Library Leadership

How to Engage Entry-Level Workers

Are you among those who started out in libraries accidentally? Many of us first discover librarianship through entry-level work only to find it is the perfect long-term career choice. That was certainly the case for Anthony Morris who we talk to on this episode of Library Leadership Podcast. Anthony published an article in the May/June 2018 edition of Public Libraries Magazine called, “Many Hands Make for Better Work: Enhancing the Library with Entry-Level Workers.” He shares ways that libraries can engage entry-level workers to utilize their unique talents while bringing great benefits to our organizations. By listening, you will discover win-win ways to engage a person in library work that develops their passions and interests, while celebrating how many hands can lighten the work to make our libraries a success.

Full Transcript:

Narrator:                      00:00               This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created, with program sites in Kansas, Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and South Dakota, and by the Park City Library, making film and podcasting possible with green screen and sound recording resources.

New Speaker:               00:30               Are you among those who started out in libraries accidentally? Many of us first discover librarianship through entry-level work, only to find it is the perfect long-term career choice. I know that was the case for me, and that certainly was the case for Anthony Morris, who we talked to on this episode of Library Leadership podcast.
Adriane:                       00:49               Anthony published an article in the May/June 2018 edition of Public Libraries magazine called “Many Hands Make for Better Work: Enhancing the Library with Entry-Level Workers.” He shares ways that libraries can engage entry-level workers to utilize their unique talents, while bringing great benefits to our organizations.

Adriane:                       01:10               By listening, you will discover win-win ways to engage a person in library work that develops their passions and interests, while celebrating how many hands can lighten the work to make our libraries a success. Today, we’re here with Anthony Morris from the UVU Library. Welcome Anthony.

Anthony Morris:           01:35               Hello Adriane. Thank you.

Adriane:                       01:36               It’s so great to have you here.

Anthony Morris:           01:38               I’m really excited to be here.

Adriane:                       01:39               Well, you have a recent article in Public Libraries magazine, and folks can find that in the May/June 2018 issue, and it’s called “Many Hands Make for Better Work,” and today we’re going to talk about enhancing the library with entry-level workers. Well, thanks for writing the article.

Adriane:                       01:56               One thing that fascinated me about this is I started out as a page in a library, a public library, many years ago. I did not plan to be a librarian, and yet, here I am. I talked to so many leaders who find themselves in that same position. So, entry-level work in libraries is very important, and sometimes we bring people into the field through this kind of work.

Anthony Morris:           02:15               Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s a big deal.

Anthony Morris:           02:16               My story is actually very similar. One of my very first jobs was working at a public library as a page and as a clerk. So, doing a lot of the things like shelving the books, checking them in, looking for damage, shelf- reading the shelf, some of those very basic jobs that we get done, I did that for quite a while.

Anthony Morris:           02:35               Later on, when I was in college, I actually worked for a vendor called Backstage Library works. I was in the meta-data department, so I got to do cataloging, work with records and books. And with that first job in public libraries, and even with that second job in library vendor, I still didn’t know I wanted to be a librarian yet, which is kind of funny.

Adriane:                       02:59               Right, right. This happens.

Anthony Morris:           02:59               Yeah.

Anthony Morris:           02:59               I was in college, and just more and more loving the academic experience, and thinking to myself, “I love this environment. I love being around adult learners. Do I want to be a professor?” and I was looking kind of in that direction. And some things that weren’t the right fit for me were weighing more and more heavily on my mind. And so, I’m asking myself, “Well, what do I do? I like this environment, but I’m not sure.”

Anthony Morris:           03:23               And I had a friend, who kind of nudged me, and said, “Hey Anthony, haven’t you been working for libraries for several years now in one way or another?” And it’s, like, the light bulb went off in my head, “I have, and there’s libraries in universities, and I love being in there.”

Anthony Morris:           03:41               So, that was kind of my way into it, where I did not intend to be, but since it was such a perfect place for me, it pulled me in. And I think I see that in a lot of our students too.

Adriane:                       03:51               Right. So, let’s talk about that.

Adriane:                       03:53               So, first of all, tell us a little bit about your library. You are at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.

Anthony Morris:           04:00               Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s right.

Anthony Morris:           04:02               So, I work at the Fulton Library. That’s UVU’s main library. It actually only just got its name a couple of years ago. And Fulton Library’s history somewhat follows UVU Library’s history, where UVU started as a very small technical college, but has just been growing, and growing, and growing. I was talking to some other librarians earlier this week, and they’ve seen some of the preliminary numbers for number of students registered at UVU, and it might top 40, 000 this semester, which is a huge, huge number, something we’re still trying to grapple with.

Anthony Morris:           04:36               And so, Fulton Library’s kind of followed that same pattern, where we started as a library that fit very well for a small technical college, and now we need to be a library for a university, which naturally has some growing pains, but it also gives us just so many exciting opportunities. Almost every year, every semester, we have something new we get to do, something new to look forward to.

Anthony Morris:           04:59               And for this article specifically, I started at UVU almost four years ago now, and when I started … I’m the head of the technical services department, so I manage a lot of the physical aspects of our books that go on in the back room. I’m receiving them when they come from vendors, cataloging them, processing them, getting them ready for the shelf, basically.

Anthony Morris:           05:22               And when I started, we didn’t have any students working with us regularly. I’ve been told by other staff that they had in the past, but just the way things were arranged … Right now, I had my staff doing all the pieces of the work.

Anthony Morris:           05:36               In another department, there were many, many student workers. In circulation, they were helping with a lot of the things I got to do as a page at a public library, things like shelving the books, managing desks, processing items, a lot of those basic tasks.

Anthony Morris:           05:52               And since we were a growing library, our director got several of the librarians together, and started asking some of those questions about, like, “Do all these tasks fit in circulation? Some of them look more like technical services. Some of them look more like patron services.” So, as we looked at that, it really started making more sense to move some of those tasks, and then to also move students who could work on those tasks, into my department.

Adriane:                       06:19               Wow.

Adriane:                       06:19               So, in your article, you talk about structuring the needs for your department, which is great. We want our work to be meaningful for entry-level people. I mean, you’re lucky, you’re in a university setting, where you get a new group of students every semester; not all libraries are quite that fortunate. Some of us have volunteers, some of us have new people on-boarding in some of our shelving tasks like my cataloging department in my public library.

Adriane:                       06:45               So, how can a library structure the needs of its department to both work for the entry-level worker, and what we need in libraries?

Anthony Morris:           06:55               I think one important thing to do, is to really take a careful look at the tasks your departments are doing, and ask whether a student, or that entry-level position, what parts they could do really comfortably.

Anthony Morris:           07:10               I think before we split the students into multiple departments, we were making some assumptions about some of the more basic, mundane things they could definitely do, but maybe they didn’t have the skills, or the time, or the attention to do some of the more detailed tasks. And I just don’t think that’s really true.

Anthony Morris:           07:28               Our students, our entry-level workers are often people who have very varied interests, have a lot of different skills, and I think we really need to harness those. There have definitely been some surprises as we’ve brought students into different departments, where their perspective is especially useful.

Adriane:                       07:48               Definitely. People bring broad and varied interests that help us all.

Anthony Morris:           07:52               Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anthony Morris:           07:53               One more general thing that I think we didn’t intend, but was a lovely surprise, is that when we, say, brought students into a more back room department, someone who doesn’t get to see students a lot, that perspective of someone who’s closer to our patron experience, looking at what we do, and asking questions, “Well, well why do you do it like that? Why does it work like this? Why are you making it look like this?”

Anthony Morris:           08:18               And a lot of our answers were sometimes, “Well, we thought that’s what patrons liked best.” And they’re saying, “No, that doesn’t make sense. Why don’t you do it like this? Why don’t we try it a different way?”

Anthony Morris:           08:28               And so, just kind of that closer-to-patron experience brought into the other departments can really help show us their needs in a way that I don’t think we saw before.

Adriane:                       08:39               Sure. They’re closer. They’re the ones out there, oftentimes coming into our library, seeing what we’re doing, bringing that perspective into us, and then asking the important questions about, “Does it need to be done this way? Have you thought of this?” which is amazing. It’s great and healthy for our organizations, so I love that.

Anthony Morris:           08:54               Exactly.

Anthony Morris:           08:54               And I think sometimes, as a librarian, we forget what it’s like to be a patron, walking into a library for the first time, or hearing these words like “reference desk,” or “circulation,” or “catalog” that mean a lot of things to us, but to a patron, or a student who doesn’t spend a lot of time in the library, that can be really disorienting. So, getting some of those voices into all the spaces in our library has really helped us be more precise about how to help them.

Adriane:                       09:24               Excellent.

Adriane:                       09:24               So, what do you have these folks doing in your department, and how did you structure that work?

Adriane:                       09:29               Let’s say, somebody’s thinking about doing this in their library. Did you have some structured outlines of what people could work on? Did that develop over time? Can you kind of give me an inside view of what it was like to put this together?

Anthony Morris:           09:43               Absolutely.

Anthony Morris:           09:43               So, as we looked at different structures we could work with … all my staff … I have someone doing receiving, a lot of paperwork, purchasing things. I have a couple of catalogers doing the heavy-duty cataloging. I have someone doing the processing work, so the physical things, labels, covers, those kinds of things. And one person doing serials work, so a lot of those same things, but for our magazines, our periodicals, those kinds of things.

Anthony Morris:           10:10               And they all had some student needs, but they didn’t necessarily have consistent student needs. Sometimes they’d have a big project that they’d need a lot of help on, and other times, they wouldn’t have hardly any. So, looking at that, we tried to go with a flexible setup, where I hire the students directly, and I manage them among my staff. So, when I hire a student, I let them know the expectation is: they will be working with at least a few different staff, they’ll have some different jobs over the course of any given week.

Anthony Morris:           10:42               I have a calendar I set up, where I say, “Hey, on Mondays from this time, you’re going to be working in receiving. And then on Tuesdays, you’re going to be working on projects and cataloging.” That kind of flexibility has worked really well for my department, where they can kind of go to where the needs are greatest.

Anthony Morris:           10:59               And I think that’s also more interesting for the students too, where they are not spending all their time on one task, but they get a little more variety, they get to see a little more of what working in the library is like.

Adriane:                       11:12               Sure. And that seems so important.

Adriane:                       11:14               It’s interesting. I was talking to one of my clerks this morning, as a matter of fact, and she just got a new opportunity, so she’s actually leaving the library, but she said, “You know, I am now an ambassador for the library. I didn’t know what went on behind the scenes. I was new to a library. I got to see these various aspects of library work. It’s not just magic; somebody doesn’t wave a wand, and all of these books hit the shelving.” She said, “So, when I go out, I’m talking to people. I’m excited about the library. I’m telling them about all the amazing programs, and things that go in to making something that is a product for them, that they can come and use for free,” in the case of public library.

Adriane:                       11:49               So, I love that the varied work, the things they get involved with, whether they turn into librarians, like you and I did, or whether they move on to other things, they’ve got an amazing, broad picture of what’s happening in the library, which is so useful.

Anthony Morris:           12:03               And I really love to try and let the students explore to see what they’re most interested in. One example that comes to mind: I have a student who has been getting an elementary education degree. And kind of similar to a story like mine: she’s not sure if that’s the right fit, so she’s asked me whether she can do an internship with some of our children’s collection. She wants to know what setting up a children’s display looks like, and to really get familiar with some of those children’s books.

Anthony Morris:           12:33               And as she and I were talking about it, I said, “Hey, well, one thing I know our library would really profit from is there are many, many different children’s book awards, yeah? The Newberry, the Caldecott, all those things. We haven’t necessarily been consistent in recording what awards they got in the record, nor making sure that we have the complete list,” which is something we need because I know for our elementary education students, sometimes they have to read a certain number of award-winning books in a semester for a class.

Anthony Morris:           13:05               And that was kind of a delightful experience to me because the student turns to me, and says, “Yes, I actually have a passion for this. I know several of these awards, and I keep a list on my own.” She even named some awards that I hadn’t heard of as a librarian, and said, “These are specialty for this group.” And so, she’s going to bring that expertise in for me that, like, none of the librarians necessarily had on our own.

Anthony Morris:           13:31               So, she wins. She gets to explore the idea of being a librarian a little bit, and see if that’s right for her. And then, we win too because we are going to have a better collection by the time she finishes this internship.

Adriane:                       13:45               Oh, I love that. And I bet your librarians have all kinds of great stories about how they now appreciate what this can bring to your university.

Anthony Morris:           13:53               Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Absolutely.

Anthony Morris:           13:55               Another fun example is sometimes the students that are working for us will turn to us, and say, “Well, what do you librarians actually do?” We might mention how we teach classes. We help with information literacy.

Anthony Morris:           14:09               And they’ll pause, and say, “Well, I think my class needs that. Could I talk to my professor?” And we’re, like, “Absolutely. Yes. Please do.” At which point, we might get to set up an instruction session, make a connection with a faculty, or even just with a few more students to get them what they need.

Adriane:                       14:29               Incredible. So many positives come out of this kind of work, and I would encourage everybody to look at their libraries, and see where this kind of work can be done. It just brings so much to everyone.

Adriane:                       14:40               In doing this, it shows real leadership. You had to look at your organization. You had to decide what work would be relevant to both the entry-level workers, and to the organization. I wonder, Anthony, do you have any models that you use, or leadership books that guide you in your leadership principles?

Anthony Morris:           14:59               Well, I do have a leadership book I want to recommend. This is one I was actually in a book club with.

Anthony Morris:           15:05               One of the things I get to do at UVU is I get to collect for the religion collection. That’s one of my subject specialties. So, I was recently in a interfaith book club, and we had a book called Interfaith Leadership: A Primer. The author is Eboo Patel, who is the founder of Interfaith Youth Core. And what his book is on is how you can become an effective leader in interfaith groups, which was interesting experience for me.

Anthony Morris:           15:32               As a librarian, I have thought a lot about, “How do I bring certain minority groups into the library?” That’s something we really want to do. I hadn’t necessarily thought about it as a religious aspect, religious minorities. And sometimes, when we’re in public institutions, we kind of shy away from religion. That’s not something we, not just not want to take a stance on, but don’t want to touch.

Anthony Morris:           15:55               And so, this was a book that was really good about bringing to mind how we can help include religious minorities, what are ways to be really respectful towards them, to be mindful of their needs. And then, for me, as a librarian, some ideas that … How can I improve our collection? How can I lead in a mindful way so that our library has some of those interfaith connections that I would really like to see grown?

Adriane:                       16:22               That’s fantastic. Bringing a lot of perspectives, both in your collection and in people you work with, and in this program, I’m sure. That’s wonderful. Is there anything else you want to share with us?

Anthony Morris:           16:32               This is an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while. I got to attend a few workshops about mentorship, which … I think mentorship is an idea we’ve been talking about for this whole podcast. How do you take people who have an idea or an interest, how do you take that and help them grow it?

Anthony Morris:           16:50               And as I’ve been thinking about that, and thinking about having become a leader, not necessarily intending to be, that sometimes when we talk about leaders, we talk about the most negative aspects, the hardest parts, or the parts that are most stressful to us, but I’ve really been enjoying celebrating, lately, how good it can feel to help people do the things they want to, that part of being a leader is to help them grow in the ways they’re most interested in growing.

Anthony Morris:           17:18               To get to be a mentor, in some ways, but also a mentee. There’s a lot I can learn from our students. There’s a lot I could learn from other leaders in my library. And, in turn, there’s maybe some things I can show them too, and that’s just a fantastic experience to be part of.

Adriane:                       17:35               So rewarding and inspirational.

Adriane:                       17:38               As we close, would you like to share a little something about what it means to you to be a librarian?

Anthony Morris:           17:45               Yeah.

Anthony Morris:           17:46               I think while I was trying to decide what I’d want my career to be, a lot of the things we librarians love, the love of learning, the love of free ideas, and getting to learn and collect things, those are just some of the things that are most exciting to me. I love that we get to be in careers that can celebrate that, and kind of get to live that every day. That’s something I love.

Adriane:                       18:09               We’re very fortunate, aren’t we?

Anthony Morris:           18:10               Yes. We are very, very lucky.

Adriane:                       18:13               Well, Anthony, it’s been a pleasure talking to you today on the show. Thank you for being here.

Anthony Morris:           18:18               Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Adriane:                       18:20               You’ve been listening to Library Leadership podcast. I am your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nathan Sinclair Vineyard.

Adriane:                       18:28               More episodes can be found at libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Adriane:                       18:41               Thank you for listening. We will see you next time.
[/read]

1 Comment
  • Anne Marie Arendt Oct 19,2018 at 12:25 am

    This podcast is great! Anthony, I did not know about this and certainly learned from reading/listening. Thank you Adriane for creating this!

Leave Your Comment

Your Comment*

Your Name*
Your Webpage

Catherine B SoehnerEffective Difficult ConversationsLibrary LeadershipLibrary Leadership PodcastMiguel FigueroaProductivitySari Feldman