celebrating ourselves, or not

My chiropractor is proud of his kids.  Today there was one of his son’s oil paintings propped on the check-in table.  A few weeks ago he showed me the (gorgeous!) shawl another son knit from yarn that Doc had spun.  There was an entire half hour’s conversation in the waiting room about his eldest’s wedding, and the tux said eldest found on the cheap and had tailored for the event.  There’s always a family portrait somewhere in the office, and if you’re lucky there are baked goods next to the pen jar.

Well, that’s lovely, right?  Small town medical care, big families, pride and joy?  But what’s it got to do with libraries?

What doesn’t it have to do with libraries?  At MPOW, we’re totally up to par on the baked goods — we have a filing cabinet in the mail room that’s a sweet-tooth’s dream and a dieter’s nightmare.  But what we’re not up to par on, if you use Doc’s office as a standard, is celebrating our accomplishments internally.  Aside from the colleagues who read my reappointment portfolio every two years, does anyone (other than my boss, who I keep updated on my activiteis) know what I’ve written, published, or presented?  When I (presumably) am granted continuing appointment next summer, will I ever again report to those colleagues about my activities in a meaningful way?  I’m not asking the questions of myself because I want everyone to know about me me me me, but because I think we’re missing an opportunity to celebrate ourselves.  The question that comes next is “Do I know what anyone else is doing or has done?”

The answer is, of course, “sort of”.  We all talk to each other, casually, formally, off-the-cuff, and in groups.  I am aware of some of the things that my coworkers are up to in their less-structured time.  I know about committees and working groups and who they’re partnering with on certain things, but what I don’t know is how that fits into their professional lives. How it fits into our work lives as a group.  What we should be congratulating each other on having accomplished.

I don’t know what the right way is to keep us all aware of the work we each do, and I don’t know that I think anything formal is the right thing — I don’t want to feel like my endeavors are just fodder for a bad Employee Of The Month photo montage.  But I wish that we had a way to feel proud of each other, to put the family portrait out on the counter next to the oil painting and say “Hey, look what we did!”


  1. I totally agree with you. Last summer at MPOW we were all broken into committees to look at different things, my group was how to improve bureaucracy. We haven’t gotten very far, but one of the things that we discussed was at monthly staff meetings just offering the opportunity for people to talk about what they are working on. It would be a nice chance for people to show off what their working on and give people a chance to understand what they do with their time.

    One of the things I’m hoping we’ll do for our librarian meetings (we have two main libraries on different campuses) is talking about what our different jobs entail, such as what the dean spends her day doing. Just as a way of getting a chance to understand what is a typical day in the life of dean or associate dean.


  2. I once worked at a fairly large library, with 70 employees, and we rarely knew what was going on in the other departments let alone the individuals’ accomplishments. Word spreads slowly in a large library (if it spreads at all), and we missed out on the kind of group acknowledgment and celebration you’re endorsing. In any library, no matter the size, it would be helpful to have had more frequent all-staff meetings and to use the library listserv to spread good news.


  3. Ditto Andrew’s comments!

    We have a submission form on our Intranet that goes to a print-based university publication to highlight our publications and achievements, but I’ve recently suggested that those also go to our public face, our own blog, http://ksulib.typepad.com/talking/. We’ve done a little bit there but we’re not consistent! Some staff give reports about their activities at our all-staff meetings. But we still don’t toot our own horns often enough.

    It’s important to let others know what we do on a day-to-day basis, too, because what we do & how we do it ultimately touches others in our organization and our users! I encourage my staff to read the minutes from library committees that are posted to various blogs; we try to include an “information exchange” in our own minutes from the department’s teams; and we invite staff to a formal orientation (or refresher) a couple of times a year. These don’t address a lot of the individual activities but we do manage to get some in there!


  4. It’s really hard, isn’t it? I’m reading the ideas you’re all sharing, and I keep having a gut-level reaction of “no more meetings! No more publications!” We’re doing a library-wide program review right now, and one of the things that keeps coming up in our focus groups is that we’re overly bureaucratic already. Given that feeling, I’m not sure that adding another layer of reporting — in meetings or in print — is the way to go for us. But maybe we just need to change the focus of the meetings and publications we do have. Or maybe there’s some entirely other path. I just don’t know!


  5. Oddly enough, I brought this exact thing up at the last program review meeting! My suggestion was a version of the annual report made accessible internally — at least the part where we say what we’ve been doing and where we’ve been putting our energies.

    This way, it’s all optional, and all up to the individual to take the time to read up on everyone’s accomplishments. It’s at a particular time of year, so we will all be equally behind. And it avoids both meetings and technology phobias while extending the usefulness of something we all should be doing anyhow.


  6. Our individual departments do monthly reports, but no one ever really reads them. Heck, I barely read the one for my own department. Our meeting idea was just at our normal staff meeting, but we’re also struggling with being less bureaucratic. I wonder, what do businesses do (like Google) to share what they are all working on?


  7. Doing a job takes time. Explaining what you are doing takes time. If you want to keep your job, you inform your boss that you are doing needed work. To be effective, you inform others how your work affects them, and vice versa. So much for theory. How much information is enough? When does informing others slip into idle gossip? When time is running out, do you cut the job or cut the explaining? This problem occurs when management didn’t allot enough time for the job to begin with, and management is usually surprised that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Comicly, management often responds to a crisis by getting in another manager to coordinate instead of more workers to do the job. Bureaucracies are inevitable.


  8. don, I’m sorry you’ve had such a negative experience with workplace communication and organization. I don’t mean to imply that MPOW has a communication problem about our collaborative work; I’m wishing we were better at understanding and awareness of the accomplishments that aren’t part of our shared work. The committees, the research projects, the performances, the cross-campus collaborations, the statewide and national professional contributions. How do we celebrate and acknowledge those? And not just because I want to pat people on the back, but also because we can all gain from knowing who others are connected to, what context others are working within, and what other skills and knowledge our coworkers have outside our shared projects and workplace tasks.


  9. I thought it was just MPOW that has this problem. We might know a little about what others are doing but not enough. It can be hard too because if you’re seen as doing too much other staff can have a problem that too.


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