Turning Over a New Leaf

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

66735564 - staff turnover word cloudWhether you are in a library with a smaller, mostly public-service staff, or a larger system with a dedicated collection development department, the problems are the same. Just when you think you’ve assembled your dream team and everything is running like a well-oiled machine, opportunity knocks and staff leave for greener pastures – other libraries or other departments. Or you may have a hiring freeze and find yourself having to do more with less. For whatever reason, turnover can be a problem, both for the ones leaving and the ones left behind.

Those entering new libraries or departments can feel their excitement turn to horror when they discover it’s been years since anyone updated policies and procedures, or that collections haven’t been weeded or kept pace with circulation trends.

Managers and co-workers facing vacancies may realize that over-reliance on dedicated staff has left them totally in the dark when the “institutional memory” leaves or retires. And few of us have the luxury of a succession plan.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been in all of these situations and asked myself:

  • Who should order what, when, why, and in what quantities?
  • When was the last time continuations and standing order profiles were updated?
  • Is collection spending and shelf space in keeping with collection usage?
  • In essence, why do we do what we do in the way we are doing it?

48356021_sWhen faced with questions like these that may seem daunting, it’s important to remember although trite, it’s often true—challenges can be opportunities.

Whether you are teaching yourself or training replacement staff, now may be a good time to examine and rework how your collection is built and maintained. Sometimes a vacancy can necessitate a reevaluation of all staff and their contribution to the organization. Similarly, this may be the time to make a sea change in a new workplace.

Not everyone comes to the table with the same skills and interests, and some may gravitate more toward public services, technical services, or particular collection areas. The best employees do what they love and love what they do. If possible, play to people’s strengths: make the job fit the person.

If not enough staff (or your new hire) have the right collection development skills or passion, can you shuffle staff responsibilities or look toward automating processes?

Putting more authors and series on standing orders and continuations can help shift the focus on important debuts and sleeper hits and allow more time for public programming, policy-making, and administrative tasks.


Chances are, your holds list does not always reflect titles from print reviews. Your clientele hear about new materials on radio programs, network television, podcasts, and blogs.  Library staff need to listen, watch, and read broadly to keep up on trends. Creating targeted selection tools out of the journals and bestseller lists that are important to your library will free up time to follow newsfeeds and social media. Lack of staff time or interest can also lead to ordering prepublication titles too late, or not anticipating sufficient copies. What types of notification lists could make you proactive rather than reactive regarding patron demand? What lists could streamline your selection or provide help in problematic collections and genres?

Are you running out of space or faced with an obsolete collection? Armed with usage reports from your ILS, you can analyze your holdings and determine which areas to grow and shrink. Could a collection builder list help you strengthen underserved areas?

61242607 - young plant in the morning light on nature background

Think of turnover as turning over a new leaf. It can lead to a new, exciting era with efficient staff workflow, smart selection, and useful collections.

How do you and your library tackle staff turnover? Share your thoughts and experiences below!


stephaniecampbellStephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.

Oldies but Goodies Part 2 — Old Favorites

By: Richard Hallman, M.Ln.

Back to my favorite topic, old favorites for modern libraries.

y is for yesterdayWhen a new volume arrives in a beloved series, demand often rises for earlier entries in the series. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone “alphabet series” (so named because there is a book for every letter in the alphabet), is nearing its end. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan underscored the popularity of this series when she said, “Makes me wish there were more than 26 letters.” When the final book in a series is published, some readers like to start over again, reading from the beginning. This is a cue for librarians to check their holdings and reorder any missing titles or replace copies that are particularly dog-eared.

Library patrons often take a new interest in titles that appear on “best books” lists. One book that appears on many such lists is How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. Originally published in 1936, this is a book that is still relevant today. It explains how to make people like you, win others over to your way of thinking, and change people without causing offense or arousing resentment. Hmmm…

how to win friends

Here’s what the New York Times said about the book on its 50th anniversary: Reluctant Dale Carnegie’s 50-Year-Old Classic

think and grow rich

“Think and Grow Rich” is another older title that is constantly coming out in new editions, updated versions and audio versions. Napoleon Hill explains that people can succeed in any line of work, and that they can do and be anything they can imagine. This one is a replica of the original 1937 edition:

by love possessed

One of my favorite assignments in library school was researching what was happening the week we were born. I will confess that I have never read this one, but the New York Times bestselling title for the week when I came into the world was “By Love Possessed,” by James Gould Cozzens (later made into a movie starring Lana Turner – Click here for details.) It’s still in print, and still listed in the latest version of H.W. Wilson’s Fiction Core Collection. Maybe this will inspire you to check out popular books from when you were born!

For reference:

  • Y is for Yesterday     ISBN: 9780399163852
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People     ISBN: 9781439167342
  • Think and Grow Rich     ISBN: 9780143110163
  • By Love Possessed     ISBN: 9780786705030


Richard Hallman, M.Ln.


Budding collection developer Richard Hallman finally set aside his dreams of becoming a rock star, movie director, and/or famous novelist to embrace librarianship. Click here for more.

What Drives You?

By Stephanie Campbell, MLIS

I joined Brodart in 2016 after 20 years as a public and academic librarian. Over the course of my career, I have attended numerous library conferences of all types. But until last week, I had never attended the American Library Association (ALA) annual 44256158 - teamwork hugging people  vector imageconference. I thought I would be intimidated by the size and scope but I felt very at home. Despite its numerous celebrity/author signings and the myriad opportunities to rub elbows with the rock stars of our profession, this mecca of all things library struck me as surprisingly low key and collegial.

ALA is a microcosm of the industry: Public, academic, school, and special librarians representing institutions both large and small, from areas that are rural, suburban, and urban, come together to be the best they can be.

I always find conferences energizing. The validation of being surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals is palpable and undeniable. Taking in the crowd at McCormick Place, I was reminded of Kyle Cassidy’s “This is What a Librarian Looks Like.” Of course, there is no commonality of appearance, but I do believe there are shared values.

Sometimes it’s all too easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of being a librarian: juggling the priorities of boards, administrators, and staff, not to mention the demands of working with the public. Days are filled with managing public service schedules; calculating circulation, reference, and programming numbers; analyzing collections while keeping up with weeding and ordering; getting quotes on furniture, supplies, and building repairs; attending meetings; etc. When managing the day-to-day library operations, losing sight of the big picture is an ever-present potential pitfall. That’s why it’s so vital that we remain aware of what drives us and remember why we became librarians in the first place.

My first career choice was journalism. I was motivated by a love of writing and the written word, along with a desire to make information understandable. From there, it was a pretty natural transition to library science. I decided I didn’t necessarily need to be an information creator. I found I preferred pointing people to all that’s available and letting them choose the best source for them. The ideals of librarianship really appealed to me – the importance of trust and fairness in information and bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots. This is still very much in the back of my mind as I help librarians with collection development.

I once attended one of Library Journal’s “Lead the Change” workshops, where attendees were asked to rate a list of terms to determine: “What drives you?” I discovered that my personal core values revolve around health, family, freedom, and independence. Professionally, I am driven by curiosity, communication, creativity, and personal growth — not just for myself, but for the greater good. This exercise really stuck with me. It was great to be reminded of why I do what I do. Ultimately, I want to help others. I think that’s a quality I share with most librarians.

I think what I enjoyed most about ALA Annual was the air of curiosity and helpfulness among the conference-goers. In the same way that librarians serve library users, they are eager and happy to help each other. Throughout the programs, roundtables, and exhibits, one could see the unselfish exchange of ideas: showcasing the great things they are doing and teaching others how; talking openly about problems and providing potential solutions. Even though I no longer serve the public directly, I take my role as consultant very seriously as I am supporting fantastic people across the country who have made this their life’s work.

I would love to hear your impressions of ALA, your thoughts on the field of librarianship, and what led you to this profession.

What drives you?




Stephanie Campbell has worked for more than 20 years in public, academic, and special libraries. She is an avid gardener, bicyclist, and kayaker. Click here for more.