The following guest post is from Alissa Williams, Assistant Director at the Pekin Public Library. Alissa is also chair of the ILA Reporter Advisory Committee. If you’d like to contribute a blog post on a leadership topic, please send it to l-barnes at illinois dot edu.
One of the best sessions I attended at ILA was “Bouncing Beyond Your Customer’s Expectations.” My biggest take-away was the reminder that I set the tone for my staff, so I need to hold myself to a higher standard and do the things I expect my staff to do (for example: show up on time to the desk, where my nametag, smile, provide excellent customer service).
It reminded me of a pivotal discussion we had at Synergy about the power of hello and that we should say hello to everyone we work with, whether we like them or not. Being a leader is all about setting the tone for your organization. And while sometimes we decry top down edicts, modeling behavior we want to see is really key to being a leader. People believe what they see more than what you say.
The speaker shared a story where a new client wanted her to come “fix” his staff because they were never on time. She went to meet with him at 1 pm and had to wait until 1:30 for him to arrive for their meeting. The speaker told the client, “Sir, the staff is not the problem, you’re the problem.” A few weeks later, the client contacted the speaker and said she was correct. Once he’d started being on time, so had his staff.
Since conference ended I’m being much more intentional about checking myself each day to see if I’m setting the appropriate tone for my staff members. I’ve had a few off days, and by admitting my wrongs, I feel I’ve created a more open relationship between my staff and I. It helps them to see that I’m not perfect, and that I’m actively working to be better.
Editor’s Note: We’re inviting people to contribute thoughts and ideas sparked by the recent ILA Leadership Forum Unconference. Send contributions to l-barnes at illinois dot edu. The following guest post is from Alissa Williams, Assistant Director at the Pekin Public Library. Alissa is also chair of the ILA Reporter Advisory Committee.
At the Leadership Unconference, we had an interesting conversation about library sustainability. I’ve advocated since graduate school for libraries to become the third place in their community. The idea of the third place comes from Ray Oldenburg’s 1989 book “The Great Good Place” – people have a third place, not your home, not your work, but another place to chill. In the early 2000s, Starbucks was striving to be the third place for America. So what did libraries do? They installed a coffee shop, as if that will convince the community you’re a cool place to hang out. Of course, we’re now seeing empty coffee shop spaces in libraries — a victim to both the economic recession and a lack of awareness of what your community truly needs.
In order to be the third space for your community, you have to get hyper local. Libraries are great about sharing/borrowing/stealing ideas and sometimes we take the entire idea and plop it in to our town and wonder why it’s not a raging success like it was in Naperville, Ann Arbor, or Colorado. To make these projects successful, you need to identify the thing your community needs. NOT what the state needs, not what the community the next town over needs, but what your residents/taxpayers/service base need.
Lynn Elam shared a great example of the preschool directory her library developed. Parents were coming to the library, looking for one place with information on preschools, and a great library resource and partnership was born.
I believe in the library as a destination. One of our greatest assets is our meeting rooms and gathering spaces. The library is neutral ground for people to meet. Market your study rooms to small business for daytime use as a space they can meet with clients. Naperville is doing the library as a destination really well by bringing in traveling exhibits and busing children to the library.
Make the library a place where people can stay and not just come and take something. Let’s make it the third place for your community.