This has been one of the toughest semesters I’ve had since I started grad school. Not only were my classes challenging (I learned a lot!) but work has been filled with unforeseen circumstances as well. As a the Library Supervisor for my branch I am in charge of the circulation (4) and page (3) staff as well as our volunteers (30). Of the four employees on our circ team one has been diagnosed with cancer, another resigned due to failing health of a family member, another who worked for the library for 30 years retired at the end of April. On my Page team of three, one of my youngest pages had a seizure while at work (she is doing much better thankfully), and another of my pages retired (today was her last day). Within the branch (a total of 16 employees) there have been deaths in the family, serious illness in family members and family deployments to the Middle East. We cover up to 4 service points every hour (we have a drive-up window, the customer service/circ desk on the floor as well as the Info desk, and our branch covers call center for the system on Fridays), my branch manager and myself have jumped in to cover service points and my team has been great at taking over and completing their co-workers tasks while they have been out, while many of the librarians and assistants have picked up extra hours. The group of people I work with a some of the most phenomenal people I have had the pleasure of working with, in the face of adversity, everyone is willing to pitch in and get the job done. Why? Well because we all love what we do.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I feel like this last module has been exactly what we as a branch have been trying to do this season. This was the first time that we had so many crisis situations and stressful events both at work and outside. I noticed that the branch as a whole was crumbling and something needed to be done fast. This may sound silly, but one of the first things I did was start dressing more professional. Not that I didn’t dress appropriately before (business casual), but I felt like I needed to “feel” like a leader in order to guide and support my team. I not only had to be available to them physically, but mentally and emotionally and I encouraged the habit of “taking care of yourself”, if they had any suggestions and/or concerns I was available to listen and follow-through. Katie Clausen (2012) discusses the importance of professionalism in speech, attitude, dress and character and I could not agree more. For myself, the act of dressing professionally improved my attitude both on and off the floor and enhanced my character. As Clausen explains, “our opinions and contributions matter- and they define our character”.
This leads me to reflective practices, as Professor Stephens explains it is “mindfulness to the nth degree” and if you have found your way into the library world it must be because you were “looking to help people be the best they can be”. When I reflect on why I chose this position, it was because I wanted to help people, it was what I knew how to do best. One of the most rewarding parts of being a supervisor is seeing your staff grow and accomplish goals. It’s also awesome when you can get them excited about coming to work! This year I created a new “Fun question/topic” of the week for staff. Basically it’s a way to get everyone discussing something fun instead of the emotional situations everyone was dealing with. Some of our favorite topics were “What is your favorite song, currently?”, “What’s your favorite Star Wars Quote?”, and “Tell us the best place you have traveled to!”. All of these topics got the staff talking about happy memories and good times, it was an escape if you will and I think it helped everyone to be mindful and focus on the positive.
In his article about compassion, Professor Stephens says “the best librarians make that emotional investment because they believe in the institution and the communities they serve. This is a great piece of advice to guide us through the library world. Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged with the City entity or the HR department because they are blocking a program or protocol isn’t what you expected, but in the long run you need to reflect on who and why you are serving or chose to serve. I got into libraries for my love of books, but I also realized how much I love working with patrons in a learning environment because it’s such a diverse mix of people who believe in the library and love what it stands for. The one constant in the library is that everyone who is there wants to be there. They came for a reason and it’s my responsibility to make them feel welcome, safe, and provide them with resources and tools to enhance their knowledge whether it’s staff, volunteers, or patrons. “Leadership is built around values, beliefs, relationships, passion, and emotional resources…more of a belief and condition of the heart than a to-do-list” (Stephens, 2016) and I could not have said it better myself.