ON LIBRARIES: Launching – and Completing – A Successful Project

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No matter where you are on your professional journey, starting out or established leader, there are times and opportunities where you need to take risks and move out of your comfort zone. Frequently this means creating and tackling a project.  Smaller projects, which tend to be shorter term, could include a “one book, one school,” a book club, or starting a Makerspace. A big project might be genre-fying your fiction (and possibly your nonfiction) collection, turning your library into a Learning Commons, or building a new library wing. How do you manage these long-term projects while you are still doing your regular job?  Planning is the key.

Whether the project is big or small you will likely have moments (maybe many of them) of trepidation, concern and even a few occasions of “What was I thinking?!” In a new blog I have been following, Belinda Wasser of RocketGirl Solutions presented seven ideas on How to Launch a Big Project.  These steps work for small projects as well as large ones and are a great way to keep you on track or help you return if you get off course.

no elephants were sacrificed for any of the projects mentioned!

Here are the seven—along with my comments:

  1. Set the end date before you begin. Wasser says it motivates you. I believe it keeps you on track.  Keep in mind the places where you don’t have control over all the parts when it comes to a large project.  For example, contractors don’t/can’t always adhere to the original schedule, and things do go wrong.
  • For small projects, if you don’t have an end date, you are likely to let daily tasks get in the way and the project will not only never be completed, it will start to feel overwhelming and tedious. You won’t meet your goal if you don’t schedule the time to keep moving your project forward.
  1. Break the project down into its parts and create a plan. I have written about my technique of telescoping, microscoping, and periscoping when doing a big project. In telescoping you look down the road to the conclusion of the project as Wasser says for the first step. I also recommend you set additional internal dates for the different parts of the project.  On a day-to-day basis you use microscoping to focus on the current step. Every so often you go to periscoping, popping up the periscope to see what’s next to see if everything is on schedule and what you will need to do next.
  • For small projects, you still need to know the parts but periscoping will be less of a necessity. If you are relying on others for components of your project, such as getting approval for something, be sure to stay on top of it, nicely reminding that person of the “deadline” and the important part their role plays.

3. Schedule regular meetings. I’ve found librarians rarely do this even for a large project, but if you think it can help your progress, do it. This may be especially important if your project is outside of your library, such as for your state association (Zoom anyone?). Regardless of whether meetings will help, keeping people up to date on the state of the project is important and you should send reports to whomever is involved, particularly the administration.

  • In meetings and in reports, focus on the positives.  Report on any problems that are surfacing and how you plan to deal with them, including who will be helping you to take care of it.

4. Be decisive. At some point (or several) during a large project, you will have to make decisions. It often is about making some changes to the original plan. It’s challenging enough to take on a big project.  When confronted by the need to alter it in some way, the tendency is to try to get the perfect solution, and you can spend time getting a lot of advice.  That is what General Colin Powell calls “analysis paralysis.”  You don’t have time to waste.  Give yourself a short deadline for coming to a decision and go with it. Small projects (fortunately) rarely have these decisions.

  • You might change a vendor or product for your starter makerspace or decide to have a theme book club requiring you to have books for participants to choose from. But the decisions shouldn’t take much time.
  1. Be prepared to spend extra time. You already have a full schedule, and there isn’t much you can do when this happens. You will have to fit in extra time for the project. This doesn’t mean you stay late every day or bring home an inordinate amount of work. An idea can be to create a list of responsibilities you can delegate temporarily so that when this happens, you have a plan. Also, remember to allow for downtime with friends and family during the process or you will be drained and exhausted when it’s complete.

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  • Small projects need little extra time, but since it can come up be mindful of them.
  1. Don’t forget the budget. Vendor sites and vendors themselves can give you a good idea of some of the costs. Use social media to ask those who have tackled this type of project to tell you how they budgeted, what were some unexpected costs, and how they handled writing RFPs (Request for Proposal).
  • With a small project, many of you will be spending money out of your own pocket. You might buy makerspace supplies or treats for the book club.  While this may be unavoidable, look for other funding sources such as your home school association or small grants.
  1. Visualizing the end. Just as the Vision for your library program serves as an inspiration, visualizing what you will have when you are done will keep you going on the tough days. It will become easier to hold the picture as you come closer to the end. Share the steps with others.  Take pictures of the progress and create a display and/or post on your website.

And one more step from me. Celebrate. Be proud of your achievement, large or small.  You have expanded the library presence and improved student learning through your vision and courage.  It’s what leadership is about.

 

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WRITING LIFE: I Am the Architect of My Life

horoscopeWhen I was growing up, I assiduously read my horoscope in the newspaper.  Heading up the daily forecasts for the astrological signs was the phrase, “The stars impel; they do not compel.”  Reading the words every day, I absorbed the message without thinking. I have recently recognized in many ways the phrase has shaped my life.

I was in a good situation working as a librarian in a school district for 22 years. I was respected and was secure in my job.  Then my supportive school superintendent announced she was going to retire in two years, giving the Board of Education the chance to find her replacement.  I looked into what might occur if I stayed.

I had an antagonistic relationship with my principal, but always had the backing of the outgoing superintendent. Without that, my professional life was going to be more confrontational.  I also suspected (correctly as it turned out) that he would become the superintendent in the near future. I immediately started job hunting and found a new position.

My colleagues were shocked.  Educators don’t choose to leave a district where they have tenure. I regretted the loss of my sick days and nothing else.  I finished up my library career working in a wonderful district where I had an even better situation and was completely happy.

We can let life happen to us, accepting it and complaining about it.  Or we can take charge. Make our own choices and risk being responsible for them. It may be scary but it’s empowering.your-own-choice

No one gets through life without bumps, challenges, and often very worrisome events.  Some have it worse than other, but all of us at some point or another feel as though the anvil that always landed on Wiley Coyote had been dropped on our heads.  You can’t control the anvil.  You can control what you do about it.

Complaining, blaming the universe, or others for your woes may free you from the responsibility of stepping out of your comfort zone to do something about it, but it won’t make you feel any better.  And living that way will only make you feel worse.  To be in charge of your life you must make conscious choices.

With those choices comes risks. We tend to avoid risk becomes it comes with the potential for failure.  For having your choice or plan not working.  What will you do them?  The answer is – make another choice.  Take on another risk.

More often than not you will find your risk paid off.  Sometimes not in the way you thought, but still bringing you benefits you wouldn’t have thought of.  And it’s empowering to be in charge of your life.

Taking greater chances is part of being an adult – and actively participating in your life. Parents tend to shield children from problems.  The cocoon of childhood is a safe place to grow.  But inevitably one must grow or be a child forever.

I lead everywhere in my life.  As I grew through adolescence and early adulthood, I never thought I was a leader.  But when confronted with adversity, I chose to step up.  Becoming accustomed to making hard choice prepare me for taking on new challenges.

proved-imaginedEventually, I put myself forward in areas that had important meaning for me.  Each step led to bigger ones.  One day I looked around and discovered I was being recognized as a leader. And it was exhilarating.  I like who I am.  I regularly face new challenges – and fears.  The fear doesn’t go away, but I trust myself and those around me to get through whatever it is.  I, too, have become the architect of my life.  And it’s a wonderful building.

 

ON WRITING: Getting Started

the scariest momentThe title of this blog on the fiction writing portion of my life refers both it being my first post on the subject and to the subject itself – How my career as an author came into being and what I learned along the way.

You may know I have been writing for school librarians since 1979, and some of you know Woven through Time, my YA fantasy, came out in 2013 and then was re-released by my new publisher Mundania earlier this year. What you don’t know is that since I was in grade school I have wanted to write a novel. I know many of you have nursed the same desire, and I want to let you know your dream can become a reality if you really want to make it happen.Woven_Through_Time - cover

For so many years, life got in the way of my sitting down to tell a story, at least that’s what I told myself.  The truth is, I let it slip into the dim recesses of my brain.  I convinced myself it was an unrealistic childhood fantasy. I didn’t have the talent or skill set to write creatively.  My writing was about process, things I knew and wanted to share with colleagues.  Fortunately, my daughter didn’t buy those stories I told myself, and when I retired and could go to a week-long program of writing workshops put on by the International Women’s Writing Guild, she encouraged me to join her.  I did and Woven through Time was the result.

It began easily enough.  I chose a five-day workshop on novel writing and we got started on it immediately.  Surrounded by a class-full of women all ready to write, I found I did have an idea I wanted to develop.  I was going to write a fantasy about three generations of women beginning when the first was in her teens and going through her life until her granddaughter reached her teens.  I would be looking at three stages of a woman’s life –maiden, mother, crone ­– and so Sava, Aimah, and Nara were born.

I didn’t know that my passions and strong beliefs would emerge without my focusing on them.  All I wanted to do was tell a good story.  The “woven” in the title referred to the abilities all three women had in weaving beautiful cloth that predicted the future.

easy noIt took a while before I realized “woven” also refers to the threads that give meaning to the life. One of the strongest threads in my life is the passion I have for family. For me it has been an unconditional bond that remains true throughout the years. A second thread is the vital role honorable men play in protecting and supporting those they love. Another is the power women have when they are joined in a common purpose.  A related one is the importance of female friends in a woman’s life.  I came to this last one late in my own life, and Sava is amazed when she discovers it for herself.

There are more clues to my life buried within the story. Some I probably haven’t found yet. The book certainly isn’t a memoir, yet I discovered that once I started writing, what came to the page told the important parts of my journey through life.