Category Archives: leadership

Naked Librarianship

Naked Librarianship

I recently read Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty.  Lencioni is the author of numerous books.  Many of those books rely on a fictionalized story or fable to make business, management and leadership models or concept clearer.

Getting Naked, is a fable about two different strategies in the consulting industry.  It is really a great book, and I suggest you read it.  But I want to briefly discuss the Naked model.  The Naked model is really about offering exception client (patron) services.  At its core, Naked service boils down to the ability of a service provider to be vulnerable–to embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client. Client loyalty and trust are achieved by overcoming the following three fears:

  1. Fear of losing the business
  2. Fear of being embarrassed
  3. Fear of feeling inferior

This model is totally applicable to libraries.  So let’s see what Naked Librarianship might look like (note I am taking a very abridged approach to this model)

Fear of losing the business has a few remedies.

The first solution is to consult instead of sell.  Libraries have been striving for this for some time.  But I think it’s interesting when we see ourselves as a research, book, information, or life consultant.

The second solution entails giving away the business.  In this solution we are called to always err on the side of the client when it comes to fees.  How many times do arguments erupt at the circulation desk over a $1 or $2 fine?  What is the impact of this fight on the patron?  How are other patrons in the library impacted?  Is this really necessary?

Fear of being embarrassed

Ask dumb questions is one way of overcoming the fear of being embarrassed.  How many times do we engage in a reference transaction when someone refers to or asks about something we have never heard of?  What do we do?  I, for one, will quickly jump on the Internet to just figure out what ever the topic is.  Why don’t I just ask the patron instead?  I know that I have certainly made myself look smart by quickly researching and talking about a concept a patron asks about and in the process I make them feel stupid.  If a patron asks me how to adjust an onboard serial port in bios, I might ask them what bios is?

Celebrate your mistakes is one of my favorite embarrassment solutions.  I believe that every library should throw a failure party to celebrate the risks and lessons learned through mistakes.  It is a way for a library to acknowledge the giant elephant in the room, and to insist that perfection and innovation are simply mutually exclusive.

Fear of feeling inferior

Make everything about the client (patron) is a simple and obvious tactic.  Naked librarianship focuses attention on the person we are serving.  This means no multitasking while helping someone.  Moreover, you always defer the credit to the person you are helping.  For example, if you two are looking for the next Fifty Shades of Grey and you both find it together you give the credit to the patron.

Do the dirty work is another remedy to the fear of feeling inferior.  This might be difficult for naked librarians.  When helping a patron, there is virtually nothing beneath you.  Demonstrate your dedication to the patron by doing whatever it takes to make them happy (yes, of course there are limitations).  If a patron wants you to print something for them, just do it.  It will save the time of both of you if you argue and try to teach them how to use your crappy computer reservation and print release station.

In the preceding paragraphs, I boiled a complex model down to a quick couple of bullet points.  If any of this interests you, I suggest you read the book.  More importantly, I hope that you see how some of these fears affect you and limit the service that you provide.  Getting naked really deals with being vulnerable, but in most cases, your patron demonstrated vulnerability first by asking you for help.

May you realize that it’s ok to be vulnerable.  May you embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of your patron, and may you strip off the layers separating you from providing exceptional service.  May you offer naked library services.



Filed under leadership, librarianship

Last Day at Messenger Public Library

When speaking and presenting, I usually include the following two images:

Well, it is that time for me.  I have deeply enjoyed the challenges and opportunities at Messenger Public Library of North Aurora, IL.  Together, we have shifted the library from a culture that resists change to a culture that embraces change (at least sometimes).  I have worked with a wonderful and dedicated staff.  My former director allowed me the freedom to take risks, fail, and improve services in the process.

On an individual note, while at Messenger I married the woman of my dreams.  She has begun to co-author my story and partake in my journey.

So today makes the end of a chapter, but maybe the beginning of a new story.  I recently wrote to two new Board Members at Highwood Public Library that “I believe that Highwood Public Library is entering an exciting and defining era, and know that this journey will be challenging, fun and rewarding for all involved.”  Well this is true of my life as well.

So here’s to change; not little change, but BIG CHANGE.  Here’s to making a genuine difference in the lives of library members and staff.  And here’s to you for coming along for the beautiful ride.

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Filed under cool stuff, leadership, librarianship, libraries, Personal

In Response to Gorman

A recent post in the LA Times seems to have the blogosphere in an uproar.  The article’s main focus was on how libraries are preparing for the future.  However, the article quoted Michael Gorman on video games.  Mr. Michael Gorman stated that

“If you want to have game rooms and pingpong tables and God knows what — poker parties — fine, do it, but don’t pretend it has anything to do with libraries,” said Michael Gorman, a former president of the American Library Assn. “The argument that all these young people would turn up to play video games and think, ‘Oh by the way, I must borrow that book by Dostoyevsky’ — it seems ludicrous to me.”

Posts by many of my friends, peers, colleagues and others I admire slam Mr. Gorman.  However, they miss the point that Michael states that libraries should just “do it” in reference to game rooms.  Gorman elaborates that librarians should not pretend that teens will read complex literary works, but few dispute Gorman’s claim, and no one offers any evidence that game rentals lead to Dostoyevsky rentals.  Many of us don’t care.  Yes people in the library (for whatever reason) is better than not.  However, I haven’t seen anyone purchase XXX materials.  We do draw a line somewhere, it really is just a matter of degree.

The true comedy for Chicago Deskset librarians, was that last week Michael Gorman met a bunch of us at Dave and Buster’s (a Chicago adult arcade).  Being a close and personal friend of Michael Gorman, I emailed him to get his true thoughts on games in the library, I will post his response soon.  Needless to say, I see absolutely no point in slamming any librarian.  We have been divisive too long.

I see this is a great opportunity.  First, I admire and respect those who check my innovative and envelope-pushing tendencies.  People like Gorman, who knows that I was proud to start a game collection at my library, help me stay focused.  Secondly, let’s face it, many people think games don’t belong in the library at all!  If we can’t educate people like Gorman, then we only have ourselves to blame, and we are likely not going to be able to justify games, or libraries in general, to the public.

Thirdly, and most importantly for me, we can no longer remain a divide profession.  This infighting distracts us from our common goals and purposes (espoused, may I remind everyone, by Michael Gorman himself).  I understand the desire to disagree with those in our profession, but are we no better than the politicians who default to name-calling, mud slinging, slander, and other underhanded tricks?

I hope that we think long and hard about what we say and how we treat each other.  I have deep respect for those in our profession, all of us!  Yes, I disagree with what is often said, and what other libraries an librarians do, but I respect them.  A diversity of opinion is vital to democracy, and to our profession.  It should be remembered that the our own Code of Ethics states “We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect…”


Gorman at the Deskset

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