Do you sometimes wonder what you could do to get more administrative support for teen services in your library? There are some relatively simple steps you can take to win friends and influence managers! Over the next six weeks, I’ll be sharing some tips from managers that you can integrate into your work life and maybe make some positive changes in your library.

In March, YALSA surveyed members whose job titles identified them as supervisors or managers. We asked them some questions about administrative support for teen services in their libraries, and what would improve that support. There were some common threads, and today I’m going to start with a big one:

Presenting Yourself as a Professional

In the comments to our survey, one manager said that YA librarians need to learn how to “code-switch” between being “hip” and being “professional.” It’s true that a lot of YA librarians have a lot invested in their look and style–and that works with teens. But sometimes the style doesn’t come across with the people who are making decisions–especially the ones who are of a different generation.’ 

The “code switch” metaphor is a good one. Think about being bi- or multi-lingual. One language isn’t better than another; it is just called for in different circumstances. Just as a bilingual person wouldn’t insist on speaking in Spanish to a patron who is monolingual in English, how you present yourself might need to vary depending on your audience.

If you are going to the library director to make a request for more funds, you need to put yourself in his or her shoes. Think about what the director will want and need to know, and present it in a way that is appropriate to the circumstances. And if you ever have to make a presentation to the Board of Trustees or other governing body, this goes double. These decision-makers need to be able to see you as a person who is serious, committed, informed, and, yes, professional.

Being professional doesn’t mean you have to lose your personality or your sense of style. It just means you need to be aware of it, and of how you are coming across to others. You want them to listen to you, not get distracted by messages that you may be unconsciously transmitting with your clothes, your appearance, or your language. So spend some time thinking about what professional means to you, and what it might mean to your supervisor, your supervisor’s supervisor, and that person’s supervisor. Then think of ways that you can get across to those people the facts you want them to know, while not alienating them by your presentation.

The first category in YALSA’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth is Leadership and Professionalism. Professionalism is critical, because you won’t be listened to if you are not perceived of as professional. Next week, we’ll talk about speaking the language of management, and how that can help you move your own agenda forward.

Sarah Flowers

YALSA Immediate Past President

About Sarah Flowers

Sarah Flowers is a YALSA Past President and former Deputy County Librarian for the Santa Clara County (CA) Library. Currently she does writing and speaking on topics related to teen services and teaches online courses for California's Infopeople Project.

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