If you are a library administrator or you supervise library staff in any capacity, you know how difficult it is to balance your responsibilities. On the one hand, you have to provide leadership, management, training and counseling for your staff, while on the other, you need to ensure that day-to-day operations of the library, including your own day-to-day responsibilities, are fulfilled. In his upcoming ALA TechSource Workshop, Kenley Neufeld will show you how simple, free and low-cost technologies can help you get better organized, more efficient and less stressed out. I had a chance to talk with Kenley about what he'll cover in this two-session event, and how he's learned the lessons he'll be teaching through experience.
Your workshop seems to operate on the premise that a lot of administrators are stretched really thin and have to balance a ton of demands. What do you see as the most common problem or problems facing library administrators?
We have to balance budgetary, personnel, planning, and political aspects of our role. This can be accomplished in a traditional way or we can try to embrace new technologies and new methods of leadership that our employees and patrons may expect from us. An open door. Transparent communication. Collaborative decision making. Library administrators may not envision a space for this type of leadership and yet I don't think we have a choice. Yes, we're busy but to ignore the role of technology in our day-to-day administration would be a mistake.
What’s your personal experience with being an overburdened administrator? How did you get better at managing your time, your staff and your resources?
I actually don't feel overburdened very often; I work hard to be light and free when I'm at work. Though technology plays a role in managing my time, the real key has been awareness of my mental and spiritual well being. Meditation. That said, I come to work with the attitude to expect the unexpected. Of course, this make planning difficult. Using some of the technology tools reminds me of what I need to accomplish and provides methods for me to accomplish the tasks. The tools allow staff to interact with me and our joint responsibilities in an environment where meetings become less critical and staff (and myself) can work on things as we are able. Sometimes things can be addressed immediately through text messaging or through instant messaging and this frees us up from having to think about it further. A good example is how I manage my email in box - my goal is to keep it under 10 messages so that things don't pile up and become overwhelming. Don't let email sit around. Read. Respond. File. For those messages that require more time, set it aside for an uninterrupted time within the next day or two. There should be an immediacy about how we interact with staff and with patrons. It is appreciated and keeps us in the present. The only time I close my office door is when there is a report due and the deadline is looming.
Technology can help, of course, but sometimes it seems like a fine line between a help and a hindrance. What sort of strategies will you teach to help ensure that people are using technology the right way, so it doesn’t turn into yet another drain on time and energy?
Learning a tool well enough to use it effectively is critical. Though the workshop will highlight a series of tools, it may be that you only walk away with a single tool to implement. This is good. A tool is a hinderance if you have to think about it and relearn it every time. Therefore, being aware of the options, knowing what problem you're trying to solve, and learning the solution well will prevent it from being a drain on time and energy.
Obviously the budget of most libraries today is stretched thin. What are some free or low-cost technologies you’ll be discussing during the workshop?
I'm fairly attached to Google solutions because it integrates so well together, they are all free, and the tools are widely adopted. So, in looking at their array of solutions I will focus on Google Voice, Google Calendar, and Google Docs. Each of these provide real solutions to pressing needs such as communication and collaboration. Outside the Google arena, I can't say enough good things about Dropbox - a cloud based storage service. We'll also talk about professional communication options using social networking like Twitter and Facebook.
Will your workshop only apply to administrators, or to anyone who manages staff? What about people who don’t?
Regardless of role, anyone interested in these themes will benefit from the workshop. Though the focus is on administrators, since that is my job and my experience, the tools and tips can be applied to anyone who manages staff or resources.
What do you think is the most common misconception that administrators have? If you could offer one truth to get your message on this subject to people, what would it be?
The most common misconception is they don't have time to do all this. It's not true. Yes, there are some up-front time costs but in the long run it can really pay off for you. Spend the few hours it takes to learn a tool, use it regularly for 30-days, and you'll find you have another tool on your palate for the rest of your career.