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A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 10
by
Posted On April 4, 2023
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Honesty, Kindness, and Change

Rochelle HartmanMy favorite kind of people in this world are the ones who live the phrases “honesty is the best policy” and “wear your heart on your sleeve.” Enter Rochelle Hartman, one of the most honest, kind, and open people in the library profession. Recently, Rochelle was dismissed from her job as a library director, and instead of closing off from the world and not talking about it, she did the exact opposite: She opened up, shared her experiences, and put her feelings, thoughts, and actions all on the table. I applaud her for that. Honesty is the best policy, even if it’s tough.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TIME AS A LIBRARY DIRECTOR. WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? HOW DID EVERYTHING YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH MAKE YOU WHO YOU ARE TODAY?

It was my first director position, and despite the lack of support and communication from the city (and a lovely board that had no oversight of library operations or finances), I was able to make a difference in the 2 1/2 years I was there, including replacing a dreadfully old Dreamweaver website and improving the library’s media coverage and image. I was warned off the position by folks who had a deeper knowledge of the library’s troubled recent history, but I really thought I could handle the challenges.

Despite an unexpected and very public dismissal, I have no regrets. I did things I never expected I would be comfortable doing—managing a $5 million budget and becoming a public figure, to name a couple of things. Beyond what I learned on the job and lost as a result of it, I found an incredibly supportive local community that really showed up for me and continues to show their concern for me, personally, and the library as a valued community institution.

YOU HAVE SAID THAT YOUR NEXT STEP MIGHT BE SOMETHING LIBRARY-ADJACENT OR OTHER WORK THAT SERVES THE COMMON GOOD. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?

I feel strongly about doing work that benefits the community or helps people, no strings attached. All but about 3 years of my adult life has been spent working in the public sector. I have become more open to private sector work, particularly communications or user experience (UX) roles. While I have no formal training in UX, I realized that it’s something I have always been interested in. UX, at its core, is about accessibility and inclusivity. Without those, libraries are not available or easily usable by so many of the people who can most benefit from them.

I APPRECIATE YOUR HONESTY AND OPENNESS VERY MUCH.

I have some very good friends who think I am entirely too open, and I understand their concern. It’s a calculated risk for me, knowing that honesty and vulnerability are not always valued and sometimes even seen as a detriment. It’s the only way I know how to be, so I’m up front about it. I also acknowledge my privilege in being able to do so. Fear is powerful and often overrides everything else for the sake of self-preservation.


The Community Connector

Maurice ColemanI’ve been following Maurice Coleman on nearly every social media platform since what feels like the dawn of my library career. Maurice is a trainer, coach, keynote speaker, and all-around inspiration guru for public libraries. Time and time again, I am amazed at how Maurice helps people and libraries connect with each other.

YOU HAVE BEEN A CONSULTANT FOR 27 YEARS NOW. TELL ME WHAT YOU DO AT COLEMAN & ASSOCIATES.

My job as the principal at Coleman & Associates is to create experiences that help clients do what they want to do with greater impact. I partner when necessary with my brilliant associates to deliver bespoke experiences that move my clients toward the change they want to create in the world. I also have to keep on top of the newest service models, political environments, and trends and how to evaluate and practically apply those trends to a range of libraries.

So, I help clients address equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice in their organization and community. I work with clients so they can confidently help customers use technology. I teach clients how to teach others almost anything. I show clients the best way to present information. I help them plan for technology in spaces for the present and the future. I coach leaders to be agile, to be compassionate, and on how to say “no” the right way.

GIVE ME THREE THINGS THAT YOU THINK EVERY PUBLIC LIBRARY IN THE U.S. SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT AT THIS MOMENT.

  1. Bridging the digital divide (paraphrasing Malcolm X) by any means available and necessary. The digital divide can be geographic, social, economic, cultural, or generational. Libraries must be the bridge to the future for their users. Seek out staffers who will find and communicate with your constituents. Make it as easy as possible for your current and potential users to access information. Extend your Wi-Fi. Lend hotspots. Invest in charging stations. Take access to the people. Share with your customers easy ways to address their privacy and security. Model that behavior on your public computers.
  2. Protecting and preserving their data from inevitable failure and criminals. Redundant backups and cybersecurity measures are a must to prevent service interruptions. Everyone who works for our library is the first wave of cybersecurity defense.
  3. Always think about community engagement and outreach. Go to the people. Give people a reason to come to the library. Does your community need an ATM? A place to get packages? A drive-through library window? A branch in a mall? A social worker? A circulating tool collection? A circulating bake pan collection? A portable service point? A popup service point (or three)?

ANYTHING ELSE? THE FLOOR IS YOURS.

Libraries are community connectors because of the knowledge and experience of the whole staff. Your custodians, shelvers, and back office and circulation staffers are as important to your library’s mission as your reference staffers. They all work together to create a sublime public service experience. Libraries are full of awesome people, but not superheroes. Take care of yourself, and you can better take care of your co-workers, family, and community. Self-care is not selfish—it is necessary.


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Justin Hoenke is a library consultant who is interested in public libraries as community centers, supporting youth services staff to help them achieve their goals, and video game collection development. You can learn more about his work in libraries at justinthelibrarian.com. Hoenke previously worked in public libraries across the U.S. and New Zealand in leadership and youth services.

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10/6/2020A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 6
4/7/2020A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 5
11/5/2019A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 4
4/2/2019A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 3
9/11/2018A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 2
1/9/2018A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 1
9/1/2022A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 9


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