Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Skeptical Supervisors- how to talk about getting involved

So you've thought about it, you've been following the blog, and you've decided it's time to take the plunge and add your skills to the SSD pool. Welcome! You're going to love it around here.

One problem: how do you talk to your boss about taking on extra duties in addition to your already busy day? At first blush, it can sound like a tough sell. But never fear, because we've got a few tips and tricks for showing the benefits to a skeptical supervisor. Take this list, tailor it to your supervisor's concerns, and maybe you can bring them around!

I had a chat with Nancy Horner, the Adult Services Manager at the Eugene Public Library and supervisor of our very own Margaret Harmon-Myers, to see why she is so supportive of her staff's involvement with SSD and similar groups. She supervises eleven paraprofessional staff and ten librarians (soon to be eleven), so she has had lots of experience with support staff and how being involved can benefit a supervisor and the institution. Here's what she had to say:

  1. Getting involved "builds knowledge that increases confidence and pleasure in work." And when you like your work, you're better at it, happier, and more able to expand your skills.
  2. Support staffers who learn outside the workplace can bring back and share the things they learn, compounding the benefits across the entire staff. Nancy mentioned that among the many things her staff has brought in, she has especially appreciated the programming ideas, new services for their patrons, and improvements to the processes already in place. Often, her staff are able to "teach the teacher" so to speak, enhancing her work as well.
  3. When new equipment or services are offered in Eugene Public, it's often her staff who take the lead in instructing patrons in their use. In their new makerspace, her staff both created and implemented much of the teaching material for the public. Nancy thinks that getting involved was pivotal for giving her staff the confidence and know-how needed for the project. 
  4. Scheduling time for outside-the-library work has turned out to be pretty simple for Nancy and her staff. Their approach has been to use a flex-time model (made with guidance from the union her staff are a part of), which allows the library to easily compensate everyone for all their work regardless of whether that work takes place outside of regular hours. In their system, ALL professional development is considered work time.
  5. My last question for her was whether she had anything she'd like to say directly to a supervisor with worries about their staff getting involved with SSD. I'll let her speak for herself: "I would beg them to put those worries aside. The benefits to the institution, the people we serve, and colleagues are impossible to count. We should celebrate anytime anyone wants to increase their knowledge. It's always a gain. If anyone's on an upward path it becomes a rising tide that lifts all boats. Really, an inspiration. All of the paraprofessionals on our staff inspire one another and grow stronger as a team in everything that they do."
I couldn't have said it better myself. According to Nancy, Margaret is an exceptional support staffer, even receiving an award for service from OLA at Nancy's recommendation. To me, that stands as a testament to both her work ethic and commitment as well as the power of getting involved. Put simply, being an SSD member makes you a better employee, and we can make sure your daily work is minimally impacted to boot.

Have questions? Want advice in your specific situation? Drop us a line at and we'll be happy to help!


  1. I'm so happy to read this post! I've been lucky that I've always had support for my involvement with OLA from my managers, but I know that isn't the case for many. Having managers who understand the value of professional involvement and are willing to articulate it is fabulous!

  2. I'm so proud of you guys! This is really great stuff. Que bien hecho! Well done!
    --Susan Gilmont, retired library technician