2010 was an interesting, challenging, awesome and also a frustrating year for me in terms of PD – professional development.
It was taken up almost entirely by taking on the Acting Branch Manager (ABM) role at our largest library. The plans for doing so went into place in April for a start in August, but I picked up the role instead in May.
I loved it!
Its not something that was new to me, I had been Branch Manager for 8 years at one of our other branches (before kids came along) and had been Acting Branch Manager at a few other branches along the way. It had been a long time though. My last such role was ABM at the same library, just before our old library service dissolved due to Council amalgamations and this new library service was formed – in 1996!
I didn’t stop working, the roles that I had just stopped having responsibility for staff and having the buck stop with me more often than not.
So 14 years, 4 senior managers and a lot of life ago, I did the same job. Well it wasn’t really. Things have changed a lot and yet have stayed very much the same.
The way things are managed is so much electronic now. Time-sheets, pays, maintenance requests, stock requests, communication etc are all done electronically. Lots of email. But people are still people and that part of the job hasn’t changed in 14 years.
I was very fortunate to take over (temporarily) from a wonderfully organised Branch Manager who was still accessible to me to ask all the questions and for all advice I could ever need. I was also wonderfully supported by our senior management team and by the fantastic team of branch staff. If I could make up an ideal staff complement for a public library, it would look very much like the team we have already.
So what did I learn?
I am very much a task person rather than a people person per se, but age and experience have made all the difference. I first managed a branch at the tender age of 22 and had a lot of problems, which I was wisely assisted and managed through. Those issues were still with me as I took on this challenge, but have been erased. I was able to quickly pick up and take advantage of the strengths of my team and deal with issues when they arose – dealing with them head on as required. I was particularly proud of that achievement, because as with most people, I hate confrontation. But that’s why they were paying me the ‘big bucks’, lol.
On the task side however, I was also fortunate to have a large task to be undertaken during my tenure. We went live with RFID (which I LOVE!), with all tasks managed in-house. We tagged our 94,000 items and quite a few thousand for our other library branches, rebuilt our circulation desk and removed our old information desk, installed all new equipment and went live – all without having to close the library at any stage. (I love a challenge!)
And that’s besides doing other things like major collection management, replacing all our public Internet PCs, changing our database offerings, changing to self-publishing our reading recommendations newsletters, beginning to offer downloadable audio books and all the day to day stuff that happens in a busy library.
I completed some great training to help me with my job, worked alongside some wonderful branch managers dealing with the same sorts of highs and lows as I was and who were always happy to help and was generally well supported and encouraged and left alone to do my job.
So the frustration?
I want to do more of it, but family circumstances dictate that now is not the time. I am back to part-time work, but am looking to add some more hours to that in the short term. I have also been asked and responded enthusiastically yes, to doing a similar role in future as the opportunity arises.
I have been on holidays over Christmas and will be ABM again for a few weeks – but part-time this time and then I will be trying to rediscover my old job and how I fit in with that and our Information Services structure – which has also changed since I have been away. A new challenge!
Happy New Year everyone. May it bring you all the challenges you like and can handle.