YALS Summer 2016 – Succeeding in Today’s Library Workplace: A Reflection

In her recent article in YALS, Workplace Expectations for Today’s Library,  Kimberly Sweetman asks “what should you be able to do in order to succeed in today’s workplace?” This brings to mind many thoughts about what was once expected in the library workplace, and what is currently expected.

Sweetman mentions that from the 1990s, and into the future, libraries are more about distribution of power, systems thinking, improved collaboration and more. These are all very important to understand when working in the library. Collaboration is great because with today’s technology, library staff can share ideas throughout their system or nationally with faster results than ever before. Collaboration also is key when “people who have different areas and levels of expertise” work together. This was just one of the ways that I was able to become more efficient at my job, and learn skills that made it easier to transition into higher library positions. I am always learning from fellow library employees, and some of the best ideas come from collaboration with others.

The first workplace expectation that Sweetman writes about is change. Change is always being discussed in the library world due to technology, and everyone should be efficient at using all aspects of this. Sweetman writes, “when the reaction [to change] is negative, frequently it is fear based.” In my experience, this is true when it comes to changing technology, but instead of fearing the change, embrace it. Library staff should seek out information about new devices, apps,  library materials that their system/branch offers for customers.

Communication is the expectation that takes up most of Sweetman’s article, and there is a reason why; communication is the key to success. Communicating with library staff, customers, and other people in your community is how we share ideas and plans. It makes your work life more enjoyable and stress free. Paying attention to nonverbal cues is very important when it comes to listening to others. Sweetman reminds us that it is very important to pay “100 percent of your attention” to those you are communicating with; don’t look at your cell phone while talking and/or listening to others. This is a good example to set for any teen volunteers that may be working in the library.

In The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action it is mentioned that more than 81 percent of online teens use social media. Using social media as a communication tool for the workplace is a great way to reach teen customers. By utilizing YALSA’s social media presence, library staff can communicate and collaborate together. Another aspect about having great digital communication for the workplace is that library staff are able to teach teens what is appropriate when communicating on a professional level.

All of the workplace expectations that Sweetman mentions (change, collaboration, communication, multidirectional management, and emotional intelligence) are key factors at being successful in the library and other workplaces. If all library staff can demonstrate these skills, they can teach teen customers better skills for their professional future. In A Call to Action, it is noted that: “In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes.” This is somewhat alarming, but also a great opportunity for library staff to demonstrate their workplace skills for teen customers. By demonstrating all of Sweetman’s expectations for teen customers, library staff are making a bridge to cover the professional learning gap that teens are missing. 

It is important to remember and exhibit all of the five workplace expectations to be successful in the library, and other job situations. To use them proves that you are passionate about your position, and are willing to go above and beyond. Accepting change is a major aspect of working in the library, and by accepting these new expectations, library staff are moving towards bettering themselves professionally. YALSA offers a lot of information on professional development that are worthy of looking into.

About Maeve Dodds

Maeve is a Teen Lead Librarian for Charlotte Mecklenburg County, University City Branch, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has worked in adult and children services, and was previously an elementary school media specialist. She likes reading in her hammock and trying new foods.
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