Federal Support for Public Libraries – How You Can Help!

Do you know how your local public library is funded?

The vast majority of public library funding comes from local revenue, such as property tax. A smaller portion comes from each State government with large variations across the country. It is easy to forget that the Federal government also supports local libraries.  Most of the revenue comes through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) that is distributed to the states through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

This past year IMLS received additional funding outside the usual appropriations process. This first happened with the CARES Act. For example, my library in Palm Beach County received a competitive grant for $24,316 from CARES Act dollars. With the passage of the American Rescue Plan, $200 million more was appropriated to IMLS to support libraries in their COVID relief efforts.  The American Library Association is also advocating for a regular budget appropriation of $206 million for LSTA grants in the next Federal budget year.

You can ask your Federal elected officials to support more funding for LSTA through the ALA engage platform.

Also moving through Congress is the Build America’s Libraries Act.  According to ALA, if passed:

“The Build America’s Libraries Act would fund upgrades to the nation’s library infrastructure to address challenges such as natural disasters, COVID-19, broadband capacity, environmental hazards, and accessibility barriers. This groundbreaking legislation would pave the way for new and improved library facilities in underserved communities across the country. Join us in the effort to support this bill and #BuildLibraries.”

You can contact your local member of Congress and Senators to ask them to support this Act through the ALA engage platform.

To keep track of all these Federal funding streams, please visit the ALA Advocacy and Public Policy pages.

Spring Clean Your Komono

Spring has traditionally been a time to clear out our closets and drawers of the things that no longer serve us. However, tidying up can be psychologically challenging not only due to the sheer amount of spaces where things are stored but also the psychological weight of our belongings. Many items we possess carry sentimental value that makes them hard to part with even when they no longer have any practical use.

Marie Kondo understood this problem which is why she created the KonMari Method. Through a simple process the Method helps people tackle their home cleaning through a five stage system. Recently on her web site she spent time providing tips on how to tackle the broadest category of items, komono.

We all have them: spaces and drawers where komono (miscellaneous things) live. These are the places where items sit idle because they haven’t found a true home. Designate a day to tackle your komono, give your objects final destinations and take back control. Remember, it is key to tidy by category – not location. 

Marie goes on to share what I consider the most important tip to cleaning any space which is to empty it out first. This aligns with Newton’s First Law of Motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. By getting the komono items moving it is just as easy to throw out or properly place an item as it is to put it back in it s initial spot. Marie advises:

Taking everything out of your komono hot spots and laying it out provides a fresh view of all the contents. You may find something that was once missing or something you forgot you owned. It is an opportunity for re-acquainting yourself with the objects that live with you and recognizing those that spark joy and those that don’t. Once those drawers or storage spaces are completely empty, take a moment to tend to them. Clean well with a soft cloth, replace drawer liners or add air fresheners if you’d like.

Read the rest of Marie Kondo’s tips on tackling komono on her web site.

Don’t Worry about FOMO! Live the JOMO lifestyle!

Have you ever had the experience of wondering if you are missing something important? Have you ever been concerned that other people are doing something that you need to know? Have you ever had a potential heart attack when you noticed that your phone is in another room and you may have missed a call or text? Welcome to FOMO – the fear of missing out. It drives people to constantly check their messages and social media feeds to see if important things are happening around them. Most often nothing is, but the fear drives people to compulsively worry about it!

The folks who developed Basecamp understand this concern. That is why they propose living your life in a state of JOMO – the joy of missing out. As they describe in their book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy to Work Here, authors Jason Fried and David Hansson share the philosophy of JOMO on pages 70-71.

People should be missing out! Most people should miss out on most things most of the time. That’s what we try to encourage at Basecamp. JOMO! The joy of missing out.

Later on they clarify why it is a part of their company’s culture:

Because there’s absolutely no reason everyone needs to attempt to know everything that’s going on at our company. And especially not in real time! If it’s important, you’ll find out. And most of it isn’t. Most of the day-to-day work inside a company’s walls is mundane. And that’s a beautiful thing. It’s work, it’s not news.

I invite you to give it try. Resolve to focus only on what is truly important in your job and life. Let the Twitter feeds and gossip slide by without a second glance. Give it a week then see if you feel more relaxed and focused. If so, then you are now living the JOMO lifestyle!

Leadership in Libraries: Observations from the Director’s Seat

Earlier this month I did a presentation for PCI Webinars titled Leadership in Libraries: Observations from the Director’s Seat. Using information gleaned from dozens of interviews with Library Directors over the past seven years, I shared my biggest insights regarding the profession. If you were not able to tune into the training, I have added the script as an article on my web site. Here’s how it starts:

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

Right now is the most exciting and challenging time to be a library director.  With new formats of material, a vibrant in person and online communities, and the need for quiet space in the face of a busy world, public libraries are busier than ever.  It is also the most confusing and unsettling time to be a Director.  Between shifting political winds, a global pandemic, and uncertain financial conditions, the future of libraries is highly uncertain.  How library leaders navigate this dynamic environment will determine the future of libraries in the 21st Century.

As a current library director I am engaged in shaping the future of our profession.  To that end I have spent over hundreds of hours during the past seven years talking to other library directors to discover their views on the profession and the institution of libraries.  In this article I will share insights I learned and provide guidance on whether the path of the library director is the right one for you.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Have Less to Do

Our society values more. We are constantly pushed in our careers to gain more responsibility. Commercials continually encourage us to buy more stuff. Having more to do than can be ever be done is seen as a sign of success. However, having more is only good up to a point. After that, having more is actually an impediment to happy and productive life.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founders of Basecamp, wrote about this in their book, It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. They set out to make their company the opposite of how most technology companies operate. No 60-80 hour weeks; no endless meetings; no pressure to perform every day. One of their fundamental operating principles is that having less to do is better than more. As they wrote on page 172-3 of their book:

Management scholar Peter Drucker nailed it decades ago when he said, “There is thing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all!” Bam!

At Basecamp we’ve become ruthless about eliminating either work that doesn’t need to be done or work we don’t want to do.

I have recently appreciated that eliminating extra items from my work life is the best way to become productive. Just as it is easier to juggle one ball instead of ten, having only a few top projects is easier to manage than dozens of low value projects. I often think back to a conversation with Pat Losinski, CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Library. When I asked him for advice on being a Library Director, one thing he shared was, “Focus only on what the Director can do.” By that he meant don’t get caught up doing work that other people could perform. Do only the things that are your own responsibility, then delegate or eliminate everything else.

To that end, how can you find ways to purge your workload? After all, the less you have to do, the better you will do what you are doing.

Keeping the Calendar Clean

Almost everyone working in a professional job uses a calendar. Even people who are very loosely organized understand the usefulness of keeping track of upcoming appointments and commitments. However, many people try to use a calendar to remind them of next actions or keep track of things they are waiting for. They may also clutter a calendar with desired due dates for projects, but then have to sadly re-calibrate when life gets busy and the dates fly by.

David Allen has thought a lot about how to optimally use a calendar. In Getting Things Done he identifies three specific uses of the calendar as a productivity tool. They are the following:

Time Specific Commitments – Basically what most people use the calendar for: keeping track of appointments. i.e. Dentist 3 pm on Tuesday.

Day Specific Commitments – Things that have to be done on that day, but not linked to a specific time. For example, you must submit the monthly statistical report on Friday. Anytime that day is fine, but it has to be done before 5 pm.

Day Specific Information – Information about the day that you need to know. For example, your supervisor is on leave, which means you have to wait for her to get back to approve your project. Or there is server maintenance until 9 am, so email is not accessible.

What is not on the calendar are “to-do” items that are not specifically linked to the day. These items are best dealt with through action folders and project lists. David believes that operating this way keeps the calendar clean and by extension keeps your mind clear. So I invite you all to take a look at your calendar to see if it needs tidying up.

Finally, don’t forget to examine your calendar during the weekly review. It is a great way to keep track of where you have been and where you are going.

Support Your Local Library – Its Easy to Do

Do you know how your public library is funded? Most of them survive on revenue from property tax, sales tax, and fees. While most people assume that they will always be there we have seen library systems lose revenue and reduce services in the face of broader economic downturns. As tax funded institutions public libraries rely on the support of local, state and federal elected officials. This makes the advocacy of library card holders essential to ensure their future.

This time of year is especially important for your voice to be heard. Many governments are in their budget planning process for the 2022 fiscal year. Speaking to your elected officials early on in the budget process can make a huge difference. For example in my home state of Florida the State Legislature opened its annual session last week. At stake is funding for the State Aid to Libraries Grant, Public Library Construction Grants, and the five Multi-type Library Cooperatives. To support this push, the Florida Library Association put together an advocacy campaign for increased funding to support libraries as they assist with economic recovery and advancing education. At the Federal level, the American Rescue Plan increases funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services to assist libraries of all types, including schools.

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

One organization that advocates for public libraries across the country is EveryLibrary. They have made a huge impact in library referendums through fundraising and expanding awareness. As explained on their web site:

EveryLibrary is the first and only national political action committee for libraries. We are a gold-rated non-profit organization that helps public, school, and college libraries secure new funding through tax and advisory referendum, bonds elections, negotiations with school boards, and advocacy at municipal, state, and federal levels. Our primary goal is to ensure stable funding and access to libraries for generations to come.

EveryLibrary carries out its mission through the generosity of its donors. I am a proud monthly supporter of EveryLibrary. If you want to ensure libraries thrive I encourage you to consider offering financial support for this hard working organization.

At the end of the day, don’t forget that the majority of library funding happens at the local level. Send your Mayor and Board of County Commissioners an email or a quick call to share how important libraries are to you and your community. Sometimes all it takes is a few passionate voices to make a difference. Libraries exist for the betterment of the communities they serve. Make sure your voice is heard now to ensure their future.

Disagreeable Feedback

It is a simple fact that in order to improve in any skill, whether it be management, communication, or computers, feedback is needed. Great feedback happens when it is very specific, given timely, and in a way that is supportive of the recipient. However, we have all experienced feedback that doesn’t work for us. In fact, some feedback may simply be inappropriate or wrong. What is the best way to respond?

Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, is one of the leading experts on effective workplace communication. In a post on her blog, 5 Tips for When You Disagree with Feedback, Kim is very straightforward with the notion that you do not have to agree with feedback.

You can and should tell the person that you disagree. If you just say, “Thank you for the feedback” through gritted teeth, you seem Manipulatively Insincere. Better to take the time to explain why you disagree. Once, a CEO to whom I’d offered criticism told me the next day, “I reject that feedback — but I love that you told me what you think! Do you want to hear why I disagree?” Of course I did — and I actually felt better about my coaching of him after that because he’d been so totally open to criticism before that moment that I wondered if he was really hearing it.

Kim Scott

Kim wants to ensure that the person providing the feedback is honored for doing so. That way they understand you appreciated the effort even if you disagreed with their assessment. She then provides five tips on how to deal with feedback. The first is to check your understanding.

Repeat back what you think you heard, and say, “Did I understand correctly?” or “Did I get that right?” This is a good opportunity to show you care about the person, and what they think.

Learn more tips about how to respectful respond to disagreeable feedback on the Radical Candor web site.

Important vs. Urgent: The Presidential Edition

Have you ever had one of those days where you were busy non-stop, but afterwards you felt like nothing got done? Most of us spend our days in a reactive mode as different people assign us work that is vital for them, but not for you. However, when we are caught in the busy trap it is easy to forget our own priorities. Is there a way to keep your own goals front and center in the face of worldly demands?

President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood this challenge. As the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and then a successful two term President of the United States, Eisenhower had lots of urgent items brought to his desk. The difference for him was to make sure that the urgent never eclipsed the important. To ensure that he accomplished his goals he created a decision matrix now known as the Eisenhower Box. It was based on this line of thinking that he shared in a 1954 speech.

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

The Eisenhower Box (or Matrix) is a simple four square grid. A visual of this box can be found here. Whenever any item came across his desk Eisenhower would decide whether it was important (aka aligned with his primary goals) and/or urgent (aka time constrained). His choice of what to do next was based on the answer to those two questions.

  • Important and Urgent = Do it immediately
  • Important, but not Urgent = Defer it (aka place on calendar)
  • Not Important, but Urgent = Delegate to someone else
  • Not Important nor Urgent = Drop it immediately

For a more detailed explanation of the Eisenhower Box, please review this article at the Todoist web site authored by Laura Scroggs. Then go ahead and put it into practice yourself. After all, if it worked for President chances are it will work for you!