For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
July 19, 2001 - Ultimate Help with Time Management--A Competent Person!
About fifty years ago, an expert in the new field of time management was having lunch with a prominent executive. The executive was frustrated. How could he get more done in a day? If the expert would just tell him some sure fire method to increase productivity, the executive promised him a big check.
The expert thought for a moment, then said, "Every morning, write down a list of what you want to happen that day. When you finish something, check it off the list."
At first, the business executive scoffed. Too easy!
A month or so later, he sent the expert a check for $25,000. It's still good advice. But as even the most cursory glance at library holdings will tell you, things have gotten a lot more complicated. There's the Franklin method, the Covey method, and such ubiquitous paper tools as Day-Timers, Day-Runners, and so on. Now, there are electronic organizers. And that's just for time management -- not project or people management (people being the key to project management). Like a lot of people who manage a growing business, I've spent significant time with these books, looking for the guaranteed trick to get things done as efficiently as possible. They've helped. I have imposed a lot of structure on my time. But it hasn't been enough.
The problem with my management approach, and with the library district overall, is that for the past 10 years, we have spent a lot of resources on public facilities and services, and not nearly enough on infrastructure. (By "infrastructure," I mean, "the stuff in the back room that makes it possible for the folks at the front desk to do their jobs.") This approach works pretty well, at least until the organization gets to a certain size. Our size. We're feeling the pinch.
I'm a sad example. For the past several months, I could tell that I just wasn't on top of things. My attention was too divided. I just didn't seem to have enough time BETWEEN appointments to get ready for the next one.
Our library district is, at this point, a business of respectable size. We have seven service locations. We employ over 250 people. None of them, I am now embarrassed to admit, had anything like a secretarial function. That absence was undercutting my productivity. I'm not alone.
With some trepidation, I advertised for an Executive Assistant. Here's the good news: I got a tremendous number of qualified applicants. I scheduled some interviews, and all of the candidates impressed the heck out of me.
But one them, Patti Owen-DeLay, gave one of the best interviews I've ever seen. I hired her.
At this writing, Patti has been on the job for 2 weeks. In that time, a good 40 percent of my files has been thrown away. The remaining 60 percent has been gathered into a shelf of notebooks, arranged by goal, project, facility, committee, date. Her goal is to be able to hand me the right notebook or folder at the beginning of a day, to put the right facts at my fingertips. If you knew anything about the state of the files I handed her, you'd think that was a miracle. I think she'll pull it off.
All of a sudden, it seems to me that the list of objectives set by my Board, and by me, might actually happen in my lifetime. I'm finding that I'm spending more time focusing on ends and key events, and less on distracting and often overwhelming details. This is tremendously liberating, giving me time to spend on the things that I do well.
In the long run, successful organizations depend on both individual competence, and an appropriate distribution of tasks. Our district is fortunate to have so many competent people, at every level.
My most recent lesson, as a supervisor and director, is that all of us need organizational assistance, from time to time, if we are to do our best. Now, I need to make sure the rest of the organization has the help IT needs.