Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why it's good to create a triangle in your workplace

Today's guest blogger talking about our recent 2011 Conference at The Oregon Garden is Rinny Lakin, a Library Clerk with Multnomah County Library (MCL).

Did you ignore the announcements for this amazing conference because you assumed it was another exclusive club for librarians? Read on! Oregon Library Association’s Support Staff Division is here for support staff (us page, clerk and LA types) from all over Oregon! Now that you know this conference was meant for us and our statewide equivalents, did you know you have missed the last 17 of them?

SSD is here to serve us paraprofessionals all year long. In addition to the yearly conference, SSD provides viable options to stretch your wings outside your role at your library, if you so desire. You can become involved and really shine. I was dazzled to see so many MCL staff involved in organizing and presenting at the conference and beyond. There are over 80 current members, yet 140+ people were at conference!

Director of Tualatin Public Library Abigail Elder gave the keynote address titled Growing Optimism. I found it really encouraging to be reminded that I have the power to become an expert on a topic, digging roots deep, seeking mastery. What really appeals to me about improving my professional offerings this way, is that I do not need to ask permission. I don’t need to win the approval of every co-worker and boss ahead of time nor navigate red tape. These are value-added hobbies I can education myself about (she used knitting as an example, she knows which co-workers can answer knitting questions and recommend knitting resources). Why didn’t she use gardening instead? I have dabbled with my genealogy hobby, but it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could become a resource!

Managing Stress for Healthy Workplaces
presented by Philip Mandel- Communication & Stress Management Expert
This dude wrote “Getting Things Done” and “Nuts & Bolts.” We talked about ways to manage stress that we probably have all heard. Breathing out for 6 seconds and inhaling from the soles of your feet up to your collar bones creates the quieting response. Acupressure stress relief points; getting enough water and sleep etc. He also talked about altering our perspectives while being criticized and different ways to work on our brains. Work on our brains!? Yes. People respond to their maps of reality. If you change your map or reality, you change your emotional state. I hope to remember his suggestion to put this on your map “behind every behavior, is a positive intention”.

The most useful thing he showed us was when talking to a patron, to create a triangle (physically and subtly in your choice of words, especially if you are on the phone). You are one point of the triangle, the patron is another and the focus becomes the third point (be that the computer screen, a physical item, or even use your hand to represent an abstract or non-present point of focus). Now you are side by side, working together on the third point. Most of us have already experienced how much better that dynamic is when we help a patron at the check out stations, rather than opposing sides of a desk. I also learned that “Eustress” is the word for positive stress and dysponesis he used to describe “making it worse without wanting to.” Is that the correct usage?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do you have a library question today?

Today's guest blogger talking about our recent 2011 Conference at The Oregon Garden is Jay Hadley, an Operations Supervisor at the historic Central Library in Multnomah County, where he supervises the work of support staff. He was also our 2011 Conference Committee Chair.

"That's very interesting and thank you for telling me that.  Do you have a library question today?"

Thus was the refrain of the "What to Say: Customer Service in Difficult Situations" session at the 2011 OLA SSD Conference. The room was electric with energy and laughter, as about 80 support staff from libraries all over Oregon shared tales of their customer service experiences and practiced new techniques. Presenter Jennifer Steward played the role of a staff member trying to help a patron, and Lisa Canavan played the role of a difficult patron who kept interjecting all kinds of distractions.  Jennifer kept coming back to the refrain, of "Do you have a library question?" and the participants nodded in approval as they saw different situations handled.  Jennifer and Lisa, both staff at Multnomah County Library, also covered tips on body language and how to deal with potentially dangerous situations.  Two are better than one, so always work with your teammates for safety.

This was just one of my highlights from this conference.  It was a great day at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, with the weather reaching nearly 80 degrees.  124 attendees enjoyed the day and many had a lunchtime tour of the gardens.

Another highlight was Abigail Elder's keynote address.  As the director of Tualatin Public Library, she has worked very hard to build inroads to her community.  She says her best reference time of the week is the hour she spends washing dishes on Fridays at the nearby senior center.  She gets all kinds of questions and has built great relationships.

That's what working at a library is all about for me, building relationships with the people in our various communities.  That way we get the chance to make someone's day, which just might change someone's life!