Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quite a month

It's been quite a month. I'm getting the hang of my new job. At least I know several routes to and from work, I can find my way to my office, and I can usually remember where various library collections are located when asked.

And today, I had the pleasure of taking care of my grandson while we awaited the birth of his little sister.  She arrived and our prayers have been answered. She's perfect. My 21-month old grandson isn't too impressed, but she will grow on him -- eventually,

So back to work. Not only do I have a very different role, but the library and municipality are very different from my former library and city. I am reminded that there are many ways of doing things. And I'm humbled by that. I know, for instance, that Manitowoc Public Library is not suffering in my absence, and though I'm not my predecessor at Franklin Public Library, this library, too, will weather the changes.

Change. It's tough for everyone. It's even tough for the person proposing the changes. And yes, things must change. I've come to my new job with a different perspective than that of my predecessor. Things that she instinctively understood are new to me and things that are paramount to me, were not of such import to her.

I've looked; I've listened. Franklin Public Library has been called "the Jewel of Franklin," and I whole-heartedly agree. Many people have stopped to meet me and tell me how much the library means to them. My responsibility is to make sure that sentiment continues. We have a great staff, a great facility, and a great collection. The foundation is solid.

The changes that I'd like to make are merely honing procedures and practices, but they are changes, and that means that in addition to implementing them, I will have to seek buy-in. They're all logical in my mind, but everyone who works with me comes to the library with  different perspective and different expectations.

So this will be an ongoing process. I'll let you know what happens.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week #1

     My first week at Franklin Public Library was harrowing. Now, I must be clear. Nothing untoward occurred. It was just three days of non-stop activity, a blur of strangers I really must get to know, and travel routes that are not yet familiar.
     Did I mention I only worked three days?  The days were packed and long.  My first day, I attended a Friends of the Library meeting in the evening.  My second evening was filled with a Common Council meeting. The City Budget was on the agenda. The third day was shorter -- just nine hours.  I met a business man whose company sponsored an event from which a sizable donation was made to the Friends of the Library.
     And I was given a whole bunch of logins and passwords.  Now if I can remember which login goes with which password -- and the sites to which those combinations will give me access.  I don't have high hopes.
     I think I know my way around the library, though I don't yet know everyone who works there. I've smiled at patrons, and even helped a couple, but there is so very much to learn.
     I am grateful that the calendar is helping me out with a couple days to reflect. It is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, a Jewish Thanksgiving, and I have so many things for which to give thanks! Next week, too, will be a three day workweek as we celebrate Shemini Atzeret and Simchas Torah, the first simply, the Eighth Day Festival because it is so difficult to reach the end of a holiday period, and the second, a day to rejoice in the Torah, rejoice in the Law, and all that we have been given by G-d. And I certainly think G-d has had a hand in all the good things happening in my family now.
     So now it's Saturday night. I'm trying to get a handle on the week that's passed and try to plan the week ahead.  Sunday I'm attending a lecture at the Milwaukee Public Library, then another short week at Franklin Public Library. There are several things I want to accomplish, but I know better, at this point, than to plan. Maybe it's best that I continue looking and listening, and trying to integrate a new way of doing things. 
     I've worked under five directors, but all at Manitowoc Public Library. I though the variety of leaders gave me a variety of organizational experiences, but what I did not consider is that while the directors changed, the infrastructure remained the same. What I am finding in Franklin is that the budget is organized differently, the relationship between the library and the library system is different, and the relationship between the library and the city is different. I have a lot to learn. 
     Different, not wrong. Monday is my first Library Board of Trustees meeting, and I am so looking forward to seeing some of the trustees again and meeting the rest for the first time. And learning from them. This is an exciting time. I've been given an exciting opportunity. I plan to make the best of it.
     Now if only I can find a way to get to work that does not involve following a school bus.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adventures in moving

     I officially rented an apartment, three rooms to call my own about a dozen minutes from work. Even more important, there's a Starbucks about 2 minutes away and a Kwik Trip (for which I have a credit card) just down the block from the coffee shop. The gas station even has decent coffee for those mornings I do not want to make two stops.
     But I digress. . .
     We rented a small truck from a friend. Though not huge, this truck is certainly large enough to accommodate all the furnishings needed for a one bedroom apartment. This truck is also conveniently outfitted with a lift. We rented the truck, we loaded the truck, we drove the truck. It was not a particularly comfortable truck. The fan only worked when the truck was at a standstill.  To get any air on the highway, we needed to open the truck's windows. The truck's seats did not allow for any adjustments. And the truck was incredibly noisy. Patrick and I shouted at one another throughout the entire trip.
     You may have noticed the repetition of the word "truck." One would think we would have been quite conscious of the fact that we were in a truck. Nevertheless, when we saw the flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirrors, we could not fathom why we were being chased. Patrick dutifully pulled over and a Wisconsin State trooper approached the driver's side window. He greeted us and asked if we knew why he stopped us. We, of course, were baffled. He asked us about the truck and what we were carrying. Still baffled.
     Then he told us that since we were driving a truck we were required to stop at the Truck Weigh Station. Oops! Yes, we knew we were driving a truck and we knew there was a Weigh Station in the southern part of the county, but it never occurred to us that the sign meant we had to have our truck weighed. 
     (In our defense, we drive that route a couple of times each week and the Weigh Station is seldom open, but that was not worth mentioning.)
     We got out of the truck and opened the back. He saw that, indeed, all items were of a personal nature: mattress, box spring, sofa, chairs, table, footstool, Baker & Taylor boxes labeled with such telling words as "misc. office stuff" and "fleishig dishes."  Then there was the basket of yarn and bags of knitting projects. We certainly weren't transporting anything suspect. I imagine the trooper's only question (unvoiced) was, "How did these two fools manage to get driver's licenses?"
     He sent us on our way with a warning to replace the missing mudflap and that when we are driving a truck, we really must stop at Weigh Stations.
     It's really amazing the vast array of things that escape our notice -- no matter how obvious they may be. Did we learn a lesson? Probably, but that came several hours later when we decided the officer's warning was a mute point -- because we are never moving ourselves again! The lesson: the money saved by not hiring a mover does not compensate for the pain. I spent this morning trolling my colleague's offices for Tylenol. 
     I like that. Trolling for Tylenol, a reality show for baby boomers!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Boxes and boxes

     Sunday afternoon I was the manager on duty.  I was at work to handle any unusual situations.  Since the Manitowoc Public Library staff is adept at handling most anything, this meant that I had four quiet Sunday afternoon hours to tackle some projects best done without interruption. So I wrote some press releases, worked on a report, and started cleaning out my office.
     Yes, with only five days and a few stray hours left at MPL, it was time to clean.  I did the easy stuff first. I took down photos from the wall. I put my MLIS degree in a box. I added some personal books.
     I have accumulated quite the collection of odds and ends in 13 years.  There's swag from assorted conferences, and magnets, mousepads, and other miscellany from folks who've tried to sell me stuff over the years. There are copies of articles that have long since outlived their usefulness and greeting cards from holidays past.
     So I'm packing and tossing and redistributing, and all the while wondering what will actually make the trip to Franklin with me.  My dictionary and copy of Robert's Rules of Order are long out of date.  I can't find my AP Style Guide, though I know I replaced my 1976 edition sometime this millennium. I'll take my coffee mug, though I think it will live at my apartment and not my office. It's a mug I actually remember my dad using. He passed away 26 years ago, but I like using his mug because it reminds me of him (not that I need a mug by which to remember him).
     Then there are the 13 years of business cards and six years of name badges, all with different titles. I'll pass along the magnet backs for others to use, but I think I'll toss the cards and badges. I don't need those mementos to recall the growth I've experienced at Manitowoc Public Library. 
     Yes, experience is what I most cherish and what will accompany me to Franklin Public Library and wherever else I may roam. I've grown a great deal during my tenure at MPL. I started as Public Relations Supervisor, confident in my ability to promote the library. After all, I had promoted a variety of industrial, professional and educational concerns.
     Little did I know I'd come to love libraryland. I love that a library is an essential service available to everyone in times of calm, as well as times of crisis. Libraries let everyone read, watch and listen to whatever they'd like. We try to make sure everyone can find something of interest on our shelves. Then we let people take the material they want and simply ask them to return it in a timely fashion. It's fun -- and fulfilling -- to help people. Yes, I stumbled on a great career in 2000.
    Now it's time for the next step in my career, fortified with more than a decade of library experience in addition to my business experience, but the question remains:  How much stuff should I take with me?  I think I'll consider that while I'm packing another box.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


     Tonight was the last Manitowoc Public Library Board of Trustees meeting I will attend. As I listened to the budget discussion from the cheap seats, I realized that as of next month I will be seated at the conference table discussing the same issues with the Franklin Public Library Board of Trustees. We will tackle budgets and policies and technology issues and all of the other things that impact public libraries. And I’m ready for the job. I start in just 20 days, and I really am counting down. I can’t wait!
     What I’m not sure about is leaving home. It’s not as if I haven’t left before. Three days after I graduated high school I moved to Milwaukee to work for the summer. From there I headed to Illinois where I went to school, married and had my first baby.
     Eight years later I returned to Manitowoc – for just one year, I told myself. I meant it. I had every intention of returning to Chicagoland or, at the very smallest, Milwaukee. There is an old Yiddish proverb, Der mentsh trakht un Got lakht, which translates as Man plans and G-d laughs. I’ve been here for 29 years. The Big Guy has a keen sense of humor.
     But now I am leaving. Half-filled boxes fill my dining room. I have an apartment waiting for me in Franklin. I even bought new towels (something that really must be done more often than once a decade).
     When the library trustee who’s been on the board since I arrived told me he’d miss me, I wanted to cry. When I saw the look of surprise on the face of a local merchant with whom I’ve planned years of downtown activities, I wanted to apologize and tell her I was joking.
     Leaving home when you’re 18 is expected. As a teen, I never thought staying in Manitowoc was even an option. Leaving home at the far side of 50 is a little different. At this point, I thought I’d stay. I’m comfortable. I’m also realizing just how close I feel to the people with whom I’ve worked during the past three decades. Certainly, I will make new connections. It will be different, though. I will truly be standing on my own, without the benefit of being Bea and Nash’s youngest daughter, or Patrick’s wife, or Jessica, Nashira and Katie’s mom.
     Am I up for the challenge? Indubitably! But I’m certainly happy that I’m close enough to visit!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Background check

Here I am, a middle aged librarian.  I'm a grandmother, too, complete with graying hair and sensible shoes.  I fit the stereotype.  I even knit.  Yet somehow, it took four weeks to dredge through my past.  Though my life is not quite as boring as my children seem to think it is, I really haven't done anything to trigger an intense check of my past.  Yes, a few motor vehicle violations (some parking, some speeding), but all my other interactions with law enforcement have been either in the context of my job, or social.

It seems the good detective who conducted my background check focused a great deal on my educational background. True, I didn't take a straight and narrow path through my undergraduate studies.  I took courses at a variety of colleges and universities. And I changed focus a few times. And, yes, I attended college under three different names in two different states, but I told the officer all of that up front. If I had falsified any transcripts, wouldn't it look better if I took all my credits at one school, focused on one degree, and excelled in all of my classes.  No one who's lying would have handed over the ragged stack of transcripts that I did.

Which brings me to the question: What if someone did have some indiscretions in their youth?  What if he smoked pot -- even if he never inhaled (a reference that will only be caught by readers of a certain age)?  What if she did default on a loan?  What if the divorce was messy? What separates a worthy candidate from an unworthy candidate? 

Sure, when I post something on facebook or twitter or this blog, I think about possible repercussions. I conduct myself as the bearer of a good name.  I don't want to embarrass myself, my husband, or my children. I don't want to sully my parent's good names.  But what if I had messed up in my teens or twenties? Would that mark me forever unworthy?  Even decades later?

True, I don't know what line I would have had to cross in order to be disqualified as a department head in the City of Franklin, but it does make me wonder.  It also makes me think that the likelihood is great that I will be working with a team of people who think before they act, who care about the organization at least as much as they care about themselves, and who are what they seem.

Maybe the background check was good thing afterall. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It's official!

The letter of resignation is in my director's mailbox. The moving boxes are piling up at home. I have been offered and accepted the position as director of the Franklin Public Library in Franklin, Wisconsin, a sprawling suburb south of Milwaukee. I start in a month.

Must tell you, the process is quite interesting. I saw the ad for the position. I applied and quickly received a phone call telling me that I would be contacted once the application period closed. Wow! That was impressive.  Already I knew that the Franklin Public Library Board of Trustees was conscientious. Good sign #1. Then, quite soon after the posting closed, I received a call to set up a phone interview. Good sign #2. The head of the search committee explained the process and the interview began. The questions were applicable to the job. Great sign! No nonsense about how I'd get out of a room with no windows or doors, or who I'd lunch with if I could lunch with anyone living or dead. (By the way, the answer to that one is easy. I'd lunch with my parents. I have so much to tell them about the grandchildren and great grandchildren they didn't get to meet and about my new and rather unexpected career in libraryland.)

The next step was an in-person interview. First I toured a beautiful library -- and I know beautiful.  Manitowoc Public Library overlooks both the Manitowoc River and Lake Michigan. During the day it bathes in natural light streaming in from a two-story wall of windows. Aisles are wide enough for me to focus on titles even with my trifocals, and there are lots of places to sit and peruse selections.

That said, Franklin Public Library is housed in a beautiful single story building in the federalist style. The entrance is inviting and immediately demonstrates that the library is devoted to the community -- and vice versa. When you walk into the library proper light shines down from skylights above. Service points are immediately to the right (circulation), center (reference and information), and left (children's services). The collections fan out from the hub, and are surrounded by a variety of seating options, including chairs around a fireplace, and access to an outdoor garden and patio. Yes, Franklin Public Library uses its outdoor space, as well. All four seasons will be lovely at this library!

One of the features I really like is that some marketing-minded librarian decided to put face-out shelving amidst the shelves of spine-out shelving. This makes it easy to find the books you seek, both by giving you great clues as to what materials are shelved in the area, but also giving the eyes a rest from reading words on their sides. I can't wait to shake the hand of the person who did that!

Then the interview. I met with the Search Committee and found everyone quite pleasant. Again, the questions made sense. The committee got to know me, and I learned a bit about the library.  I left feeling good about the interview, but one never knows. I was thrilled with the phone call inviting me back to be interviewed by several staff members. I returned to Franklin, noting that it really isn't as far from my home town as I thought (which will come in handy until my husband and I can both move). The people I met were delightful. This could be good.

Then I waited. I knew when the search committee was meeting to make their decision about whom to recommend to the full board, thanks to the requirement of library boards to post their agendas. That night my husband and I ate dinner rather quietly. As the minutes ticked by, I was steeling myself for the disappointment. Then the phone rang, and the head of the search committee told me that I was their #1 candidate.  All this had happened in just two months. Now all I had to do was be approved by the full board, pass a physical and drug test, and survive a background check.

The first two were easy. The full board approved my appointment.  I signed the necessary paperwork. The library posted the appointment on their website and facebook page, and I was interviewed by the local paper. The physical and drug test were without issue. I thought the background check would be, too. Little did I know that Franklin's finest would not see a grandmotherly librarian, ask a few questions, and give me their blessing.

I needed to produce all of my transcripts -- all the way back to high school, not just graduate school (which I had with me when I met the detective). I needed to discuss various jobs, including my part-time gig as the business manager for the Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra, and provide contact information for my parents and sisters.  I resisted the urge to provide the cemetery's address for my parents. I didn't know if the detective had a sense of humor, and though I now know that he does, I probably made the right choice. The detective visited Manitowoc to talk with my neighbors and friends. He called a variety of police departments to ask about my driving record. He even visited the college where I earned by BA. Now, I couldn't recall anything that would have disqualified me, but I was certainly happy today, almost four weeks after Franklin publicly announced my appointment, that the detective called to say all was well.

So tomorrow I begin to train my successor and earnestly pack up my office and home. I've had the same job for 13 years (my longest tenure ever), and have lived in my home for 25 years. It's going to be a busy month.