Inc., Girl Scouts, Ubuntu Maryland Local Community Team – are just some of the ways we are out in the community interacting, engaging, and educating our customers.
  • Our Collection.   It’s not just the outstanding materials our selectors purchase but the hard working individuals that catalog, process and circulate these materials so that our customers can get what they want when they want it (whether it’s an in house visit or via our web site and catalogs).
  • Our Customer Service.  We pride ourselves on not only meeting but exceeding our customer’s ideas of what good customer service looks like.  This comes in all shapes and forms – from helping someone at our Information or Customer Services desks, to recommended a book/dvd/cd/or event via our blog Highly Recommended, to answering a customer’s concern via email, to talking to a teen who just needs someone to listen – we believe in going that extra step, that extra degree.

There are many more aspects and departments that I didn’t mention.  They too help to give our customers what they want or support our staff so they can give our customer what they need.  We need ALL the parts of this well oiled machine to make our library rock and to rank first in the nation among great public libraries according to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings 2008.

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Can you Digg It?

Digg
Image via Wikipedia

…I knew that you could, yes, yes, yes.   (gotta love Billy Crystal)

Decided I’m going to post at least once a month a link to my  recent activity on Digg.  Hope you might find something interesting there as well.

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Yes or No?

One Lightbulb To Rule Them All
Image by armisteadbooker via Flickr

I just had one of those lightbulb moments.  So often I hear the words “I’m SOOOO busy” utttered where I work.  I’m sure that other folks hear them too.  It is a bit of a pet peeve with me.  To me saying that implies that YOU are busy but I AM NOT.  Which is not the case at all.  One man (or woman’s) perception of busy is a day off to another.

With that aside, onto my actual lightbulb moment.  I was responding to an email from a colleague.  I had asked them to review some content on our Staff Intranet.  They offered to make a few changes themselves.  I was thrilled and immediately replied.  I started off saying yes, by all means please make the changes I then added a sentence about all the stuff I was going to have to do with the new Staff Intranet when it hit me.   She probably didn’t care if I was busy or not.  A simple yes or no was what she was looking for.  So deleted the sentence and thanked her for her offer.

Some of you might think, well d’uh.  I knew that deep down but this is the first time I was the one going on about how busy I WAS when I truly realized how it must come across to others.  Now I know why when I hear those words it rubs me the wrong way.  They are usually a response to a question instead of a simple yes or no.

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