Linda’s Bookbag – and upcoming webinars!

Hello everyone,

August is upon us, soon to be followed by “back to school” (I’ve talked to some who are already there!), then the whirlwind of the holiday season and a brand-new year already.

This month, I’d like to share a book title that is almost two decades old – and although there are many great books on communication, the topic of listening is more important now than ever before. The book, “Listen Up,” by Larry Barker and Kittie Watson was published in 2000, almost in the last century! And yet, when I think of that book, I realize the art of listening has never been so sorely missing in our society as it is today.

We know there are many distractions that keep us from listening: we aren’t really all that interested in what someone is saying (!); we’re bored; the speaker intimidates us, so we can’t stay focused; our email alert just went off drawing our attention away; we don’t like the person speaking; the speaker’s vocal tone; we’ve already heard this story; we have a headache; it’s too hot – or too cold – to pay attention; or maybe a butterfly just flew by the window and mesmerized us…you get the idea. It can be tough to pay attention and actually listen.

In years past, one of the biggest reasons researchers found for why we didn’t listen well was that we were thinking about what we wanted to say. Even if we were trying to think of something that would make the person speaking more comfortable or bring them comfort over a sad or difficult situation, if we were thinking about something else, we couldn’t have been listening well. It was that simple. And it still is.

Sadly, though, there is a “new,” ubiquitous item that seems to have taken over every ounce of our listening skills. Want to guess what that is? Yep, it’s the “smart” phone, which can sometimes make us look anything but smart.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not sure I could live without my phone, especially when I travel. And I don’t even want to try. But I have been reading more and more research that asserts that our phones are decreasing our communication skills, including how well we listen. For example, a recent study by Qualtrics and Accel found that Millennials check their phones as much as 150 times a day. Why wouldn’t they? They are the epitome of digital natives and that seems as natural to them as speaking to someone they meet for lunch. Just three years ago, studies showed that people in that group checked their phones “only” 74 times a day. But those of us who aren’t Millennials aren’t off the hook, either. Other studies are showing that people of all ages are beginning to show signs of addiction to their phones. It’s tough to be a good listener if we constantly have our ears tuned to the dinging of a text message.

So let me ask you a ridiculous question. What would happen if we became addicted to really listening to others? Hearing the emotions – or the unspoken words – rather than just the noise coming at us from the other person? Do you think that might impact our relationships? Our workplaces? Our own thought processes and perspectives on our world?

I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t create some element of change in how we interact with others and I believe that change would be positive.

Whether you read the book or not, please consider how becoming a better listener could positively affect your life – and the lives of those around you. Becoming a better listener isn’t about agreeing with everything others say. It’s simply about…you know – listening to them!

And don’t forget to check PLAN’s training calendar. We’ve got some great webinars coming up for you in August:

  • August 14 – Cranky Coworkers and Other Difficult Behaviors
  • August 17 – How to Handle That Dreaded Discipline Problem
  • August 28 – Lessons for Lifelong Learning (part of the PLAN Library 101 Series)

And surprise! Becoming a better listener could help with every one of those topics.

Be sure to login and register for these August training sessions!

Hope to “see” you soon!


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Linda’s Bookbag – and Upcoming Webinars!

Photo of a stack of books topped with a cup of teaHello everyone,

Wow – it’s hard to imagine that we are nearing the halfway point of the year! Time flies, as they say, and whether we are whining or winning as the days go by sometimes depends on our mindset.

And that’s exactly what I’d like to talk about this month. Mindset, a book by Carol S. Dweck, has over a million copies in print. So, I’m guessing there may be a lot of people who know they need to be aware of their own mindset – and many of us who may need some work in that area.

In the book, Carol talks about a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. I think we can all grasp that concept without a lot of explanation. Do you think things will always remain the same for you regarding what you are able to do or learn or are you continually looking for ways to grow? The tagline for the book is “How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential,” which definitely requires a growth mindset.

But I’d like to expand on the word “mindset” just a bit. A growth mindset is a worthy ideal as a long-term view for our entire lives, but what about that ol’ day-to-day grind we sometimes have to deal with? Life does happen, after all, and it can be challenging (and sometimes nearly impossible!) to keep focused on moving forward to fulfill our potential. There are times we need to just put one foot in front of the other and deal with whatever life brings our way in the moment.

We have a couple of webinars coming up in June that can help you in those areas. The first one I’d like to mention is one of my favorites (I know I say that about a lot of my programs – because I love what I do 😊). It’s called “Leave Your Stress @ Work!” and it’s scheduled for June 1 at 2 p.m. CT. We’ll talk about just that – how do I leave my stress at work? We may even talk about not bringing our home stress TO work! I love doing this webinar because it helps ME be more aware of how those little dribs and drabs of life may be causing stress – stress that sometimes just lurks in the background causing a feeling of dis-ease. How can I be positive and have a growth mindset when that’s happening? So, let’s discuss a list of things we can do that will help us realize we sometimes have more control over our stress than we give ourselves credit for!

The second webinar that might be helpful for some of us is “Patience: How to Get It, How to Keep It,” scheduled for June 15 at 2 p.m. CT. In our social-media/technology/instant-on world, patience seems to be less and less available – or perhaps we just aren’t paying attention to the idea that we have lost our patience. Another area in which I’m always happy to have a reminder. I have two ornery cats and a sweet but sometimes stubborn dog, and they can try my patience every now and then! It never hurts to be reminded that we also have control over whether we choose to live in a state of impatience. And it is a choice, isn’t it?

I hope you’ll register for both webinars – I’m sure you’ll find a tip or two that will help you be your best self. Oh…and a little teaser for you…in August (the 28th at 2 p.m. CT), we’ll be talking about “Lessons for Lifelong Learning” as part of the PLAN Library 101 series. Now THAT’S a growth mindset!

Enjoy spring and I’ll “see” you soon!


P.S. We have a few other webinars sprinkled throughout the summer months, so be sure to check PLAN’s training calendar!

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Interview with Jurate Burns, Director of the Destin Library

One of PLAN’s long-time supporters has announced her retirement. Jurate Burns, Director of the Destin Library will be retiring this Spring after 19 years as the Library Director in Destin. She is looking forward to her post-retirement plans that include spending more time with her grandchildren in South Carolina and travel to Lithuania where her parents were from. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jurate about her career in librarianship and her time at the Destin Library….

Why did you choose librarianship as a career?
I sort of fell into it. I was teaching 9th grade English while my husband was in law school at University of Alabama in the mid-1970s. Since I rarely saw him in the evenings, I started flipping through the University catalog looking for advanced degree programs and read about the MLS program, which sounded interesting.

When did you get your MLS degree?
I received my Masters of Library Service (MLS) from the University of Alabama in 1975, which was the year they received their ALA accreditation (making them the 50th ALA accredited program in North America). I was also selected by the faculty to receive the Dean Hoole award for excellence.

What was your first job in a library?
I volunteered throughout middle school and again as an adult. We moved to Destin in 1979 and I was asked to be Destin’s librarian in 1980. This was a volunteer position, as there were no paid staff until a few years later, and that was a paraprofessional position. I resigned when my youngest child was born as he needed my undivided attention. The City of Destin took the library on as a department in 1989, and it was not until 1999 that I came on board as the Library director.

What were the facilities, staffing, and services at the Destin Library like when you became its director?
With the exception of two paid staff (our cataloger and an administrative assistant) we still depended greatly on volunteers to run the front desk, shelve books, etc. The library was located on Stahlman Avenue in what is now the Destin Fishing and History Museum. Nothing was automated and there was a door connecting to a Thrift Shop which supplemented the library budget.

I immediately threw myself into straightening up and updating everything. I had marvelous staff and volunteers who made the transformation possible. We closed the thrift shop and expanded into the space with a reference section. We got internet access and some computers for the public to use. It was a steep learning curve for me, as I was a novice Windows 95 user at this time.

My first day as Library Director, April 27, 1999, I had to attend an evening City Council meeting, during which I persuaded the council to reverse themselves on their decision to not join the two year old library cooperative. Council had done so at the previous director’s request, as he was afraid all of our books would end up at other libraries and our shelves would be stripped bare. The Council readily saw the wisdom of shared collections and cash flowing into City coffers from the County in return for this cooperation.

Our next blessing arrived on the library’s doorstep one fine May morning in 1999 when Bill Conniff, the director of PLAN then, showed up offering to pay for our retrospective conversion. I was dumbfounded and accepted the offer. With lots of volunteer help, we wrote the ISBN numbers of 40,000 volumes onto their respective shelf list cards and shipped the whole shelf list to Autographics in California. Several months later our barcodes came in and were applied by enterprising staff and volunteers.

What is the library like now regarding facilities, staffing, and services?
We are always trying to keep abreast of trending emerging technologies and changing patron needs. We were able to use library impact fees to carve out space for two small study rooms and a digital media lab. Thanks to PLAN innovation grants, we have managed to equip our lab with state of the art equipment and software. For a fairly compact facility (13,327 square feet) we have utilized our space very efficiently. Staffing has remained steady at 7.25 FTE’s. This is adequate in terms of numbers, but it is time to consider some re-organization of job titles and duties.

What notable accomplishments during your years at the Destin library would you like to tell about?
Working with the architects at DAG in the design of this building was a most gratifying experience. I was able to choose colors, finishes, fabrics, etc. as well as having input into the space allocation. Even 15 years after we opened, the pleasant feeling of working in these environs has not worn off. The live oaks on our grounds add to the entire experience, as do the bronze statues purchased by our Friends Guild.

Tell us about mentoring and training your staff:
I come from a family which places value on education and culture above monetary gain, so I have always encouraged staff to attend PLAN workshops and webinars. OCPLC, our cooperative, also has annual continuing education days and scholarships to assist in conference attendance.

You have been a very effective advocate for your library over the years. How did you accomplish this? 
I have never hesitated to contact our local legislators in person and discuss the impact libraries have in our communities. There have been three legislators who know me and with whom I feel comfortable having very direct conversations, like:  Senator Charlie Clary, Senator Don Gaetz, and Representative Matt Gaetz. Now that Matt Gaetz is in Washington, I have asked him to make sure that IMLS is fully funded, so that we can get the trickle down money we Florida libraries depend on. I am also confident I helped the multi-type cooperatives maintain a decent level of funding in most fiscal years. This was based on mutual trust and my imparting key information to the legislators as well as inviting them to our PLAN Annual meetings.

How did you demonstrate the value of your library to your funding agencies?
By telling them what we are doing, what we can do for them before asking for more money.

What advice do you have for new/young library directors regarding…

…approaching government officials about funding for the library?
Everyone has a different style, so stay with a comfortable elevator speech, and be ready to answer tougher questions if asked.

…working with town/city officials?
Keep in mind that almost everyone has a warm and fuzzy memory of their childhood library and reading. Our job is to build on that feeling while informing them of what we really do in libraries nowadays.

…working with library boards and friends groups?
They are there to help, so use that good will, and thank them often for all they do.

How did you attract and keep good staff?
Keeping part time staff is difficult unless they have no need of benefits, and have another means of support. All too often part-time staff are looking at full-time positions. We use a team approach in hiring interviews that seems to work most of the time. If only we had a crystal ball…. I also try to assign non-routine tasks and projects to everyone so that they do not get bored and burn out.

How do you stay up to date, and keep your staff up to date, with new technology and trends in librarianship?
PLAN helps us more than any other single source. I also subscribe to (and read) Computers in Libraries, Library Journal, Public Library Journal, and American Libraries.

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ACRL Council’s Midwinter Discussion of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity

ACRL LogoGuest post by Michelle Demeter, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Services at Florida State University Libraries

This weekend the release of Black Panther smashed a number of records for attendance and revenue.[1] Considering the film’s impactful story and characters, many people in the media and across social media hailed its introduction as the beginning of a much-needed cultural and social sea change. There are numerous studies documenting the importance of films offering characters that people can identify with and how they can impact how people think and act.

Walt Hickey, a writer for fivethirtyeight, offers a unique look at one character, Shuri, who especially redefines what representation in film can accomplish.[2] Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, is a strong black woman who is not only a princess but a technological phenom who develops tech that outclasses anything the West has even dared to imagine let alone actually create. Hickey cites several other films that positively impacted the STEM fields, noting the rise in archeologists, paleontologists, and engineers following the release of Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Star Trek. Perhaps the only thing more astonishing than the success of Black Panther and its resoundingly positive reception is the fact it has taken the film industry this long to get it right. Similar criticism was levied when Wonder Woman hit theaters in Summer 2017.

So what does this all have to do with libraries? As it turns out, quite a lot.

While libraries position themselves as neutral and inclusive, there are several reports that would contradict this narrative. Library staffing is still predominantly white, and several initiatives have been launched by the American Library Association (ALA) and recently the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) to address the discrepancies in our own profession.[3] At 2018 Midwinter, ACRL Leadership Council spent about half of its meeting discussing the current landscape of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in academic libraries.

Key in these discussions was a worksheet that included the following questions:

  • What are the EDI initiatives being implemented at your libraries (e.g., policies, collection development, teaching approaches, etc.)
  • What campus-level EDI initiatives are in place at your institutions, and how have they affected your libraries?
  • What are any library or campus-level incidents of EDI-related intimidation or harassment that have occurred at your institutions, and how have these incidents affected the library?

These three questions allowed for some very intense and honest discussions at my table. We all talked about how gender, age, race, religion, and sexual orientation have been issues at our libraries and the campuses at large. Many of us, all women but only two women of color, discussed personal experiences with outright contradictions of EDI or microaggressions in one or more of the above categories, and it became obvious we have problems despite our best efforts.

During the course of our discussion, honesty, trust, and safety emerged as common concerns. We all felt it was important to be honest with one another and our administrators, but most of us felt that was impossible as we did not feel it was safe to do so. Several woman at my table voiced concerns about how to best help coworkers understand how some well-intentioned actions or words may have prevented women and people of color from speaking their minds. Many feared being labeled as “touchy,” or “angry,” or “motivated by emotions.” Others worried they would be seen as less able to be a leader. While I listened to my peers, I became conflicted because I have felt the same way many times and I was both glad I was not alone in the experience but saddened because it was such a prevalent occurrence and seems to be continuing despite our best efforts.

However, at one point while discussing age-related microaggressions, one woman recognized something she said to a coworker and was astonished to hear that it may have offended her coworker. She expressed genuine regret and vowed to be more careful, even if making what she thought was a joke. Because we established a safe environment of honesty and trust earlier in the meeting, we all felt empowered to say things we may have otherwise shied from. This is the type of open dialogue we need to help foster and promote in our libraries, both among our coworkers and the patrons we serve.

Despite this misleadingly simple answer, the main question that remains is how do we continue to affect real change and try to address the issues at our institutions? Certainly libraries are moving in the right direction by offering changes in hiring practices where we make statements on diversity, equity, and inclusion part of the application, and ask applicants to provide their own statements in addition to answering EDI questions during the interviews. HR-led trainings were another lauded option.

Two of the most-cited initiatives were the creation of library-led diversity teams and diversity residency positions, two directives my institution of Florida State University recently began. We recently opened three librarian positions and are expecting to have them filled and running by this summer. And not to be contrarian because these initiatives are all helpful in their own way, but what would it take to get the profession to the point where these sorts of actions are unnecessary because they are a natural part of our professional lives?

It is heartening that ACRL is interested in what it can do to help move the needle on the conversation and actual change. Many suggestions were given including ACRL-led trainings, web tools, and documents to help librarians learn and grow as individuals. It is encouraging that ACRL led this discussion, and it was evident that each table was equally interested in actionable outcomes as they listed further ways to improve hiring practices, collection building, and coworker/patron interactions. Once the ideas are worked out, I am optimistic that we will see the changes in equity, diversity, and inclusion that many in the library profession have been waiting so long to experience.

[1] Scott Mendelson, “‘Black Panther’: All the Box Office Records It broke and Almost broke in its $235 million Debut,” Forbes, accessed 2/20/18 at

[2] Walt Hickey, “‘Black Panther’ Is Groundbreaking but Its Shuri Who Could Change the World” accessed 2/20/2018 at

[3] ALA, “Recruiting for Diversity” accessed 2/20/2018 at ALA, “Diversity Counts,” accessed 2/20/2018 at and its main page regarding Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at


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Linda’s Bookbag for a New Year!

Hello everyone,

Target with arrows captioned goal settingHere we are, early in a brand-new year. The most-commonly spoken word at this time of year may very well be the word “resolution,” the definition of which is “a firm resolve to do or not do something.” Considering that very generic explanation, there are days that I tend to make resolutions several times in one day 😊.

So I tend to avoid that word and would rather focus on the word “goal,” “an aim or desired result.” And since we have a 2-part webinar series coming up titled, “Ready, Set, Goal!” (February 16 and February 23), I wanted to talk about how our behavioral tendencies (or personalities) can affect our desire to set goals and our motivation to work toward them.

Many of you know that I present workshops on behavioral tendencies based on the Florence Littauer book and assessment titled, “Wired That Way.” Other words that are sometimes used to describe our behavioral tendencies are “personalities” or “temperaments.” Whatever word you choose to describe how differently we move through the world as individuals, I think we can all agree that our innate behaviors are tendencies and not etched in stone. That means there’s hope for any of those less-desirable tendencies we might have!

So let’s look at some of our differences when it comes to setting goals and why that process can be challenging for each of the styles.

The “popular” behavioral tendency, that person who loves people and fun, may struggle a bit with goal-setting, unless the goal is to have fun 😊. More serious goals can put a damper on living life to its fullest for these folks. They may need to have a very specific step-by-step process to achieve goals and may find it easier to tackle those goals in chunks, which is actually helpful for many of us.

The “powerful” behavioral tendency, that person who is ALL about the goal, may become a bit obsessed with achieving goals, competing, or simply getting it done! They can sometimes choose chasing goals in lieu of actually living life. Unlike other styles, powerfuls may need to step back from the pursuit of goals from time to time to stop and smell the roses.

The “perfect” behavioral tendency, the person who wants to make sure everything is, well…perfect, can sometimes get tunnel vision and not even realize there is an end goal in play. It’s all about the specifics, the logistics, the details – so much so, that progress toward the goal can be painfully slow or even worse, non-existent. The perfects among us may need to realize that a goal achieved is progress and we all need progress, not necessarily perfection.

The “peaceful” behavioral tendency, the person who likes things consistent, nice and easy, and a steady routine, can struggle with even finding a reason we should set goals. Why make life so challenging when the important things eventually – usually! – get done. The peacefuls may need to realize their own goals are often connected to the goals of others – and not accomplishing their goals can affect whether others are able to do so.

As you can see, setting goals and achieving those goals can be challenging to every one of us. That’s why you’ll want to register for that upcoming webinar series I mentioned earlier (Part 1 and Part 2). As a matter of fact, why not make that your resolution for today? 😊 Hope to see you there!

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A New Year – A Better Way of Evaluating the Impact of Our Training Programs

Happy 2018! The beginning of a new year offers us the opportunity to begin anew by examining the past and making plans for changes in the days, weeks and months to come.  What a gift for us as individuals and organizations.

In November of 2017, I completed an extensive three-day training course by the Kirkpatrick Partners on the 4 Levels of Training Evaluation. For many years, the Kirkpatrick family (Father, Son and Daughter) have been challenging the training world to “go deeper” in our evaluation processes, and in-turn to reap the rewards of training as a process, versus training as an event…a one day or hour and done experience.

In their book The Four Levels of Training Evaluation, they detail the four levels of evaluation as:

Level One: Reaction (Did they like the training/trainer/room/food)

Level Two: Learning (What did they learn? Were the training materials relevant/useful?

Level Three: Behavior (Applying what they learned)

Level Four: Results (How did the behavior change affect the business)

Most training programs evaluate their results at Level One and Level Two, partially because those levels are the easiest to measure, and because many organizations see training as an “event”, and not as a process that will go on months after the training day.

The problem with not “digging deeper” as the Kirkpatrick’s encourage us to do, is that we truly do not know that impact of our training dollars, time and resources. We can feel proud that “x” amount of people attended our training and that they had a good experience. We can also point to pre and post test results and surveys to measure what they attendees learned.

But, so what? Did they apply what the learned? Did their behavior change? Did the behavior change lead to the desired results? (Goals achieved…etc?)

In a program that I co-presented with Terry McQuown from the King County Public Library at ALA and the Washington Library Association Conference in 2017 titled “Making Training Stick for Supervisors”, we discussed the impact that the supervisor can have in application of the information learned, and taking our training evaluation to Level 3 and beyond. I recommend that you listen to the webinar that Terry and I recently presented for Infopeople to learn more:
Here is the link to the webinar

As you get ready to launch your next training program, I hope you will give the planning of the evaluation of your training as much time and thought as you give to the training itself.

Find ways to change your organizational thinking about what training is and isn’t. Training should not be a one and done event…instead, it should be viewed as a process. And training is definitely NOT about Level 1 (Reaction) and Level 2 (Learning) results. How will you evaluate your training based on Application and Behavior Change? How will you measure what is really important, and not what just looks good and is easy to measure?

If you have any questions about the Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels Model, please email me at I’m happy to share the knowledge I have learned and am continuing to learn as I consult with libraries and other organizations on getting more bang for our training dollars. And do use the link above for our archived webinar. You just might find yourself thinking about training evaluation in a new way — for the new year.

Note: Be sure to join Andrew’s upcoming webinar “Effective Workplace Communication Skills for New(er) Supervisors and Managers” on February 2nd at 10:00 Central Time. For more information and to register, follow this link…

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Returning to Linda’s Bookbag – Happy Thanksgiving!

GratitudeHello everyone,

As I was thinking about sharing my bookbag with you this month, I realized that some of the things in my bookbag aren’t really books.

I read dozens of books a year and I add to my reading through a host of magazine subscriptions such as American Libraries, Chief Learning Officer, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today, and one of my favorites for “living life,” SUCCESS Magazine.

When I first saw an issue of SUCCESS several years ago, I will admit my cynicism. I concluded that it must be about how to become a millionaire by the age of 25 or some such fantasy. And although the magazine does sometimes speak to the idea of managing finances or growing a business, what I found interesting then and still find very helpful are the many articles on topics ranging from leadership skills to networking to decision making, to expressing gratitude for each day, which I think we can all relate to, especially at this time of year.

To give you an idea of the breadth of topics, a recent article was titled, “Would Today Be a Good Day to Die?” Sounds rather macabre, eh? Actually, it was written to encourage readers to think about how they move through each day – and how, at the end of the day, they would answer that question. If life must end, and we know it does for all of us, will I be able to look back at that specific day and know that I lived it well? Did I help someone learn something new? Did I simply help someone? Did I do something to encourage my own growth? Did I play with my kitties and throw toys for my dog? Did I enjoy the beautiful Florida weather? Did I notice how blue the sky is or how the birds at the feeder are sharing nicely? Did I take time to reflect on fond memories of those who are no longer with me?

Obviously, we all suffer from “blah” days now and then. Sometimes we even suffer from very bad days! The key is to recognize whether those types of days are the exception or the rule. If the blah or bad days are the rule, perhaps we need to find ways to lessen their frequency.

Although I strive to make most of my days great days, I decided to begin a simple gratitude list rather than a journal. I already use a journal for other writing and I didn’t want this to become another thing on my “to-do” list. Instead, I begin each day by writing at least one thing I’m thankful for – sometimes two or three or more. I actually number them to remind myself of what I have to be thankful for. Even though I only started a few months ago, my list is already close to 500! I amuse myself when I look back and see something I’ve recorded more than once without realizing it – my fuzzy blanket, for instance 😊. Sometimes those duplicates come within days of each other, which seems to indicate that I am particularly thankful for those particular items, since I don’t even realize I already recorded them!

I just jot down a word or phrase that describes what I’m thankful for that day. Sometimes it’s a person’s name. It could be hot water in the shower, an email to let me know someone is thinking of me, a kitty asleep on my lap (when they aren’t asleep, I’m not always so thankful, lol), a new booking I received to conduct training for someone – and a hundred other things if I just pay attention.

This ritual, for me, accomplishes two things: it requires me to look for things I’m thankful for every single day AND it allows me to look back and remind myself that I do indeed have much to be thankful for.

So…what are you thankful for? Was today a day well lived?

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5 Reasons to Eliminate Overdue Fines in Your Library

Over the past year or so, I’ve seen numerous reports of libraries who have eliminated their overdue fines. The more I hear about it, the more I am in favor of libraries eliminating overdue fines. There are several excellent reasons you should consider eliminating overdue fines in your library:

  • Do it for the children! Children and teens are probably the population most affected by the inability to check out materials due to the accrual of overdue fines. It can be difficult for them to get to the library on their own, and they have no control over whether their parents bring them to the library in time to return books.
  • Eliminate some stress for your frontline staff. We’ve probably all experienced the feeling of dread of having to tell a patron that they owe overdue fines on their account. Especially a problem patron, who will argue that they returned the materials on time, they put them in the book drop while we were closed, how dare we charge him when he returned them on time… all while the line at the circulation desk grows longer and longer. (How much am I getting paid for this? Oh, right. Not enough.)
  • Free up staff time. Collecting overdue fines can take up a nice chunk of staff time. Not only is there the interaction with the patron (especially the ones who argue about the fines), but the staff member also has to mark the fine paid in the ILS system, print the receipt, possibly ring up the fine on a cash register, and make change for the patron.
  • Foster goodwill in the community. We want the community to feel good about the library, not to have horror stories of unpaid overdue fines, collection notices, and disapproving librarians. We want people to feel welcome, not fear that they are going to be called out because they owe us 30 cents.
  • Libraries are about providing, not restricting, access. The American Library Association issued a policy statement on Library Services to the Poor, which states, in part, that ALA is in favor of “Promoting the removal of all barriers to library and information services, particularly fees and overdue charges.” ( Many times, overdue fines prevent access to those patrons who need it the most.

Yes, but…

I hear some of you saying, “But we’ve always had overdue fines!” “How will I replace that money in my budget?” “Won’t this teach people to be irresponsible?”

As far as your budget goes, figure out how much is actually overdue fines (not replacement materials). Many libraries find that it’s less than 1% of a library budget. Maybe you can make up that money in other ways. Perhaps your Friends group or your Foundation would be willing to host an annual fundraiser to make up that money. Maybe a group of local businesses would be willing to offset the overdue fines in return for good press. You could also place a donation jar on the circulation desk that says, “Since we eliminated overdue fines, we are requesting donations to make up the loss.”

As far as enabling people to be irresponsible, I ask this: Are we the morality police? Is there anything in your library’s mission statement or the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights that says we must teach people how to behave responsibly? (I looked – and there isn’t.)

I’m not suggesting that libraries not charge for “lost” items. Sending a notice two to three weeks after the due date for the replacement cost will ensure that most patrons will bring those materials back, stat. When the High Plains Library District in Colorado eliminated their overdue fines, they found that 95% of materials were returned within a week of their due date. (Long Overdue, Ruth Graham, 02/06/2017).

Not ready to take the plunge?

Consider a pilot program. Test it out and see what happens. Or start with eliminating fines for children and young adult materials. You could also consider charging overdue fines, but not blocking a card for owing fines. In this case, you would only block cards of patrons who have not returned materials.

What do you think? Has anyone tried it? Anyone willing?

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What do Customers Really Want??

We’re going to take a break from Linda’s Bookbag to discuss an upcoming webinar topic.

The discussion of customers and what we can do to really impress them with our service is what might be called an “evergreen” topic – it never dies!

Just when we think we have all the bells and whistles they might want in materials, programming, databases, and even technology (if that’s ever possible!), they still don’t seem to be what we might call “delighted” with our service. Why is that?

Let’s take a moment to think about what’s going on in our world. As hard as organizations work to figure out what you might like, much of that attempt has become automated by technology. Have you ever searched Google only to have something pop up that you looked at the day before? Maybe even asking if you are sure you don’t want it? It’s almost scary, isn’t it? Although I’m sure Google thought they made my day by wishing me a happy birthday last year (complete with dancing cupcakes!), it really felt almost creepy.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want someone looking over my shoulder and invading my space through technology when I am simply going about my business. So, from my perspective at least, I don’t think the latest and greatest in programs and/or technology is the be-all and end-all of making customers very happy with our service. Do we need dynamic, ever-changing programming? Sure. Do we need to stay up-to-date with the latest technology as much as possible? Of course.

Instead of expending all our energy in those areas, though, maybe there are other areas we can look at to see if we are really pleasing our customers as much as we think we are.

Let me give you a personal example. Some of you know that my husband passed away in March of this year after 10 years of health issues which had escalated over the past 3 years. Just before he went to the hospital for a minor surgery, I picked up a routine prescription that he would need when he got home. Sadly, he never made it home. In my frantic effort to gain some control over my life during that awful time, a few days after his death, I took the prescription back to my pharmacy – Publix. I was certain they wouldn’t be able to take it back and sure enough, the pharmacy tech informed me that wasn’t permitted through their system. She asked the pharmacist and he agreed. They were not permitted to accept the drugs back. Now…here’s where the “delight your customer” attitude comes in. The pharmacist expressed his condolences and told me they would give me full credit, even though they couldn’t accept the drugs. The other pharmacist on duty came from behind the counter to give me a hug. Wow. It was “only” $47, but $47, especially in those circumstances, can seem like a lot of money going down the drain. But they gave me that $47 back. Could they afford it? Yep. They probably do $47 in business every minute! Did they have to do that? Nope. Do you think I will ever get prescriptions through any other pharmacy if I can help it? No, I surely will not.

Okay, so that’s a pretty dramatic example of exceptional customer service. But let’s look at life through the lens of your patrons.

What “stuff” are they bringing with them when they enter your library? Personal health issues? Relationship problems? Financial problems? An argument with the teenage child? Too many obligations? A negative customer service experience with some other entity in the past 24 hours? As we all know, those kinds of experiences are all too common these days!

If you think about it, the chances of them having had an exceptionally good customer experience in the recent past – with anyone – is fairly small these days. At least that’s the way it feels to a lot of people I speak with as I travel in my work.

So, what can we do to delight our customers in our current “customer-centric” culture? That’s just what we’ll talk about in our upcoming webinar on Thursday, September 14, 2 p.m. CT. Register now!

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What’s in Linda’s Bookbag?

Those of you who’ve met me or attended any of my training sessions know that I love to learn. And of course, one of the best ways to learn (besides attending training, of course!) is to read. I don’t often have an opportunity to attend training sessions unless I’m presenting them, but I do love to read. Imagine that!

The term “personal development” sometimes gets a bad rap these days, but if you think about it, those of us who help others learn in any context are really helping with their personal development, aren’t we?

In light of that, in my PLAN blog posts, I’d like to share some of the tools that have helped me in my own personal – and professional – development.

One book that quickly comes to mind is Continue reading “What’s in Linda’s Bookbag?”

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