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A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 10
by
Posted On April 4, 2023
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The Creativity of Tiny Little Monster

Jen RearickMy good friend Jen Rearick, owner of Tiny Little Monster, a custom print shop near St. Louis, has managed to craft a beautiful path that allows her employees to grow, learn, have fun, and be creative at all times while still keeping the bills paid. I find Jen’s story to be an inspiring example of someone successfully managing to bring together their creativity and business pursuits all in one. Libraries can learn from her example.

TELL US THE STORY OF TINY LITTLE MONSTER.

Tiny Little Monster started in 2011 in my basement. I was tired of working jobs that were boring and uninspiring. My partner was doing a webpage design for an at-home screen printing equipment business, and I decided to invest in a press. I had done screen printing on paper in college, but printing on fabric was very different. I taught myself through trial and error and instructional videos. Initially, it was supposed to be a part-time thing, so I would not have to work as much and have enough money to pay the bills. Something fun and creative. I kept my day job for another 2 years, printing on nights and weekends. When I finally made the leap to quit my full-time job, I rented a storefront in my neighborhood. We had that storefront for 5 years; 2 years in, we ran out of room and had to rent a separate production space. In 2018, I bought a building that was large enough to house both the office employees and production warehouse. We initially grew through having a good website created by Sloan Coleman and through word of mouth, then through reorders. My original vision was very small compared to what it has grown into, but the core values have remained the same: We focus on quality and continuous improvement.

YOUR WEBSITE DESCRIBES TINY LITTLE MONSTER AS “FEROCIOUSLY INDEPENDENT.” HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT TO THE IDENTITY OF YOUR COMPANY?

I would say being independent is a foundation of the business. I started it so I could do what I wanted. I encourage employees to share ideas for improvements and creative things for social media posts. I like that we are not just a place to get shirts printed, but we are a group of unique people who have ideas and are open to exploring how we operate. I am open to change. Just because a certain way to run a business has worked in the past doesn’t mean something new couldn’t work or be better.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU’VE HAD?

Sometimes I get too in my head, thinking about how to do something, trying to assess potential things that could go wrong. I still think it’s important, but it is probably more important to go for it. Maybe a balance between the two! Also, I never was a manager before, so that is a constant ongoing learning experience. Being a business owner has increased my problem-solving skills, because there are always problems! Seriously though, I enjoy making things better or easier and being more efficient at creative problem solving.


Take Me to Your Leader

Mark FinkMark Fink, a wonderful library leader I got to know when he was part of an interview panel for a job that I was going for, was named the new executive director at the amazing and inspiring Anythink Libraries in Colorado. Since that interview, I’ve thought a lot about Mark’s approach to leadership and how he’s exactly the kind of person that libraries need right now.

WHAT DO THE FIRST FEW MONTHS AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR LOOK LIKE? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU IN THIS ROLE?

The Anythink team has been wonderful and welcoming. I’ve spent the first couple of months visiting our branches, attending staff meetings, meeting with the board of trustees, and building relationships with community partners.

We are working on two new exciting library projects—the Thornton Community Center Library and the Anythink Nature Library. In 2023, we will be writing our first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategic Plan, in addition to doing extensive community engagement and market research, the results of which will inform a new Strategic Operational Plan for Anythink.

A typical day right now includes attending design meetings for our library projects—we have a creative and collaborative team, and they bring the customer experience to the forefront of these design conversations.

WHAT KEEPS YOU WORKING IN LIBRARIES?

During my public library career, the work I have found most rewarding (so far) is managing adult and family literacy programs.

I believe in our work and the investments we make in our local communities. For example, Anythink’s mission is “to open doors for curious minds,” and its vision is “to be the catalyst for innovation in Adams County—a place where people are happy, healthy, safe and smart. We support lifelong learning for children, families, artists and entrepreneurs through hands-on programming, popular resources, and the one-on-one assistance of our dedicated staff.” I’ve witnessed firsthand that Anythink’s staff operates with these priorities in mind.

WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR HOW TO ENGAGE AND COMMUNICATE WITH A LARGE LIBRARY TEAM?

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful when working with large teams across an organization:

  • Set an agenda
  • Establish the “why”
  • Agree on expectations
  • Establish a project timeline and milestones
  • Share information widely so team members have the same resources and facts from which to make decisions
  • Track, measure, and report on the status of the project
  • Review opportunities for improvement
  • Don’t expect perfection—the work on the project should be iterative
  • Share and celebrate success

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS FOR A LIBRARY DIRECTOR TO KNOW AND PRACTICE IN 2023?

Library directors should:

  • Invest in a diversity, equity, and inclusion organizational assessment and training for themselves and staff, and apply what is learned to the adaptation of programs and resources that are tailored to the needs and desires of their diverse communities
  • Be strategic
  • Stay grounded
  • Be humble
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Invest in adaptive leadership training
  • Align their actions and decisions with their organization’s mission and values

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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.

Related Articles

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4/5/2022A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 8
8/3/2021A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 7
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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