Being a manager or supervisor comes with a host of responsibilities, and one I’ve been thinking about lately is managing physical space. Whether it’s ensuring communal work spaces are staying organized, or paying attention to the cleanliness of your shelves and room, managers need to remember that they’re the leaders of the place in addition to the people.
This doesn’t mean you should take it upon yourself to clean up a messy staff workroom every Friday, but you should set expectations about levels of organization. For example, does your staff take several weeks to return program materials (markers, crayons, tablecloths) back where they belong? If so, it’s time to ask that items be put away no more than a few days after a program. Do you notice that a bin labeled “glue sticks” or “scissors” seems to have also accumulated yarn or stickers? Make it clear that materials should go in their designated containers or spots. Not only does disorganization make things more difficult to find next time, it takes up unnecessary (and precious) space that could be used more effectively. Bonus: if someone in your department has skills around organizing, ask him or her to make some headway in cluttered areas.
The cleanliness of our rooms and shelves are also pieces managers should notice. While it’s impossible to keep a children’s room looking pristine, ask staff to take frequent walks through the stacks and play areas, tidying up toys, refilling displays, facing books, and edging shelves (within reason). Will your work be undone shortly? Yes. So why bother? Because when we keep our space looking attractive, we respect each and every person that walks into the library. We nonverbally communicate the importance of a clean, inviting place for families. We get an opportunity to show off materials in our collections, to do passive readers’ advisory. We show pride in our reading and media materials, our early literacy areas, our passive programs that encourage interaction and engagement. We demonstrate our commitment to providing everyone an attractive, safe spot to call their own.
When guests are coming, you probably tidy up your house, right? The same goes for a children’s room. A great mentor of mine, who paid close attention to the state of our children’s room, explained how powerful it is for all kids and families – no matter their life situation – to walk into the library and know they are entering a place of welcome.
Building these organizational habits takes time and reminders for all of us, but with pretty minimal effort you’ll see how these positive adjustments are making your library an even more inviting place. Who knows… you might even motivate colleagues in other libraries to do the same!
Kelsey Johnson-Kaiser is the Youth Services Manager of the George Latimer Central Library in Saint Paul, MN and a member of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.