Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Abby and the Very Busy Day

Some days are a marathon... (Photo by Anna Beswick)
Today was one of those days when I really earned my keep. Of course, I hope I am earning my keep every day, but today was definitely a marathon of a day. One of my staff members needed to be off unexpectedly and it happened to be a day that she had a couple of programs on the schedule.

After doing my regular baby storytime this morning, I took my lunch break and then headed off to booktalk to six K-2nd grade classes at one of our local schools. When I got back, I set up for and ran our weekly beginning readers storytime.

There were a couple of procedures in place that enabled me to step in and help us offer our services uninterrupted, even with an unexpected absence.

First of all, as the department head, I make it my business to know enough about the workings of all of our programs that I could step in and cover should the need arise. Today was one of those days when the need arose! Marge Loch-Wouters recently wrote about the manager's "place in space" and that youth services managers need to be willing to honor the work of our staffers and pitch in to do some of the programming and front-line work that they are doing. Being prepared to step in and cover is a way that I honor my staffers; I want them to know that I have their backs.

I don't necessarily know the inner workings of every program my staffers do or every single activity and song they include, but I know enough to be able to step in, explain that I'm filling in, and run an age-appropriate program. I generally have back-up staffers who fill in for various folks if they're out on a planned day off, but I make sure that I know the basics to help out in an emergency.

And the reason that this really works is that my staffers are generally very prepared for their programs and have everything ready to go. Yes, I could pull together some booktalks or a storytime program at the last minute, but we try to make it a practice to have storytime plans written out (at least a basic outline), have booktalks planned and ready to go (or at least ready enough that they could be emailed to another staffer), have books pulled and craft or play stations prepped.

We're not perfect at this - no one is - but for the most part we are all well-prepared to have someone else take over a program for us.

Days like today are a good reminder that it's a best practice to have everything planned out and written down just in case. Of course, our families and teachers would definitely understand if something needed to be canceled - it happens to everyone from time to time. But if put something on our calendar and we have families coming in or teachers expecting us, I want to make every effort not to cancel.

One area that I personally could stand to improve is my knowledge of our teen programs. Thankfully this has not been an issue - with two teen librarians I have some built-in backup - but days like today remind me that I still have work to do to feel like I really could step in to cover for ANY of my staff if needed.

What procedures do you have in place to cover for staff who are unexpectedly out?