Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Thoughts and worries of a new manager

How did I not predict that the most powerful indicator of which staff would be hard to manage would be having his or her 'personal' book cart?

Is it okay for your staff to hug you if they asked permission first and you said yes? Now are they going to be hurt that you never ask permission to hug them? (I mean, not that you hug them without asking permission, but that you neither hug them nor ask to.)

Is it worse if you accidentally startle your staff member when she thinks she is alone in the building and she goes "Wow, you scared the shit out of me!" or is it worse if your staff member accidentally startles you and you say the same thing? Hypothetically, what if both those things happen in your first six weeks?

What is my power level as far as tamping down on rampant Christmasness? How many years do I have to stay here before I can address it without being 'the mean new manager who hates it when we have fun'?

Should I cover up the political bumper stickers on my very-easy-to-identify car? Is it some kind of discrimination if I don't?

Library administration has reminded us at management meetings multiple times that our Employee Assistance Programs is for managers too, not just staff. Is there something I don't know about that I should be more worried about?

Is it a faux pas not to be a 'friend' of the library, in the Facebook sense and/or nonprofit Friends of the Library sense?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Welcome to Walnut Bluff

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I got promoted to be the branch manager at Walnut Bluff, a different location in the same system as Mystery Library. Mystery Library boss finally got back from her vacation so I've now moved over to Walnut Bluff. Being a new manager is exciting, probably too exciting. I had about a week where I didn’t know what to do with myself but now that I know enough to be of some use to the staff it’s gotten crazy. Here's what it's like at thew new job in the new library:

I used to drink a single cup of coffee most mornings and was in plausible “I can quit whenever I want!” denial, but I have rapidly become very addicted.

Staff member warns me—"I really don’t think you should let the embroidery group that comes on Tuesday evenings be out in the public area like they want to. They always bring like an entire dinner and make a huge mess! I personally feel they should be confined to the conference room.”

Rainstorms—one of the library assistants shows me where to put out the buckets.

A grandma and mom get into a heated argument about whether the daughter is qualified to be taking care of her baby son. The police arrive and I have to stay late so I can pry the call report number out of them for admin’s records.
All the regulars have caught on to my existence and have either introduced themselves in a helpful and friendly fashion, and/or tried out their best ’but I didn’t knows’/’everyone else lets me’s/whatevers on me, usually both.

The front doors have to be locked and unlocked with an allyn wrench and I’m really struggling with it. At this rate I’m going to have to observe every single one of my employees do it before I finally figure it out.

The monthly meetings the management team has last four hours. I really hope this is atypical but I’m too embarrassed to ask anyone.

Trying to figure out how to use the antiquated software for using our security cameras is like deliberately slamming my head repeatedly into a brick wall. It doesn’t help that the only password I can find written down (1234, by the way) doesn’t actually work, so I only have access to some of the system features and I can’t tell what doesn’t work because I’m not logged in vs. what I haven’t figured out how to use vs. what just isn’t possible.

I find a domino hidden behind a poster in the children’s area, page says “yyyyyeah, that’s been a problem lately.”

I present a list of demands to our Building and Grounds department for things that we need fixed: New flags for the flagpole out front, paint over the graffiti in the women’s bathroom, replacement bulbs for 4 or 5 lights on the public floor, and someone to clean the outsides of the windows. It’s amazing what level of dirt and brokenness people get used to when it accumulates gradually. Our Buildings liaison says, “Nice to meet you. This building is the same age as I am so we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”

One-on-one introductory meetings with staff—when I close the door behind the first person, he says, grinning, “This is giving me flashbacks to the high school principal’s office.”

A woman wants to bring her ‘service chihuahua’ into the library. Nope, nope, nope.

A different woman is surprised to hear that we are open on Sundays: “I knew deep in my heart that you were closed that day!”

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Today at Mystery Library

Kid: Do you have any chapter books about unicorns?

Confused old man: You called and you said my movies had come in. Where are they?

Phone call: I heard an author is going to come out and talk about her book. Do you have the book?

A regular: Do you ladies have today's newspaper?

Volunteer running a kid's program in the program room: Can we borrow the blocks from the children's area? The kids are demanding them.

A million different patrons: Can you look up my library card number so I can get on the computer?

Patron using a garbage bag as an emergency poncho: Somebody told me, and I understand this might not be true, that I can get copies of something from my email here at the library. Can I do that, and if so how do I go about it?

Excited patron from nearby senior living place: Are you the one who came to my house!?

Chatty guy who always wants to tell me about his religious experiences: So, the boss is on vacation. Are you the boss now?

Grandma: When is your storytime? By the way, I am also a children's book author. I'll leave this copy of my book for you to look at while we are in the library.

Same grandma, to kid after kid has thrown a block and narrowly missed her head: If you were to say sorry to me, I might just be able to find it in my heart to forgive you.

Random kids: When are there going to be Legos at the library again?

Family of patrons who are a constant irritant to the staff: We definitely returned the Curious George movie you're saying we have checked out.

Youngest kid from that family is trying to climb right up on top of the reference desk. I stop him but I know as soon as I turn away he's just going to start again.

Confused teenager: Can I register to vote here?

Fun regular: Can you please request the movies Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man for me? My wife and I watched the Avengers and she never watches movies, and she wants to know who all the people in it are.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Too much excitement

It's been a big week for me and for Mystery Library. I haven't been writing about it because it makes for boring blog material, but recently I applied to be a branch manager at a sister branch of Mystery Library and I just found out that I got the job (hooray!). I'm looking forward to it but it's going to be a crazy transition because Mystery Library is still understaffed and my boss is taking a long-planned international vacation (I don't resent her for this at all, it's extremely well-earned, just rough timing).

I won't be moving to my new branch--which I'm going to call Walnut Bluff because it has one of those comically nature-y names for an urban area--for a few weeks, but I was asked to come in for the 8 AM monthly meeting of all the branch managers to see what it is like on the morning that I normally work the evening shift, so I got to work an 11-hour day yesterday, which was exhausting but went by surprisingly quickly.

The most dramatic thing that happened was that I made my first ever 911 call in my capacity as library staff member! Fortunately for me I didn't have to make a judgment call about if it was the right thing to do. A patron came to the desk and said "I think I'm having a heart attack. Could you call for medical assistance!?" The paramedics came really quickly so I am optimistic that the patron will be okay--he was still conscious, standing, and breathing when they took him off to the hospital. It's weird to think I may never know!

Here's what was also weird:

I was convinced by TV that the first thing the 911 operator would say would be "911, what is the nature of your emergency?" but instead she said "911, what is the address of your emergency?" Fortunately I was only taken aback for about a half second. I've always worried that I'd freeze in a emergency, so this was a relief.

A group of kids who were too young to know what was going on kept trying to talk to me while I was on the phone and it took their adult ages to catch on and shush them.

My coworker who was on the desk with me is very new, so she is still concentrating hard on all her tasks, so she didn't even notice that I was on the phone with emergency services until I said "I am on the phone with 911. I need to go out and meet the paramedics so I need you to take this phone call."  She was a good hiring choice, though--she picked it right up.

Our first aid kit has Tylenol and Advil in it, but no Aspirin.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Hard questions

Kid to mom: Mom, do we have a resume? (re-zoom, not reh-zoo-may)

Patron calls with a real research question: There's a parcel of land in the neighborhood that she thinks used to be owned by the federal government and might still be. She remembers reading a long time ago that there were restrictions on what could be developed on it, specifically that it had to be developed "in the public interest." She wants to know who owns the land now and if there are currently any legal restrictions on development there. She doesn't have an address but she can describe where it is. Sounds interesting and exciting...unfortunately she needs the answer in 4 hours for a town hall meeting she wants to attend. I manage to ID the property but the legal questions are beyond me. Good luck with the county law library, ma'am! (As an aside, I think county law librarians must have the worst of both the public and the academic/corporate library worlds, and must be absolute saints).

Do you have the movie Boss Baby? What about Over the Hill? I mean, Over the Hedge?

One of the pages is picking up trash outside the library and has found a dead bird and wants to know what to do. I suggest leaving its corpse for scavengers, but he says "It's right in the road, though! If someone runs it over it's going to make a huge mess!" This will made a good addition to one of my favorite lists: "ridiculously titled emails I really had to send."

Friday, September 14, 2018


A weird thing has been happening lately. Well, lots of weird things have been happening, but at this second I'm specifically talking about patrons coming in and asking me to help them fill out I-9 paperwork as an employer's "authorized representative."

The first time this happened was last fall, but I've had 3 or 4 additional requests since then. Apparently a requirement of the I-9 is that the employer (or their 'authorized representative') view the employee's actual physical ID and work authorization documents, which presents a problem for companies that don't have a local office. Apparently, companies are telling new employees to take their documentation and the form to a library and have the librarian be their representative.

Now that I've done a little research to verify that I really am qualified to sign people's I-9s (that is, that legally there are no special qualifications required, it can be anyone the employer agrees to), I don't mind doing this for people, but it's odd that I never saw a request like this for years and all of a sudden there's this spike. Maybe it's all one staffing agency and I just haven't noticed? Or maybe some government entity put out a bulletin advising employers to deal with this obstacle by using the employee's public library?

I was hoping one of the readers might know more. Any ideas? Also, does it seem like a privacy issue to be looking at people's social security cards?

P.S.: I investigated the government bulletin theory, but the closest thing I found was a first-page Google search result that included this image:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A really big waiting room

A toddler cried and cried today because he was convinced that the library was a doctor's office and he was going to have to get a shot. His mom kept saying "Look, look at all these books! This is a library!" but he was not buying it.