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A Day in the Life of Five Librarians, Part 11
by
Posted On October 1, 2023
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Inspire, Influence, and Include

One person who has continually inspired me through the years is Hillary Ostlund, the library director at Hillsboro Public Library in Oregon. Hillary’s positivity, kindness, and people-first leadership are the way forward for libraries. She’s showing the world that through collaboration and partnerships, public libraries can be more than they ever imagined.

WHAT HAVE THE PAST 2 YEARS AS A LIBRARY DIRECTOR BEEN LIKE FOR YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED? WHAT ARE YOU REALLY PROUD OF?

Does surviving count? LOL. When I started as director, I had the benefit of knowing the library, the community, our employees and volunteers, and, really, the lay of the land. I started on-call as a librarian at Hillsboro Library in 2006 and have been in many roles, including librarian, supervisor, manager, and now director. However, taking the director role at the height of the pandemic and seeing the toll everything took on people has been so challenging to manage—I’m a fixer, and I can’t fix much of what is happening, so that’s been hard personally and professionally. Finding and focusing on the areas in my sphere of influence and control have been important.

I’m proud of how my library teammates have all pulled together to support each other—and I’m sure this is true in libraries across the land. I’m proud of all of the innovative efforts put into serving our community during what was such a scary and challenging time. I’m proud to be part of a profession that has been such a beacon of hope for the community too— this gave me such a sense of purpose and belonging to get through the pandemic.

WHAT MAKES A COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP WORK? WHAT CAN LIBRARIANS READING THIS LEARN FROM WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED ABOUT HOW TO DEVELOP THEIR OWN PARTNERSHIPS?

Hillary Ostlund

First, whatever partnership or service you enter into with an organization needs to be of and from the community. I’m not going to be the person to assume I know what’s best, so when you attend meetings, networking events, or community gatherings, showing up to listen is hugely important. Then, make the connection, and find the best person on your team to support the effort. Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that have the biggest outcomes. I think about how many times I’ve literally just shown someone how to book our free community meeting rooms or study spaces on the website, and even the offer that a person or organization can utilize the library space—their library space—is met with surprise. We know we’re more than book checkouts and warehouses; often, these things are still unknown to people. Don’t let perfection get in the way of creating possibility!

YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE SAYS THE THREE WORDS YOU TRY TO LIVE BY ARE “INSPIRE, INFLUENCE, AND INCLUDE.” TELL ME ABOUT THAT CHOICE.

I keep these words front and center with me, always. I learned that what feels like eons ago at a women’s leadership conference. The words represent the privilege I’ve had for being mentored and given chances and the privilege I have for being in leadership and being able to influence decisions. My intention is to inspire positive change and include others’ voices in the decision making. The words, I hope, keep me humble and focused on what’s truly important.


Training and Coaching

An in-person library conference I attended recently reminded me of just how important it is to get out there in the professional world, connect with others, and, most importantly, learn and grow. I’m glad that my conference experience and this issue’s chat with the amazing Jay Turner came together like this. Jay’s approach to training and coaching, as principal owner of the EduJay consulting firm, is kind and puts people first. Because of this, Jay has great success in his work.

Jay TurnerHOW DID YOU COME INTO WORKING WITH PUBLIC LIBRARIES?

I started working in public libraries when I was 14. I was a major fantasy nerd back then, and I spent countless days going to my local library to find all types of sword and sorcery fantasy novels. One day while I was browsing, I noticed this dude who looked like he was just a tad older than me shelving books. I had an epiphany: How cool would it be if I could shelve books in the library, find more fantasy novels to read, and make some money in the process? When I was ready to check out my books that day, I asked the head reference librarian, Allison, if they were hiring for another shelver. She said yes, as the other shelver (a page, as I would soon learn they were called) had quit a few days ago. I filled out an application, took a shelving test, and started working the next week. The rest is history. That was the very beginning of my roughly 20-year career in public libraries.

EDUJAY BRINGS HIGH-QUALITY, COST-EFFECTIVE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT TO ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS. HOW HAS THIS WORK BEEN GOING, AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE NEW EXPERIENCES YOU’VE HAD THROUGH IT?

I thoroughly enjoy my work as a consultant. My career path has been very untraditional. While I did not envision being a consultant as I was making my way through various roles in libraries, I knew that I was a risk-taker with a strong entrepreneurial bent. I officially registered my business back in 2018 after I left Georgia Public Library Service to work as an internal senior consultant with the American Red Cross. Although I was transitioning my career at that point, I knew that public libraries would always be a part of my professional DNA. I chose to pursue full-time consulting in 2021. It’s the best career move I have made to date.

Most of my work these days involves partnering with libraries at a strategic level. I do organizational assessments, help HR departments move beyond the transactional to the transformational, provide leadership and executive coaching, and even give assistance in managing enterprise projects. While I still enjoy presenting and facilitating to support tactical skill development, I relish the contributions I’m able to support at the operational level.

THROUGH EDUJAY, YOU ALSO PROVIDE SUCCESS COACHING FOR INDIVIDUALS. I THINK THAT A LOT OF LIBRARIANS ARE VERY MUCH IN NEED OF THIS. WHAT CAN A LIBRARIAN EXPECT FROM WORKING WITH YOU?

I’m a huge believer in coaching, because it is individualized and can lead to long-term behavior change. I help people identify, pursue, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Success coaching usually lasts anywhere from 3 to 12 months, and we explore the coachee’s current state, aspirations, and challenges and then collaborate to create a realistic personal plan to help the coachee achieve their desired outcomes.


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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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