Gulp – no Dewey?

As we strive to make libraries more relevant, some libraries are experimenting with arranging books, CDs, DVDs, etc. like they do in bookstores. A new library to open soon in Arizona claims to be the first in the nation to be arranged entirely independent of the Dewey Decimal System. The Perry Branch of the Maricopa County Library District in Gilbert will be organized in 50 sections, then subsections, from sports to cooking, gardening to mysteries, according to the Arizona Republic. Librarians are quoted as saying that people are defeated in their searching because “they don’t know Dewey.” The article further states that people want to search for books by subject. Hmmmm . . . . I thought Dewey was by subject.

The Perry Library is relatively small, 28,000 square feet, and will have 24,000 items. It is a joint use facility located in a school.

Several Minnesota libraries are experimenting with parts of their collections displayed as they are in Barnes and Noble. I have attended several conference programs on space arrangement and marketing, and whole-heartedly endorse the efforts to merchandise the materials in a more attractive manner than shelving everything so that all that is visible are long rows of dull-looking spines.

The article is unclear as to how the items will be arranged. What will happen when someone wants a specific book; is there a numbering or other classification system to assist in quick location? Are they using RFID? Certainly, library automation systems are capable of keeping track of just about any coding system they devise to designate location.

My most recent experience with finding something in my local Barnes and Noble bookstore ended in a fruitless search for a specific title. Even the salesclerk couldn’t find it (even though the B & N computer said they had several copies). I finally came home and ordered the book online.

The Maricopa innovation will be interesting to watch. Maybe I should take a field-trip to Arizona to research it first hand. ***smile***

Flags at Covered Bridge Park

While driving through Zumbrota this afternoon, I came upon this nice surprise at Covered Bridge Park – the Field of Honor, from the Zumbrota VFW. 230 flags commemorate the 230th birthday of the flag. A single POW flag stands in the center.
Field of Honor, Zumbrota Minnesota

Phil, the Edge, and the Library

I don’t usually watch commercials, unless it’s the panorama of sales pitches during the Super Bowl. And then only so that I can give my unqualified opinion the next day of the best and worst offerings. But I recently heard the word “library” on TV and perked up my ears to find out that the Ford Edge is “library quiet” and that it “beat the Lexus RS 350 in a quiet test.”

Edge is the crossover SUV that Ford built to appeal to its protype “Phil.” Phil, as defined by Ford, is an “educated urban professional with tastes that are slightly avantgarde but not too much so. Phil and his wife pull in $85,000. Phil buys his clothes at Banana Republic and drinks Samuel Adams beer.” (see CNN, Oct 22, 2006) And Phil is looking for “quiet.”

Now a lot of librarians are trying to shed the “shhhh” image, and tout their library as a happening place, where you might even be lucky enough to see DDR (Dance, Dance Revolution for the uninitiated) in the teen room. So what’s with the high value of quiet?

I think that the Phils of the word (as well as Phyllis) crave quiet. Phil/lys has enough of the noise and stress of the word and welcomes that embracing quiet of the library. Like the library where we went to study when the dormitory got too loud. I think there’s a message here for libraries — one I see many embracing. While the library is busy, and has lots going on, it’s good to have a space where we safeguard quiet and maybe even put up a sign “this room, quiet please!”

Image and impact

Does appearance really matter? Or is it true what my mother used to tell me as an awkward adolescent that “it’s what’s inside that counts.” (sorry, Mom, it didn’t cut it then, and it doesn’t cut it now.) I lean more to the “what you see is what you get” idea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about image lately. Joyce Valenza admonished her listeners to model the “information professional” in her presentation at Computers in Libraries. And I think she meant in every way from actions to image. When I was training to be a customer service instructor for the squadron in my prior life as a civilian working for the military, I attended Fred Pryor customer service training. One thought stuck in my mind — impact is affected 83% by appearance and 17% by what is said. Watching the Today show this morning, one topic was body language – the guest said 90% of impression is made by what is observed.

While these statistics are pretty unscientific, I think they say something about the image we present both for ourselves as information professionals and also for the library institution. And I think that mantel is on us whether we’re punched in on company time, or buying a gallon of milk at the gas station. This reminds me of a friend who is a Mary Kay consultant, who says her training emphasizes to BE the Mary Kay product whenever and wherever she is — which includes dropping her kids off at school in the morning. My friends who are teachers are very cognizant of their image and actions in their communities. I think librarians who portray a professional demeanor (even in jeans at the garden shop – where I will be later today) will leave a lasting impression of someone worthy of trust to any citizen or board member they encounter.

I even bought a “Radical Militant Librarian” button a couple years ago, in a moment reminiscent of my college days. No, I didn’t wear the button, since that’s not the kind of sound-bite impression I want to make to the infinitely more people I encounter than will ever get to know me enough to understand what that pithy statement means. A librarian colleague has a T-shirt with an irreverent, though humorous, comment that uses a street word that I would not say in any customer or office communications. Would I wear it? No, because I can’t control the occurence of opportunistic moments that may make or break someone’s opinions and make lasting impacts on libraries or even my future career path.

Not too many years ago, businesses had strict dress codes, with the intent of modeling for the customers a professional image of their company. Gradually, about the time of the tech revolution, we saw an erosion of professional dress standards not only on blue-jeans Fridays but any time through the week. In recent years, many companies have returned to a dress code for employees. (although, I still struggle with what exactly “business casual” is — I think it might have something to do with the brand/price tag?) The fast food industry usually requires company-supplied shirts and uniform pants. Big box stores like Target require company-colored polo shirts. Even WalMart, in its marketing efforts to upgrade its image, is phasing in a uniform shirt for its employees.

And personal appearance is only one part of image. Other clues can send messages too. I was shocked at one management training class I attended that advocated a practice that the interviewer should walk the prospective employees back to their cars after interviews, assessing their vehicle condition, cleanliness, etc. as a point of character. And, from the employee side – someone I know who was interviewing with a certain company, arrived in town early and found the homes of management team members (using phone book addresses), looking for clues about their personal priorities.

All food for thought, I guess. And this leads to appearance of libraries – condition and decor . . . but that’s another blog post.

Annual evaluations

We’re in the annual employee evaluation season at MPOW — a time when I would readily pack up and go somewhere else. I wish that we could give everyone a gold star and a raise and go on with our busy days that never have enough hours in them to accomplish what we have to do.

I started out my adult career life as a teacher, and I quickly learned that my toughest times were spent not with the middle-schoolers, but rather in parent-teacher conferences. I never really had any bad experiences, but the whole time of meeting with the kids’ parents was exhausting. Then I became a parent, and found out that parent-teacher night was just as draining on the other side of the table.

This whole business about accountability is built into our culture. My current organization has a merit-based pay raise system. Indeed, most of my career employers have had some sort of financial incentive tied to someone else’s opinion of how effective my work efforts have been. As a supervisor, it’s humbling to be thus entrusted. When I worked for the Air Force, the evaluations I wrote had a direct relationship to promotion or possibly the end of a career. Sort of brought to mind admonitions about “judging not” and “lest you be judged.”

This question was in the “Working Q & A ” section of this morning’s Pioneer Press: “I have a star employee. She is motivated, gets her work done quickly and doesn’t seem to need my guidance. Am I breaking some rule of good management by letting her work largely on her own?” The columnist’s answer somewhat surprised me; she said that it’s even more important to manage star performers, since they want to know that they have a boss who’s looking out for them and setting them up for continued success.

Colleague Tom Shaughnessy, Metronet Library Director, wrote a very insightful piece in which he uses the terms “review” and “root canal’ in the same sentence. He then goes on and makes a good point: “Some HR experts have argued that less emphasis should be placed on looking backward and more on improving future performance.” I like that approach – although Tom does close the post by saying he’s still searching for a better way after 30 years, and solicits opinions from others. And incidentally, he’s gotten no comments.

For all my kvetching . . . I think the evaluation process is important. I would much rather work in an organization that evaluates, than one that does not. For if an organization does not step back and assess its most important resource – its people – it does not truly value them. And I truly do strive that the evaluations I give have no surprises (as I long ago learned in Air Force civilian personnel training). The time to deal with problems is when they happen, and the time to celebrate successes is as often as possible. The annual evaluation process just brings it all together, and sets goals for the future.