Generations in the Workplace, Generations in the Library

Generations in the Workplace, one of my most popular courses, has also been the course with the most discussion, debate, opinions, and follow up conversations long after the course is over. Lyrasis will  offer this course later this year. Keep an eye out for their continuing ed schedule because you will definitely get a lot out of this course.

Before you take the course or look at the slides below, take a few minutes to take the How Millennial are You Quiz from the Pew Research Center.
I’m not surprised at how high my score is, and I would guess most library workers will score high as well. It’s the nature of our work that we stay abreast of technology. From the quiz: I have only a cell phone, have a piercing, play video games, don’t read a newspaper, and don’t watch TV programming. I am the complete opposite of my Boomer parents.

The opening slides with Professor WTF are based on an actual incident that happened while my husband was the Help Desk Manager at a College. Yes generational mishaps occur!

I think the reason the idea of generations struck me is that as a member of GenX, I realize that we often get a bad reputation by default. Without ever stepping foot in a room, someone can see your birthdate or graduation date and make immediate assumptions about everything from your attitude to your tastes in music. It’s going to be an interesting time the next few years as we see the multiple generations expand and see the second baby boomers, the Millennials, not only enter the workforce en masse but quickly move into leadership positions. However younger workers still have much to learn from older, more seasoned workers. It’s a two-way street, and each generation has just as much to learn from the other.

I also find the concept of shared generational experiences fascinating. Think about high school and how important that time was no matter how good or bad. There is a bond with your high school class like no other. The teen years are some of the most formative for setting the final hard wiring of your brain and emotions. For my generation the Challenger Explosion along with the OJ scandal were two of the events that helped make us who we are–skeptical, distrusting of organizations, realists. For Millennials, September 11, 2001 is permanently etched in their memories. Granted 9/11 impacted us all, but imagine experiencing 9/11 as a child or teenager. Imagine never knowing what it is like to fly without full body scans and pat downs. Imagine never knowing a world without terrorism on our home soil. We’ve seen many Millennials search for faith, maintain strong connections to family, and think less about “me” and more about community. My Unitarian Universalist minister was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened. She notes that the events of that year played heavily in her decision to choose a path of spirituality and in helping others.

One can’t talk about generations without some stereotyping of the generations. I invite you to look at this with an open mind, realizing that not all people fit their generational profiles, and to look at this information as a way to open doors and come to a deeper understanding of our fellow coworkers, library users, and fellow man.

View more presentations from Lori Reed
If you are interested in having this training for your library, contact Russell Palmer at Lyrasis at or at 404.892.0943 x4916. This session works exceptionally well in a live, online format.

Upcoming Online Workshops

An Introduction to E-Readers for Libraries

In this four hour class taught in two, two hour increments on consecutive days, participants will first examine the history of e-text and free sources for e-content as well as digital rights management. Next we’ll examine the variety of e-readers on the market today as well as the pros and cons of each. On the second day we will discuss ideas for circulating and programming with e-readers and look at examples of libraries with successful e-reader programs.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the basics of digital rights management.
  • Be familiar with at least three resources for free e-content.
  • Be able to recognize a Barnes and Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle as well as discuss the pros and cons of each.
  • Know what needs to be considered in planning to circulate or plan a program with e-readers.

Lyrasis, Tuesday, January 24 and Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10am-12noon EST

Register here:


Cultivating a Culture of Learning in Your Library

How much time does your library spend on “training?” Statistics show that most learning takes place on the job or with a coworker, yet as trainers we spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for and delivering classroom training. In this webinar you will learn why you need to get your staff out of the classroom and instead focus on creating a culture of learning in your library. We explore:

  • The differences between training and learning
  • The benefits to libraries for creating a culture of learning
  • The key elements of a learning organization
  • Tips for creating a culture of learning in any size library

NEFLIN, Tuesday, January 26, 2012 10am – 11:30am EST

Register here:

Free for NEFLIN members. Anyone outside of Florida should contact for fees and registration procedures.


Building a Personal Learning Solution

Learning never stops and no one person can know it all, do it all, or learn it all! Get help fast, when you need it, by calling on experts in your personal learning network. Take advantage of additional opportunities to learn from your network of peers, with tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. By the end of the session, participants will develop an action plan for creating their own personal learning solutions.

In this session, participants will be able to:

  • Crowdsource answers to questions big and small from your personal learning network
  • Employ tips from learning professionals to stave off burnout and information overload
  • Create their own personal online learning environments
  • Develop strategies for cultivating and using learning networks

LibraryLinkNJ, Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3-4pm EST

Register here:

Free for New Jersey library staff.

The Power of Changing Your Thoughts

I’ve given a lot of thought about what I want to write as the first post of 2012. Hence the date on this post. I want to share something will you that has changed my life in many ways–personally, professionally, spiritually. Ironically this gift came to me on New Years Eve 2008, and I felt it apropos to share this with you at the new year.

This isn’t another post about resolutions. Been there. Done that. I can’t think of a resolution that I’ve stuck with for a whole year or that has been life changing. So please keep reading.

There is a reason why we celebrate the new year. It’s a time of reflecting on the past year, a time to think about the upcoming year, and a time to take stock of our lives in general. It’s also an arbitrary day. We could pick any day of the year to do these things.

On New Years Eve 2008 I thought about my life. I was not happy. I did not feel successful, and I knew something needed to change. I looked at the people around me who were most successful and asked myself what it is that they did differently. I determined it came down to one thing–attitude. OK it’s more than one thing. It’s attitude. It’s perspective. It’s finding the silver lining no matter how bad things get.

I had picked up a book on positive thinking earlier that year and began reading it on that New Years Eve. I applied the principles and my life changed almost immediately. Once I got the grasp of positive thinking I began using the technique of visualization. Many people balk at visualization but athletes, actors, musicians all visualize their performances before any event. I’ve used visualization for years before public speaking or training sessions. Envision yourself as you want to be. The book I read said to start small. I tried envisioning myself with a diet coke. No one came and gave me a diet coke.Dismissing the whole idea as ridiculous, I took out a dollar, went to the vending machine at work, and bought a diet coke. As I stared at the diet coke I questioned whether there was anything to this. But then it hit me. I did in fact have the diet coke, but I was envisioning the wrong thing. We have to envision the outcome not the solution as the solution can come in many and often unexpected ways.

After time small things began to happen. I wanted a fish-tank for my desk to help with relaxing. I envisioned the fish-tank on my desk. The next day I stopped by a coworker’s office and mentioned off-hand that I wanted a small fish-tank for my desk. Her office-mate overheard this and happened to have a small fish-tank, brand new, under her desk that she didn’t want. She gave it to me. You could say this is completely random and it is. But seriously, a fish tank? What are the chances?

When small things like this started to happen I tried envisioning bigger things. I know that visualization and positive thinking are not the solution to all of life’s challenges. But it doesn’t hurt.

When my library faced budget cuts two years ago my family was already struggling with a mound of medical bills and debt accrued from a pregnancy that had me out of work and on bed rest for more than nine months. When the library budget became so bad that my husband and I took a total of a temporary 15% pay cut we knew that we were in serious financial trouble. We tried to get by. We consolidated debt. Moved debt to zero interest credit cards. But it was too much. Eventually we lost our house and ultimately filed bankruptcy. In mid-life we basically started over with nothing. In no way am putting blame on the library. The recession affected millions of Americans. We happened to be part of that group.

If you’ve ever read about the top life stressors, you know that foreclosure and bankruptcy are right up there with the death of a spouse. What we discovered was that though the process is hard, it is also freeing. We’ve moved three times in the past two years, each time downsizing and simplifying our life. While it would have been easy to be in our situation and become depressed or overwhelmed, we chose to find the silver lining, even when it was only a small glimmer.

The icing on my cake of another stressful life event came when I was laid off in June of this year. I’m not saying it was easy but again there was a silver lining. Being laid off meant that I was eligible for unemployment and allowed me the buffer and time I needed to get my own business up and running–something I had wanted to do for years. I fully believe that had I not had a positive outlook and looked for that silver lining, I may have sunk into a pit of despair. Business has been good and I enjoy the work I do immensely.

The outlook and attitude we have in life and in facing life’s challenges are so important and affect everything we do from our interactions at work and home to our health and happiness. If I could suggest one goal for you in this new year it is to look for the silver lining and to always look for the positive in even the bleakest of situations.

10 Tips for Surviving Budget Cuts and Layoffs

It’s that time of the year when many local and state governments as well as nonprofits and libraries go through the budget period for the upcoming fiscal year. As we continue through the Great Recession many workers find themselves on the chopping block. While layoffs are never easy, they seem worse for employees who work for local governments, schools, libraries, and nonprofits. Many of those employees see their job as more of a calling than a career which makes the possibility of a loss of job feel like a loss of self.

Save New Jersey Libraries by Nancy Dowd

I speak from experience on all sides of the layoff experience. It’s never pleasant, but you can get through it!  Here are ten tips to help anyone survive impending layoffs.

  1. Don’t take it personally. This is the most important tip. While it may feel personal if you’ve been notified your job may or will be eliminated, it’s really not. It’s a business decision and comes down to a matter of cash available versus cash needed to run the organization. If your personal income were suddenly cut, you’d have to adjust and find things to cut from your bottom line like cable, cell phones, or dining out. While many organization have already scaled back in previous years, the only thing left to cut back is staff. It’s so hard to remember this in the midst of the moment, but the more you can remember that this is a business decision and not a personal one, the better off you will be.
  2. If something is stressful to you, stop. For me watching the local government meetings is like sport. I love to yell at the TV and throw things when one of the County Commissioners says something I don’t agree with. However, last year (and again this year) when it was my job on the line, I had to stop watching the meetings. It caused unnecessary stress and I knew if something important happened, I’d hear about it the next day. I also had to stop reading comments on local news sites. The comments incite me and only reflect the opinions of the few people with nothing better to do than comment anonymously all day.
  3. Channel your energy and anger into something constructive and positive. Last year I created as a way to help all libraries going through budget cuts. Advocacy helped me get through a horrible time because I was focusing on parts of my life that I do have control over. This year, I’m focusing more on my family and spending time being active and engaged with my children.
  4. Take care of yourself. Sleep, eat, and exercise. It’s easy to fall into the vicious cycle of depression: sleep too much or too little + eat junk food + limit activity = feel like crap. Just like the flight attendant tells you on the plane, you have to take care of yourself first. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress.
  5. Talk to someone. Many organizations provide EAP service. EAP, employee assistance program, is a confidential service that employers pay for. You have access, at no cost to you, to counselors who can help with stress, anxiety, family problems, financial problems, or just about any problem you can think of. I’ve seen EAP counselors a number of times and they have always been very helpful. It is much more healthy for you (and your organization) for you to vent to an EAP counselor rather than your coworkers.
  6. Have a plan B. If you don’t have one, start making one. Is your resume up to date? Are you on LinkedIn? Have you asked colleagues for LinkedIn recommendations? Post your resume to job boards. Be proactive. Think about how your skills and abilities might transfer to a corporate or other non-profit environment.
  7. Before posting to Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, see if your organization has a social media policy and be sure to follow it. No matter where you work, it is a small world and you do not want to burn bridges. Additionally future employers are watching your Tweets and no one wants to hire someone who complains about a current employer. One of the reasons that I do not post about my situation is that we have a fantastic Marketing & Communications Department. We have a social media person on staff. We have a communications plan with key messages. Through my work, my name has become associated with my employer, and no matter how many disclaimers I post on Twitter, Facebook, or my website, my posts and comments become a reflection on my employer. It’s not that I would have anything bad to say. It’s that I don’t want to muddy the waters for our communications team. They have a strategy and it’s in the Library’s best interest (as well as my own) to let them handle communications about our organization.
  8. Focus on the task at hand and your core mission to the organization. Many libraries and nonprofits will notify staff months or weeks in advance of a layoff or potential layoff. I’ve heard people describe this as cruel but I can assure you it’s not meant to be. Notifications like this give you time to plan and make arrangements and adjustments to your lifestyle. The downside is it gives you a lot of time to think. One of my most difficult challenges last year at this time, was focusing on my job in the midst of the emotional turmoil within and surrounding me. Every day I had to remind myself that I am here to help our staff grow and develop professionally. When I focused on my core mission, it made it much easier to get work done each day.
  9. Think practical. Start making plans in advance. If you are on prescription medications, order 90 day supplies if your insurance allows it. Find out what your unemployment benefits will be. Most states have an online calculator that will tell you how much you will receive and for how long. Shop around for health insurance. COBRA rates are outrageous. You may do better with an individual policy that covers only catastrophic events like hospitalization. Adjust your withholding for state and federal taxes to the maximum level. If you are paid out for vacation time, this allows you to keep more of the money. As a last resort consider taking out a loan on your 401K before your last day. If you don’t pay the loan back within 60 days of termination, it will be taxed as an early withdrawal which means taxes plus a 10% penalty. If you are the sole provider for a family, this may be a necessary option.
  10. Don’t panic! Your job is only one facet of your life. Many people have found being laid off a liberating experience. This is your chance to try something new if you want or to move somewhere different. This is actually how I came to work in libraries. Laid off from a corporate job, I wanted to work for an organization where I could give back to the community. Had that layoff not happened, I would definitely be in a different place today! As Tom Hanks character says in the movie Castaway, “You never know what the tide may bring in.” I also highly recommend reading the book Start Where You Are by Chris Gardner for inspiration.

E-readers, Libraries, and Training…Oh My!

After Christmas it hit like a storm. Questions from patrons about e-readers along with usage of NetLibrary and OverDrive soared. With the drop in price of Amazon Kindles and then competitors dropping their prices to match, e-readers went from being the tool of the tech-elite to a device that nearly anyone can afford.

According to Linda Raymond, materials management manager for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, new patron use of OverDrive is up 160% over last year, circulation of digital content increased by 399%, and holds on digital content increased 178%. Raymond says circulation would be even higher if we had more materials to meet the increased demand.

Evolution of Readers

Evolution of Readers by John Blyberg

With this surge in the use of e-readers and library lending of digital materials, questions from the public have increased as well. Nathan Cook, library service specialist II for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library works in the busy Telephone Reference department of the library. Cook says that for the first few days after Christmas nearly every other call was about e-readers–mostly from the elderly who received e-readers as gifts. Now the questions are down to five to six a day

Providing training on e-readers for staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has been challenging due to the fact that we have no money in our current budget to purchase the devices needed to conduct training. Luckily staff from the North Carolina Master Trainer program have been trained in the use of e-readers and are prepared with an “E-Reader Petting Zoo” which will be coming to Charlotte in April.

How has Cook answered this blitz of questions with no training? Cook says, “I’ve answered questions with a combination of guesswork, luck and the printed instructions that are linked from our Media Downloads page. Between using what we already have available on our page, and the Internet to check out the websites and FAQs of the individual readers themselves (or their makers’ companies), I’d estimate I am actually successful in helping at least 75% or 80% of the questions I get about these services.”

I’m always pleased when I see staff like Cook who are resourceful and seek out the information needed to get the job done. Other staff at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library have taken field trips or training classes to Barnes and Noble to try out the Nook. These are the people we need helping us to research and prepare for training! As leaders in training it is our job to not only provide training for staff, like Cook, who field such questions about tech gadgets but to also anticipate “the next big thing” that will impact our staff.

Our theme at ALA Learning for February and March will be staff training on e-readers. Were you prepared for the e-reader craze? How are you preparing now? Do you have any materials you’d like to showcase here on ALA Learning? In addition to posts from our contributing authors, we want to hear from you! If you have a story to tell or training materials to share, please contact me at We’re looking forward to hearing from you!