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No One Loves the Messenger Who Brings Bad News, but Avoidance is Not a Good Strategy

April 6, 2021
“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” ― Sophocles, Antigone

Many times, librarians are thrust into roles as managers with little or no training. Because of this reality, it is incumbent on supervisors to support them in their position by ensuring the cultivation of managerial skills. This is unfortunately too often neglected, however, since as the ACRL Statement on Professional Development states, “Learning, which is the key to acquiring and maintaining individual excellence, is ultimately the responsibility of the individual,” Avoidance, therefore, is one of the most common tactics library managers fall back on from among the styles for dealing with conflict.

More than 25 years ago, in a paper entitled “Making Human Resource Decisions,” Richard E. Rubin remarked, “Oftentimes, group members hesitate to deal with conflict leading to avoidance of important issues or attempts to suppress those who create conflict” (Critical Issues in Library Management: Organizing for Leadership and Decision-Making. Papers from the Thirty-Fifth Allerton Institute. Occasional Papers, Nos. 198/199). Perhaps due to the ubiquity of evasion this has only gotten worse.

Library managers not only have to continue to navigate troubled waters, but the global pandemic has forced libraries to face a maelstrom of turmoil. Library collections and personnel are not immune to the impact of the current situation, so managers should forthrightly address the reality of it with staff members.

Here are few basic tips which can help you escape the avoidance trap:

  • Understand all the facts
  • Practice what you will say by considering questions that may be asked
  • Be direct and get to the point
  • Prepare to be open, honest and to listen
  • Later, revisit the topic to talk about what’s next and lessons learned

Further Reading:

“Delivering Bad News? Don’t Beat around the Bush: New Research Shows People Typically Want to Hear It Straight.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171005141739.htm.

“Delivering Bad News To Employees in a Good Way.” https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/delivering-bad-news-to-employees.

“How to Break Bad News in the Workplace.” https://uxdesign.cc/breaking-bad-news-how-managers-can-prevent-catastrophe-1a8759ac6efd.

“How to Deliver Bad News to Your Employees.” https://hbr.org/2015/03/how-to-deliver-bad-news-to-your-employees.

“How To Deliver Difficult News With Compassion To Your Employees.” https://blog.trello.com/difficult-news-with-compassion.

“Why FAQs Are So Important—Especially When Communicating Bad News to Employees.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-faqs-so-importantespecially-when-communicating-bad-alison-davis.

C&CS Presents: “Library Staff Morale & the Academic Hierarchy”, April 20 @ 12 pm

April 5, 2021

C&CS Presents

Library Staff Morale & the Academic Hierarchy with UC Berkeley Faculty and Staff

April 20 at 12:00 pm EST

Register Here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIocOCrqzItE9JiOasSHfB2HhlpsD35SJO7

Academic librarians have increasingly gone public with their experiences of low morale and burnout, yet less attention has been paid to the workplace experiences of library staff. As Kaetrena Davis Kendrick notes in her work on the persistent harm of low morale among librarians, “the cost of silence can be high.” Our research team includes library staff, former library staff, a recent MLS grad and MLIS student, and librarians. Through 34 structured interviews with academic library staff nationwide, we seek to demonstrate how organizational culture, library hierarchies, and management style affect staff morale. In this webinar, we present our findings establishing that efforts to address equity in compensation, provide professional growth opportunities, and create more collegial work environments can all improve staff morale. Finally, we suggest how you can make changes in your own libraries to assess and improve morale across staff hierarchies. 

Objectives:

Attendees will:

  • Reflect on their roles in academic hierarchies in order to better advocate for themselves and their colleagues
  • Gain a better understanding of how the divide between administrators and librarians and staff can have powerful effects on staff morale
  • Understand the importance of support for professional development and growth on staff morale

Presenters

Celia Emmelhainz is the anthropology and qualitative research librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, and was previously the social sciences data librarian at Colby College in Maine. She leads workshops on qualitative research data management and ethnographic methods, and enjoys teaching others how to conduct qualitative research. Comments welcome @celiemme on Twitter.

Natalia Estrada is the Political Science & Public Policy Librarian at UC Berkeley, providing reference and collections services for Political Science, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and Legal Studies. She is also the California Documents Specialist. Her experience in the UCs also includes previous positions in the Engineering & Physical Sciences Division, Life & Health Sciences Division, and UC Hastings. She is an Association for Research Libraries’ Diversity Scholar for 2018-2020 and has published and presented in several professional venues, as well as conducted various qualitative research projects (including how graduate students conduct library research).

Bonita Dyess is a Library Supervisor at UC Berkeley and has been a UCB library staff member for five years. Collectively, Bonita has been an academic library staff member at a few academic institutions for almost 10 years. Currently, Bonita is an MLIS student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.    

Ann Glusker is the Sociology, Demography, & Quantitative Research Librarian at UC Berkeley.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA (for which she is still homesick), she came to Berkeley from Seattle, Washington.  There she worked in medical and public libraries and also, before changing careers to librarianship, for 10 years as a public health epidemiologist, responding to data requests and doing community health assessments.

All C&CS Sessions are recorded and made available via the CRD website following the presentation.

This project is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor.

Support is also provided by the College and Research Division of the Pennsylvania Library Association: https://crdpala.org/.

On Naming Library Storage

March 30, 2021
photo by Charlotte M. Johnson

Offsite shelving has a naming issue. I refer, of course, to library collections housed in warehouses that are sometimes far away from campus, but sometimes not; that are sometimes inhabited by the high-density “Harvard model” of shelving by size than by call number, but sometimes not. That I call it “offsite shelving” is a deliberate choice, but I could call it any number of things: offsite (off-site) storage, remote storage, remote shelving, high-density storage, high-density shelving, library storage. It makes me wonder when performing lit reviews whether there’s a term I’ve forgotten to search in Google Scholar. I’m not even beginning to touch ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems) or depository/repository models (See Peasley 2012, Sundstrand 2011, and O’Connor and Jilovsky 2009).

Librarians have differing opinions on the subject. Michael T. Peper and Danuta A. Nitecki & Curtis L. Kendrick make this exact observation in their work. Peper’s 2008 dissertation uses these terms interchangeably, and “does not intend any negative association with any of these terms” and Nitecki and Kendrick in their book, Library off-site shelving: guide for high-density facilities (2001), actively make no attempt to edit contributors’ terminology into something uniform. Priddle and McCann (2015) also brought the issue up after their survey of special collections stored offsite included the entire gambit of terms.

Throughout the literature, libraries opening up an offsite shelving facility have had to handle the optics of moving large amounts of the collection offsite. No longer immediately visible and browsable, books appear as though they’ve been removed altogether, instead of still being readily available–or as Lucker puts it more succinctly, offsite storage is “library code for weeding” (2012). Kruger, very tongue-in-cheek writes, “Some OPAC location names might subtly discourage use, so designations that might sound to users like ‘Backwoods Storage Facility,’ “The Vault,” or “Under the Cricket Court” are to be avoided” (2003), and Lougee suggests that “remote shelving” is more accessible than “storage” (1992).

My view for the past few years has been that offsite shelving facilities are active extensions of the main library’s collection and should be referred to in such a way that acknowledges this. Referring to our offsite shelving as “storage” may suggest to some that we are hiding these books away in an attic, not taking care of them, and effectively removing them from everyday use. When it comes to communicating with patrons, I think it’s the collection that should be prioritized, not the building it’s housed in. It is important, however, to acknowledge that this speculation based on the literature I’ve read, which may in itself be speculation or anecdotal. As far as I’m aware, there has been no proper research into these negative patron perceptions.

But, I suspect very few patrons can be bothered about what library practitioners call the facilities as a whole. Instead the question arises: “What do we name it? What do patrons know it as?” The most recent offsite-related SPEC Kit from ARL back in 2006 finds that the words “annex” and “storage” are most often used in naming a facility (Deardorff & Aamot), but overall there didn’t seem to be any trends at the time of naming. In 2020, I took the names of all the library storage facilities named on LibraryTechnology.org and looked at the updated frequency of words.

*As in “Library Service Center” and not “[Geographic Name] Library”
**As in “[Geographic Name] Library” and not “Library Service Center”

Here, we see a number of facilities being referred to as Facilities, Annexes, and Storage. “Library Annex” (or Libraries Annex) is the most frequently seen name, showing up 16 times out of the 95 facilities I looked at. “Library Service Center” and “Library Storage Facility” are the second most frequent, at four facilities each. Further research could be done into why libraries chose the names that they did for their offsite facilities, and what patron perceptions of those names are.

When the University of Pittsburgh’s University Library System (ULS) migrated from Voyager to Alma, we took it as an opportunity to rename our offsite shelving facility from “ULS-Storage” to something more user friendly. I wrote up a shorter version of this post and a handful of suggestions. Library management opened up a poll to all colleagues at the ULS and we ended up being dubbed “ULS-Thomas Blvd” due to our location in Pitt-owned building on Thomas Blvd. Its strength as a name, in my opinion, lies in its simplicity, its acknowledgement as part of the ULS’s collections, and its lack of reference to storage or warehouses.

The downside to this kind of name is that now patrons may think that this is a location that they can visit, and indeed I have received those calls. This leads me to the conclusion that familiarity with the facilities themselves and the purposes they serve will lead to the least amount of patron confusion or negative perceptions.

So for now, we still use the facility terms interchangeably and name them as we will. Despite attempts to correct it, information sharing avenues among storage facilities is not as robust as other areas, so I don’t see us coming to a professional consensus any time soon. Yet, I think it’s something worth pursuing and hope this post provides a good starting point.

Works Cited:

Deardorff, T. C., & Aamot, G., J. (2006). Remote Shelving Services. Washington, DC : Association of Research Libraries. https://doi.org/10.29242/spec.295

Kruger, B. (2003). Beyond the Blueprints: Enhancing Access to Materials in Remote Storage. Journal of Access Services, 1(3), 45–55. https://doi.org/10.1300/J204v01n03_05

Lougee, W. P. (1992). Remote Storage Comes of Age: Storage Collection Management at the University of Michigan. Collection Management, 16(2), 93–107.

Lucker, A. (2012). Deal with the Devil: A Participatory Model for Off-Site Storage Selection. Art Documentation: Bulletin of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 31(2), 285–292.

Nitecki, D. A., & Kendrick, C. L. (2001). Library off-site shelving: Guide for high-density facilities. Libraries Unlimited.

Peper, M. T. (2008). The Effect of Remote Storage on the Use of Books [Master’s Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]. https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/record/uuid:eed6285d-a202-4b81-a52c-9cf58d9642bb

Priddle, C., & McCann, L. (2015). Off-Site Storage and Special Collections: A Study in Use and Impact in ARL Libraries in the United States. College & Research Libraries, 76(5), 652–670. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.76.5.652

See also:

O’Connor, S., & Jilovsky, C. (2009). Approaches to the storage of low use and last copy research materials. Library Collections, Acquisitions, & Technical Services, 32(3–4), 121–126. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649055.2008.10766210

Peasley, J. (2012). Demystifying automated retrieval systems: The clients’ perspective. VALA2012 Proceedings: 16th Biennial Conference : EmPowering EFutures, 1–9. https://researchers.mq.edu.au/en/publications/demystifying-automated-retrieval-systems-the-clients-perspective

Sundstrand, J. K. (2011). Getting to MARS: Working with an Automated Retrieval System in the Special Collections Department at the University of Nevada, Reno. Journal of Archival Organization, 9(2), 105–117. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332748.2011.602604

Pennsylvania Department of Education Seeks Sponsors for Summer Meals Nutrition Programs

March 28, 2021

I would like to share this email from Carrie Cleary, Executive Assistant for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As with my community college, many of you might have dual enrollment or summer programs geared towards our youth.

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Education is asking organizations across the state to consider providing nutritious meals to youth during the summer months (June – September) through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program.

The Summer Food Service Program, which began in 1976, is a federally funded child nutrition program designed to serve youths ages 18 or younger in economically disadvantaged areas. Individuals over age 18 who are mentally or physically disabled and participate in public or nonprofit private programs established for the disabled are also eligible to receive free meals at the Summer Food Service Program sites. The program’s regulations allow participating organizations to be reimbursed for meals served to youth who live in areas in which at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.

Due to the pandemic, the Summer Food Service Program was approved to operate beginning March of 2019 and continues to operate in off-summer times to ensure children across Pennsylvania have access to meals during COVID-19.

“The Summer Food Service Program removes barriers, so that children don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from,” Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega said. “I am grateful to food service staff and sponsors across Pennsylvania for their tireless work to ensure that children will continue to have access to nutritious meals in locations throughout their community – even during the time of year when schools are not fully in session.”

Approximately 250 organizations normally participate in the Summer Food Service Program, providing nutritious meals to children at over 2,200 locations across Pennsylvania during the summer season. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a greater need for more sites throughout the state. 

Participating organizations must be year-round, not-for-profit entities – this may include schools; local, municipal, or county governments; libraries; places of worship; fire and police stations; summer camps; and national youth sports programs. Organizations approved to sponsor the Summer Food Service Program are responsible for managing the sites that provide meals to children.

Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day: lunch or dinner, and breakfast or a snack. Those serving primarily migrant children may be reimbursed for up to three meals a day. Camps may serve up to three meals a day, but they are reimbursed only for meals served to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

The deadline to apply to become a participating organization is June 15, 2021. For more information, visit PDE’s website: www.education.pa.gov/sfsp or call 800-331-0129.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs, please visit the Department of Education’s website at www.education.pa.gov or follow PDE on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.

MEDIA CONTACT: Kendall Alexander, kenalexand@pa.gov

Online Course in OER Librarianship

March 24, 2021
by

Like many librarians I’ve been more and more involved in the world of Open Educational Resources (OER) over the last few years.  OER became prominent in libraries well after I had finished my MLS, so my education in OER has been somewhat scattershot. I’ve read articles here and there or watched a webinar on the topic without ever studying the subject in a thorough organized way.  However, recently I had the opportunity to begin the Certificate in OER Librarianship course created by the Open Education Network (formerly the Open Textbook Network).  I’m about halfway through the course and I’ve learned a lot so far.  It’s been great to study the evolution of OER over time, learn about OER initiatives, hear from other librarians about how OER is progressing at their colleges, and develop plans for what I can do to foster OER at my institution.   It’s also been nice to get a reminder of what online students experience every day.  It’s easy to forget how much it takes to learn a new LMS, track deadlines, understand assignments, and all the other things that are part of taking an online class.

So, for anyone new to the world of OER and looking for a great introduction, I highly recommend the Certificate in OER Librarianship by the Open Education Network.  Here is a link to their website with more information on the course  – https://open.umn.edu/otn/oercert/

If you have any questions about the class please reach out to me at akirby@pennhighlands.edu.  Now I really have to stop blogging for today – I’ve got homework due!