The Rock & Roll Librarian

December 7, 2007

Do we encourage our employees to leave?

Filed under: librarians,Libraries,Library Policies — Tyler Rousseau @ 4:13 pm
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If someone leaves your system for the same job in another (i.e. lateral move), that should get you thinking.  

If the average new-employee retention is less two years before they move on to another position, you definitely want to take notice. 

If your system sees people leave and then watches them flourish in another position, you shouldn’t brag that “they started off in this system.”  It should raise questions as to why your system couldn’t seem to hold on to him/her.

Employee retention has always been difficult in our profession but, sometimes, we unknownngly encourage people to leave.

The list below is a compilation of reasons I’ve heard Librarians give for leaving their positions.  If any of these sounds like a familiar complaint of former employees, you may want to consider it, especially from the employee’s perspective.

Pay- Bosses, Directors and Board Members tend to roll their eyes when this issue is brought up.  However, this is going to be a key factor for applicants.  If two positions are posted and one offers more money than the other it is no surprise which will get more applications.  Furthermore, I know several people over the last two years who have earned up to ten thousand dollars a year difference in pay simply by moving, laterally, into another system.  How much of a difference can that be?  How about the difference of affording your own rent or having to live with someone else.

Vacation and/or Holidays- Some New Jersey Library systems offer 10 days of vacation a year while others offer 24+ days.  This does not include federal, personal, floating holidays or sick time).  If everything else is equal (pay, benefits, etc.) which system would you rather work for?

Hours and/or Nights- How many nights a week do you require your librarians to work?  How many Saturdays and/or Sundays a month? 

Yes, we are in public services but we are also highly educated professionals with families, friends and social needs.  On the nights that I work I don’t get to see my children or wife.  One night is tough enough but two nights a week would be nearly impossible and a bigger strain on my family as it means my wife would have to feed, bathe and put both kids to bed by herself.  The effects of working multiple nights are further reaching than just the employee’s schedule.

Professional Investment- Some systems have a budget for training and others do not.  Some systems encourage employees to pursue professional interests and others look for a homogeneous staff.  Employees who feel invested tend to support their systems and be happier as they know they may not get the same treatment elsewhere.  This can also be a big draw for new employees as it shows the system’s interest in professional development.  And consider this; the more an employee can pursue their interest, the more they are noticed in the professional realm as an expert in that subject which is good for the system’s noticability.

Advancement-  A professor once told me that Librarians tend to have to promote themselves and that means they leave the system they are working in.  Obviously, we cannot promote everyone as there are fewer positions the higher up we go.  But, other than steady employment, what are we doing to encourage these people to stay? 

If employees leave because of these reasons it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in [added 'in'] a bad system but it should rasie a warning flag.  As systems, we are in competition with each other in order to employ the best possible professionals.  Although we may hire that professional, what are we doing to keep him/her? 

May 21, 2007

Teen Librarians. Who we are and what we are not.

Filed under: librarians,Libraries,Library Policies,policies,rants,Teens — Tyler Rousseau @ 12:39 pm

As a Young Adult Librarian, I have made the professional decision to immerse myself in young adult culture; the books they read, the music they listen to, the resources they use for information.  I have also taken on the responsibility to provide programming opportunities for the teen community to participate in, if they choose to do so.  In other words, teen resources are my specialty.

But I am not the babysitter for every teen that enters the library.

And I am not the only person capable of handling teens’ questions.

I am not disciplinarian for all teens.

Nor are my job responsibilities significantly different from any other librarian.

 I am not their babysitter- Teens that come into the library are my specialty, not my responsibility.    Just because a teen enters the building, it does not mean they can only be in the Teen Section.  Teens have the same rights as all other patrons, they are allowed to go in any other part of the library.

I am not the only person to handle a teens’ question- Listen to the needs of the patron first and then figure out if my expertise is needed.  If they know the name of book they are looking for, help them.  If they want to find out where the copier is, show them.  But, if the teens wants book recommendations, programming information, research help… I’m your person.  Remember, I don’t send every old person your way.

I am not the teens disciplinarian- If teenagers are acting up in the library, this is not my fault.  Furthermore, don’t send me the rambunctious teen and tell me to “deal with them.”  In doing so, you have negated your own authority in the teens’ eyes.

My job responsibilities aren’t significantly different- If you don’t expect the rest of your staff to work multiple nights, then it shouldn’t be expected of your YA Librarian.  If your typical Reference or Children’s Librarian does two programs a week, don’t expect the YA Librarian to have programming everyday, or every moment that teens are present.  If you don’t expect your other programs to have 100% attendence from members of the library community, don’t expect every teen to show up for every program.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of good Teen Librarians who leave the position because of they discover the job expectations are disproportoinate to other positions in the libarary.  Consider families, consider the lives outside of job and please consider the wear and tear you put on your Teen Librarian when you send them patrons you personally would rather not deal with.

We are programmers, we are selectors, we are outreach and we are staff members dedicated to maintaining the enthusiasm and interest of the library’s future adults, future taxpayers, and advocates.  We do not need a thank you for this… we just ask for your consideration.

February 27, 2007

Is Accessing Open Wi-Fi Illegal?

In Palmer, Alaska, Brian Tanner was arrested for using the public library’s wi-fi in their parking when the library was closed. Local police had tired of chasing Tanner from various locations where he was accessing open ended wi-fi and arrested him. They confiscated his laptop to see what files Tanner had downloaded as well.

Is this really a legal issue or the responsibility of the people who hold the access points? All wi-fi hardware/software allow their owners to create password protected access so that only selected users may take advantage of it. If an owner fails to opt for this protection, does it mean they can still say “no, you can’t use it” and be legally binding?

We really haven’t set up ethical rules for the digital age yet. We still argue over ideas like privacy for users in public settings, rights applied to digital information, what can/cannot be written over emails and whether we should have some sort of program in place to restrict content to certain users on public computers.

Our computers are designed to find hotspots now and even default to open wi-fi networks when available. My Nintendo Wii has actually picked up two other open networks near my house along with my own wireless system. If an upgrade was placed into the program to access the fastest network or default to another open network when my wireless went down, would it make me criminally liable?

It seems this is more of an ethical question over a legal one. I certainly wouldn’t argue that Tanner seems to have a lack in ethics and common sense but it also seems that there were protective measures the library could take to prevent his access as well.

In the physical world we have many different legal words for the various types of theft as it is not simply a black and white issue. Are we going to find ourselves at a point where we need to do the same for the digital world as well?

On a semi-tangent; is his being chased from point to point really enough evidence to confiscate the laptop?

February 22, 2007

Cyberbullying and Libraries

There is often a really fine line between what is funny, what is offensive and to what degree someone is offended. 

Make no mistake, there is some joy to be had in bullying.  It is about empowerment, positioning, status, hierarchy and the pleasure is the solidification of one’s place through the bullying act.  In other words, it is largely about attention and acceptance.

And if someone is looking for attention, then the Internet is a heaven for their needs.

As much as I am a fan for social networks and social technologies I can understand peoples’ concern about its bullying potential.  Text messages, Instant messages, photoshops, podcasts and blogs (forgive me if I left a few tactics out) don’t just make a myriad of methods to bully with, but also encourage the creativity of the bully… and the reward is the hundreds to thousands of hits their post may receive.

Example?  Check out Ghyslain Raza, better known as the Star Wars Kid.  He filmed a solo light saber sequence as part of a school project but when some of his classmates got a hold of the film, Ghyslain became an overnight cyber-celebrity.  When the Canadian news source, National Post, asked him how he felt about all the ‘attention,’ he responsed “I want my life back.”

A hell for Gyshlain but incredible empowerment for the kids who posted it!

Rather than make this post solely about cyberbullying, lets think about what it could mean for libraries.  Certain states have made blanket anti-bullying policies that go as strict as zero-tolerance.  As sites like Myspace gain notoriety more for their negative aspects, and stories about unfortunate cyberbullying and suicide become more popularized, there is a possibility that state and federal legislature may push through DOPA-esque policies.

But before we go down that slippery slope, I’d like to ask some more some questions for us to think about:

-If we market our library as a “Safe Zone,” how safe are our teens within the library’s cyber-walls?  Do we, or should we, take this into account of a Safe Zone policy?

-What will happen when someone can confirm the cyberbullying took place inside of the library?

-What, if any, measures should libraries take in order to prevent cyberbullying?

-What proactive steps can we take against cyberbullying right now?

-If we consider ourselves as a cultural center, does that mean that we consider excessive bullying as part of our culture?   This one if for the Sociologists out there!

As much as I am an advocate for Freedom of Information and Freedom of Speech, I also spent many years working with teens who have been greatly affected by bullying, physically and mentally.  And because I have worked with teens in a counseling setting before I became a librarian, I greatly struggle with where the line is drawn in a library.

To an extent, being bullied is a part of growing up.  For some, they grow up and walk away unscathed; for others, they live an entire life around it’s effects.  So where do we, as libraries, take our stand in the issue?

Sad to say… this is what I think about at 2a.m. when I can’t sleep.

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