A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Sara Roberts Author Archive


Email: Sara.Roberts@ventura.org  


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Shaking Things Up at Your Library

Let’s start with a gross generalization: Libraries as an institution seem to prefer conformity within our organizations; but librarians as a profession also strive to counter conformity. We cater our services to various nonconformists, and provide service to those who want to learn something new on taboo topics, or to have access to materials they may have been denied elsewhere. We will fight to the death for the rights we all have to express ourselves, and privacy is very important to us. But as a profession, we shy away from change. Even the most forward thinking librarians can be afraid to rock the boat. Let’s face it, we embrace the rules.

a row of white office chairs with one red chair

Tips for Managers – Part II

The purpose of public libraries can be hard to pin down because it is so broad. We want to be everything to everyone. I struggle with the simultaneous goals: circulation, programming, outreach—you know the deal. I once read about a visioning technique where you discover your purpose by imagining your library receiving an award: What is it for? You can do this at the department, branch, or system level. In one year, what should your library receive recognition for? Lives have been changed, the community has grown, what did you do to contribute?

Woman holding manager sign

Tips for Library Managers – Part I

Were you born without the mysterious charisma gene? Does managing people or projects make you feel queasy? Are you new to management, or just struggling with new responsibilities? Here’s the deal—management is a skill that must be learned.

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Talk the Talk

It is the leader’s responsibility to guide the organizational conversation to improve its internal and external performance. This means that when you speak with an employee he/she should be able to tell you the mission, strategy, and goals of the library and be able to talk about their role within the organization. Surely you’ve heard the story of the NASA janitor who said his job was to “send people to the moon.” Everyone has a role, and the intentionality of a conversation can lead to real breakthroughs. How can we be intentional in our conversations at work?

Are You Good? Or Great?

While libraries strive to remain relevant, you can see the slide to the “let’s run it like a business” mentality. I firmly believe we need to think outside of the box of traditional operations of a library. Creative problem solving is a must in our business! I picked up this monograph and was surprised to be faced with a different line of thinking—we don’t need to be like a business, we just need to be great.

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Get to the Point Already

“Almost one thousand people in this country die each day from smoking-related illnesses. Imagine it. That’s as if two fully loaded jumbo jets collided over your hometown every day and everyone aboard was killed. . . ” Authors Karen Berg and Andrew Gilman write about “selling points” in the book Get to the Point. This selling point was created to paint a picture of how many people die from smoking every day. The selling point is striking and I can’t imagine you could forget the image. The library has plenty of great stories, touchy-feely and full of “awww.” I have to tell you, those stories don’t always resonate with me or politicians. They want results. They want to know the return on investment.

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Leaks or Bursts: Managing Feelings in Workplace Communication

In this post (the second in a series) I am focusing on communication via the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most  by Stone, Patton, and Heen. The authors do an incredible job of breaking down the elements of difficult conversations and offer some very practical steps on how to approach all types […]

Woman holding manager sign

It Takes More Than a Trust Fall: Establishing a Great Management Team

For this first blog post I want to focus on the issue of building trust. Lencioni addresses this in his book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. According to Lencioni, before you can get healthy as an organization, you need to establish a strong team. To establish a strong team, you must establish trust.