I learned quite a bit about myself and my job this year, but I think I learned even more about all of you and the state of RA in our public libraries. I have a much better sense of your needs and how you serve your patrons.
I also learned that while I thought 2016 was the first full year I worked for myself, if I am honest, I actually work for all of you-- the RA practitioners and library administrators who hire me. So, as I sat down to do a performance review on myself [a weird, but necessary proposition], I realized that I needed to present it here on the blog. You all need to know how I did, what I learned, and how I plan to move forward. That is the point of today’s post.
Let’s begin with what I said I would do in 2016 in this post. Again like yesterday, you can click through to read all of the details, I will only post the general goals here today.
"Continue to take being my own boss seriously"This went better than expected. I really needed to work on the paperwork aspects of running my own business, and by the middle of the year, I got into a rhythm. I know have procedures and paperwork that work well for me and my clients. I have also learned how to work on a more M-F schedule, keeping my 8 hour day mostly within the hours of 8-4. It took longer than I thought to get used to it, but compared to how out of control things were in 2015, 2016 was when I really felt like a company and not just Becky flying by the seat of her pants. I also got confirmation from the training managers I worked with for my programs that my paperwork, procedures, and professionalism were to a high standard. This was not the most fun thing I did this year, and definitely one of my professional weaknesses, but I am very proud of how hard I worked on this issue and how well I did as a result.
"Complete the RA assessment series and move into the RA audit portion"This one was frustrating. I wanted to do this, but as I began, too many of you expressed concern that you were too far behind in the basics of RA Service to even worry about this next step. So, I switched my focus. However, one trend I am seeing as I work with libraries is that as an institution many of you are taking RA Service so seriously that you are designating a staff member to be in charge of coordinating those services. The next step has been to bring me in to work with that person to provide the basic training to all staff and then leave that point person in charge to take the service to the next level. So, the next logical step would be assessment. *fingers crossed*
Now to be fair to myself I did not completely drop the ball on this one. I did sneak some assessment ideas and concepts into my brand new RA Rethink series that I debuted this year, and those have had wonderful feedback and even some tangible results in the libraries I have worked with. I also have had a few posts addressing assessment. You can expect me to continue my commitment to assessment as a professional goal for 2017.
"Explore working with the academic library community more"I have explored this, created a program, presented it once, and tried to get the rest of the library world interested in it, but alas, they are not. For now I will abandon this topic, BUT for the record, I think I was ahead of the curve here. RA in academic libraries fits in perfectly with my first professional goal for 2017 [below], so while I will not actively work on this topic anymore, I am more than willing to return to it if others are interested.
"Seek out opportunities to "work" in libraries"First, I thought not working in a library everyday would be more of an issue than it truly was. I underestimated how much I learned from the 30+ libraries I worked for and visited in 2016. Spending time in the buildings, working with staff, and discussing day to day issues was awesome. I learned so much more than I thought I would.
Second, I was the Trustee in charge of heading up my local public library’s strategic plan. I didn’t need to seek out this opportunity, I volunteered for it. This process got me to “work” in a library on a larger, big picture scale than working the desk could ever replicate. This was a rewarding and educational experience. And, I will continue to be involved in the strategic plan as the trustee heading the committee that oversees its implementation.
Third, in 2016 I was faced with a huge decision on whether or not to run for reelection to the library board for a 5th term in 2017. I chose to run and before the year ended completed the paperwork and am currently on the ballot for the Cook County municipal elections this April. This goal I set at the beginning of 2016, was one of the things that led toward my final decision to run again.
Okay that’s how I did. The results of this public performance review and the things I learned in my travels across libraryland in 2016 have led to my goals for 2017.
Becky’s 2017 Professional Goals
- I will develop new programs that focus on how Readers’ Advisory can be a catalyst to the library’s work to increase community engagement. Social justice, making the library a space where all feel welcome and accepted, patron engagement, and community partnerships are topics that are both dear to my heart and very important right now. Last year I started to incorporate these ideas into my programs, but this year, I will be working on creating programs which explicitly depict how service to leisure readers can be the key to beginning to address these complicated issues for the library, but also how the library can be a leader and connector for the entire community.
- I will try [again] to look at how we assess RA Services. I made this a goal last year, but honestly, as I mentioned above, too many libraries needed the most basic of RA training that I needed to change my focus. I am hearing from more of you that you are ready for this, so hopefully I can spend some time on it in 2017. However, if people still want and need more basic training, I will provide that first.
- I am thinking of 2017 as the comeback year for the book discussion. In general I am seeing a renewed energy around book discussions, especially as a way to bring communities together. For example, I have committed to leading two discussions with the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2017 as well as leading more traditional trainings for patrons and library staff in a variety of locations. I am also finding that my most popular training options are now a full day in service for staff with another half day book discussion training for regional staff. Book discussions will be a focus in 2017 for me for sure. This is very exciting as Book Discussions are one of my absolute favorite professional activities. I will expand upon this topic tomorrow.
- I will focus on a more official role in connecting horror writers and libraries. This goal is a direct result of the fact that I will be a Special Guest of Honor at StokerCon 2017 and one of the hosts of their first ever Librarians’ Day. The Horror Writers Association is doubling down on their efforts to connect with librarians and are counting on me to help them. I have committed to this role and am excited to see where it will take me, and as a result, all of you. As you will hear about later this year, I have also taken on a role within the Stoker Awards process which I have not be able to talk about, but which has been great so far. This is a goal that will reach it’s peak during 2017, but it is one I have been working on since early 2016 when I accepted the honor. To be honest, I am both excited and nervous about this goal. It is one that requires me to step out of my comfort zone of the the library world and into the world of the writers. I need to be an ambassador for all of us and a tour guide for all of them. All I can say is that I am taking the responsibility seriously and will do my best.
- Finally, as I mentioned in yesterday’s reading goals, I will strive to maintain a better work/life balance. I truly love what I do. I want to visit as many libraries as possible, so I tend to always say yes. Also, last year I was worried about having enough work, so I mostly said yes. Well, 2017 is already 90% booked through June with some bookings in August and October already confirmed too. So, I need to keep my foot near the brakes at this point. I will say yes as much as possible, but I need to make sure it is not at the expense of my family or my sanity. I am also using this year to assess my other library related commitments. I have already committed to running for reelection to my local library board in April, which means four more years of service [I have already served 16], and I am slowly handing over most of my ARRT leadership roles. But I will be taking a look at everything I do, prioritizing them all, and making decisions about what can stay and what has to go. Along the way, I am actively training, encouraging, and empowering others to fill some of my roles, so whether or not I drop anything, there are plenty of others who can step up too.
So that’s where I see 2017 taking me, but as I saw last year, it is really all of you who steer the ship. What do you want or need from me in 2017? Contact me to let me know. Remember, even if I cannot come to your library in person [or virtually], if there is a topic you are interested in, let me know and I can work on it and post about it here on the blog. I am also more than happy to talk with you for free about your specific concerns. Just contact me and let me know what you need and I will see if I can help.