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TL v64n1: Staff Development
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Viewpoint: Staff Development



Tales of a Librarian

Christy Groves


We are just a few weeks away from this year’s TLA Annual Conference!  I’m looking forward to attending again this year, and in honor of the 2014 theme, I thought I’d dedicate this issue’s column to “Tell Your Story.” 

In the most recent TLA Newsletter, President Ruth Kinnersley shared her gratitude to all of the librarians she has encountered at previous TLA conferences.  She also encouraged us to share our own story or our library’s story when we see her this year.  Her invitation got me to thinking about the uniqueness each of us brings to the profession, as well as the value I place on everyone in my library.

Before I get into that, though, I feel the need to share my story:  My love of librarianship was formed at a young age, and I cannot imagine myself working in any other career.  Nothing else seems to fit.  While pondering the “why” behind this lack of fit, I finally realized that I love librarianship because I’m a master of nothing.   I am not excellent at any particular activity, but I am interested in nearly everything.  My diverse interests have given me a “jack of all trades” depth of experience.  Twenty years in the profession have crafted my continuing story.  Along the way, I have gained significant experience in and understanding of the way libraries are organized, as well as the nuances of supervision, collegiality, and user behavior.  I have been part of the technological growth that is so deeply intertwined in all that we are and do.  So, while I’m not excellent at any one thing, I’m well-versed in many and can call upon examples in my work history that help me with next steps in resolving issues and brainstorming new workflows, service models, and strategic plans.

I believe a vital managerial role is to steer the ship.  I work with my staff to represent their ideas, suggestions, and proposals to the rest of the library and higher administration.  In my early days of management, I quickly recognized that there is absolutely no way to know everything about everything in a library.  Libraries change too quickly and are too complex to remember it all.  This is where the experts come in! 

Diverse staff is valuable staff.  Everyone brings their unique skills and talents to the library. Their uniqueness is a result of their story -- the experiences and knowledge they have gained through the course of their studies, work, and life journey.   Without our valuable employees, the library would cease to exist, as everyone plays a vital role in our relevance to users. 

Management literature demonstrates again and again that respected employees are productive employees.  Productive employees are crucial to organizational success, so I work hard to provide an environment of collaboration, support, and communication for those with whom I work.  I make sure to give credit to those who do the work and support them wholeheartedly.  The rewards are priceless, resulting in library relevance and forward momentum to tackle the never ending challenges that face us.   Our libraries’ future stories will be shaped by what each of our unique employees bring to their jobs.  After twenty years, I have compiled a number of stories, both on my own and through working with outstanding people.  I’m looking forward to my next chapter.  See you at TLA in Murfreesboro!


Christy Groves is the Head of User Services at the Walker Library at Middle Tennessee State University. She can be reached at
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