Getting finished and getting started

Like the library where I work, I am at an odd transitional time. The library is three-fourths done with a complete renovation. We’ll be opening a new teen center (Teen Underground–it’s on the lower level) next month. Middle Ground for middle schoolers will be opening this week, although because the rest of Youth Services is closed for construction, it won’t be reserved for middle graders to start. Three-quarters of the Youth Services collection is tightly squeezed into the front of the department, with fiction, nonfiction, and AV all living veryveryclosetogether. But when it’s all done, it will be amazingly fresh-looking and I feel sure it will be a huge asset to the community. Exciting times!

At the same time, we’ve finally finished our new website, and if you’re looking for recommendations I can tell you right now that completely rebuilding your website and completely rebuilding your library at the same time is not ideal. The bright side is, it makes it impossible to obsess over details, which of course is also the downside. But the website looks good, and we are getting ready to also launch a new staff blog which combines all of the staff blogs (fiction, music, teen, etc.) into one to showcase the staff and the collections. So that will be cool, except it’s a ton more decisions and training to be carried out.

One interesting thing about having a big role in the website project is that now I am on the receiving end of the changes staff want to make. It’s the first time I’ve been on the other side of staff requests. As head of Youth Services, I would often make requests of other departments like for room set-ups, publicity requests, or changes in cataloging. And now I wonder how the receiving parties felt when they got those emails, because I am finding it is pretty easy to be prickly and defensive. I’ll read through an email requesting that something be posted on the website, and I’ll think, “Are you asking me or are you telling me?” It’s really easy to strike a bit of an imperious tone when you’re making a request to an email group like Website Updates. I am filing that one away for the next time I need to email a request.

In addition to all that, I will now also be running the Technical Services Department for a few weeks, since the department head retired. Tech, for you non-librarians, is the department that orders, catalogs, processes, repairs, and eventually discards all of the materials we buy for the patrons. At my library, it’s a big department, and while I have been on the selecting end of things for many years, now I will be getting to see the other side of that process. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and … scary. So much money, so many details, and such a different perspective.

That’s a great thing about working in public libraries these days–we have lots of opportunities to learn new things and to grow, as libraries adapt to meet the new needs of their communities. When you’re in the middle of construction, and the guys are in there with their hammers smashing things to pieces, it’s hard not to feel some regret. After all, if you love your job, you have a lot of great memories of what has gone on in those spaces. But then you get to see the new carpet and the new paint and the new artwork and the new spaces for collaboration and study and programs and the collections, and you realize that while you will always look back nostalgically on the library that was, the new library is going to be a great place to staff and patrons to build some new memories.

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