Friday, August 25, 2017

So, You Want to Be a Consulting and Training Services Director for Libraries

This week, we have a guest writer, Sarah Sogigian who is the CATS (Consulting and Training Services) Director at the Massachusetts Library System. We asked her to share with our readers what it is like to be a CATS Director and impart any tips for those interested in pursuing a similar career path. Without further ado, here's her response:

When I started working in libraries over 20 years ago, never did I think either of these words would be in a title of a position I would hold: CATS (Consulting and Training Services) and Director. I don’t like cats. And I never aspired to be a library director. So how did I end up here? Good question. Looking back on my career path, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and apply all sorts of great opportunities, some of which I admit I didn’t realize at the time how lucky I was to have. Hindsight provides a great lens for perspective.


My dream library jobs include being a librarian at the Herrick Film Library, an Event Planner at the Boston Public Library, and a cruise ship librarian. But I’m very happy where I have landed. I’ve been building my career since my first job as a Page at the Shrewsbury Public Library. After being a Circ Assistant, ILL Librarian, and Electronic Resources Librarian, I finally found the position I thought I was born to do till retirement: Young Adult Librarian. Turns out, I was born to do it for 4 years. I moved on and became the Youth Services Consultant at the Metrowest and Boston Regional Library Systems. My role at MLS started with the Great Regional Consolidation of 2010, as a Youth Services Advisor, then after 5 or so years, I applied and was promoted to the position I currently hold, supervising 7 full time and 1 part time staff members. Our super fabulous team creates the consulting and professional development services MLS provides to our 1,600 member libraries.

Key Roles

The biggest parts of my job include things I have always enjoyed doing: Learning from others, sharing my knowledge, organization, writing on walls, laughing, and including as many Buffy the Vampire Slayer references as I can. I try to approach everything I do with these key ingredients. I often plan and lead trainings internally for MLS staff, and a training is much more enjoyable if you use post it notes and write on the walls or use a Buffy MadLibs to demonstrate facilitation techniques.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a big part of my ongoing planning…I can’t do anything without goals! Whether you supervise others or just want to give yourself a road to follow, goal setting will provide you with that line. When your mind begins to wander and you begin to feel overwhelmed, you have a compass to guide you back. It’s critical to your success and your library’s success. If you are unsure of where to begin, look to your library’s strategic plan. Base your goals off of what your library’s goals are. No need to be super specific; you can always adjust your goals and how you will accomplish them as you go. Leave room for things you can’t control.

When to Say No... And Yes

Another tip that took me a long time to understand is when to say no…and yes. It’s ok to say both! Stress can be very real and often we have the power to keep it at bay. Sometimes saying no to something you can’t take on at this moment is ok. But don’t forget to say yes, too! Saying yes to new opportunities helps you develop and keeps the dreaded work plateau at bay. Saying yes is what helps define your career path. And be ready to share your skills with some professional positions like committee work, elected positions, or volunteer opportunities. Sounds contradictory to saying no, doesn’t it? It’s really about knowing your personal limitations and aspirations.

Being a Supervisor

If you find yourself saying “it’s not my job”, then a supervisory role may not be for you. In the end, everything is your job. You are responsible for those you supervise and the work they do. To be a good manager or director, you’ll need to work with your team, not establish lines of them vs you. Some people feel once they get to a certain level or job title, that they can wipe their hands of old work and move on. For me, it’s not about doing the old work, but understanding it and remembering how the work impacts your team and your public. From there, you can build a service that positively impacts your library, your public, and your staff.

Finally, don’t feel there is a time where you will be “ready” for a supervisory role. You’ll never be ready and even if you are, there may not be a job open. If you are nervous and excited, it’s the time to apply. Learn as much as you can about what will be expected of you, but be ready to work and learn for others, including your staff. You’ll need their support as much as they will need yours.

Sarah Sogigian
Consulting and Training Services Director
Massachusetts Library System
508-357-2121 x311


Thank you to Sarah for her guidance and expertise! If you enjoyed this post, check out the rest in our "So You Want to Be a Librarian" series:

So You Want To Be a Teen Librarian
So You Want To Be a Reference Librarian
So You Want To Be a Children's Librarian
So You Want To Be a Children's Librarian: Programming and Events

Friday, August 18, 2017

Ready to Go Book Display: Spooky Reads for Halloween

Ready to Go Book Display: Spooky Reads for Halloween

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go! Book Display." Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group that you can promote within your library or order for your collection. Grab your pumpkin latte and let's look at books for Halloween.

Recommendations for Adults:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (Jul 2017)
The surviving members of a forgotten teen detective club and their dog reunite as broken adults on an effort to solve a terrifying cold case that ruined them all and sent the wrong man to prison.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan (Apr 2016)
Supernatural mysteries and suburban drama collide in the early hours after the Halloween of 1988 for four twelve-year-old newspaper delivery girls, in the first installment of this graphic novel series.
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix (Jan 2014)
After strange things start happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined.
Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry (Oct 2011)
Injected by a prison doctor with a formula designed to keep his consciousness awake after death, a condemned serial killer experiences unforeseen, contagious side effects and emerges from his grave to begin a murderous rampage that is combated by two small-town cops.
The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick (Dec 2016)
378 Collarmill Road looks like an ordinary house. But sometimes, the world outside the windows isn't the one you expect to see. And sometimes you'll turn around and find you're not alone.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thompson (Oct 2017)
Every time she bleeds a murderer is born.

Recommendations for Teens:

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle (Aug 2015)
Every October Cara and her family become mysteriously and dangerously accident-prone, but this year is when Cara will begin to unravel the accident season's dark origins.
Demon Derby by Carrie Harris (Jul 2014)
Once a true daredevil, South Carolina high school junior Casey is in remission from cancer when a terrifying encounter at a Halloween party leads her to become a demon-fighting roller derby girl.
Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics (Sep 2015)
When Amanda Verner's family moves from their small mountain cabin to a cabin in the prairies it becomes obvious to Amanda that something is very wrong with her new home.
13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt (Aug 2015)
When Luke Manchett's estranged father dies suddenly, he leaves his son a dark inheritance: a Host of eight unique, powerful, and restless spirits. Unfortunately, Luke has no clue to how to manage them, which the ghosts figure out pretty quickly.
Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward (Feb 2016)
Wishing she could just spend time with her new girlfriend, Lea struggles with the decline in humanity as an environmental disaster strikes.
House of Furies by Madeleine Roux (May 2017)
Escaping from her harsh school before finding work as a maid in an English boarding house, Louisa realizes that her mysterious employer and his staff execute cruel judgments on the guests.

Recommendations for Kids:

EEK! Halloween! by Sandra Boynton (Aug 2016)
The chickens are nervous. Witches, wizards, robots, and an alarmingly enormous mouse are prowling around town tonight, and it's up to the chickens to get to the bottom of it!
Herbert's First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant (Aug 2017)
Herbert and his father prepare for his first Halloween by making a tiger costume and practicing a big roar.
Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt (Aug 2013)
Scaredy Squirrel has put together a collection of helpful safety tips and step-by-step instructions to guide you through common Halloween obstacles.
Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion (Jul 2017)
Pig is excited about Halloween but Pug loses his holiday spirit because of his uncomfortable costume.
Bad Kitty, Scaredy-Cat by Nick Bruel (Aug 2016)
Bad Kitty is frightened by the creatures on Halloween, but when she sees all the holiday treats she decides to be a very bad kitty and chases the scary creatures away.
The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea (Jul 2017)
A young ghost lives by a dark forest, but he's afraid of monsters and too scared to go there, inviting young readers to turn the pages and explore it on their own.
A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini (Jun 2017)
When Kelly loses a little boy to monsters who live under his bed during her first babysitting job, she learns about a secret society of babysitters who fight monsters.
Monsterland by James Crowley (Aug 2017)
Chased into the woods by neighborhood bullies who are after his Halloween candy, fifth grader Charlie quickly gets lost and finds his way into Vampyreishtat - or Monsterland, an uncharted land where werewolves, mummies, and vampires live freely - and with the help of the Monster of all Monsters, Charlie hopes he will find his cousin who disappeared a year ago.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Program Planning: Walk-In, Registration, or 1 Hour Early Tickets?

So, you have planned this fantastic program. Maybe you are running it yourself, maybe you hired someone highly recommended... Either way, you think that it could be a hit and you are dreaming of a full house.

But what to do next? Should you require registration or just allow walk-ins? Should you hand out tickets an hour before the event? We look at all three of these options and give you the low down on the pros and cons, as well as share a fourth technique you don't hear about often. (This post was inspired from the YA-YAAC listserv, which we highly recommend to youth and teen librarians!)


The easiest way to handle program attendees. You advertise the event and anyone is allowed to attend. No sign-up necessary.


  1. Patrons don't need to register ahead of time.
  2. No need to keep track of who is signing up and who is wait listed.
  3. You don't get no-shows!
  4. People who couldn't commit to the date early won't be discouraged from coming the day of.


  1. You have no idea how many people to expect to come.
  2. Hard to plan material needs. Might have bought too much or too little, wasting funds or requiring rushed trips to the store during the program.


Many libraries require registration for their programs. Patrons need to sign-up ahead of time (either by contacting the library who has a paper sign-up form or online via a program like Eventkeeper) until space runs out. 


  1. You will know how many people to expect at the program. If not enough register, it is easy to make the call to cancel the program. You will also be able to spend the appropriate amount of money on supplies.
  2. You don't have to open the registration right away. Some libraries prefer to wait either two weeks before the event or the Friday before and then open registration.
  3. You can easily  keep track of the no-shows. If certain patrons keep registering but not attending, you can mentally count them out or make it a policy that three no-shows means they can't register anymore.


  1. Some communities refuse to register but still come for the program. If you find that program attendance is higher for non-register programs, you might want to go that route.
  2. No-shows. Not everyone who signs up will actually come. A few ways you can remedy this: 
    1. Opening registration really close to the program date (2 weeks before or the Friday before) can help decrease the odds of no-shows.
    2. Or, if you see a pattern, you could register 20% over capacity, knowing that you'll never be 100% full.
    3. Another option is to require a $5 deposit when people register to dissuade anyone who isn't willing to commit from signing up. At the program, you can return their $5.
  3. What to do about late patrons? Should they be allowed in after 30 minutes? Should they lose their spot after 10 minutes? Make sure this is written in your advertisement.

The Big Question for Registration: Wait List or No Wait List?

When registration space is filled, some libraries allow patrons to sign-up onto a Wait List. When people cancel, the librarian will contact those on the list and offer them the coveted spot.


  1. It allows you to not have to officially turn anyone away. A spot may open up!
  2. If you see many names on the Wait List, you could make a second session and offer it to them.


  1. It is labor intensive. If someone cancels and you call the first person on the Wait List, what do you do if they don't answer the phone? Keep calling people or leave a message? What if the cancellation is a few minutes before the event, do you make phone calls then? Is it worth your time to do that?
  2. It also complicates things when it comes to those who came to the event but did not register. They are willing to wait for openings, but should they be given the opportunity if they didn't join the Wait List?

1 Hour Early Tickets

Instead of requiring people to register, you can tell them to come to the library an hour early to get a ticket. Once tickets run out, they are out of luck.


  1. Everyone who gets a ticket will hang around, so you will not have any no-shows.
  2. Because they have to come early, this gives them an opportunity to walk around your library, hopefully check out a few items or see how cool the Children's Area is!


  1. It'll be a bit crazy the hour before the program as everyone comes for a ticket at the same time. This can be managed, though, with careful planning. Maybe you'll want someone at the door to hand out tickets instead of letting a line form in front of the check-out desk? 
  2. You'll have an influx of people hanging out at the library, which may not be ideal if your library doesn't have the space for people to wait. If you do have the space, maybe plan a few passive activities to keep the kids entertained?

Targeted Registration 

This is something I had done at my previous library that worked well. I used a Google Form for Summer Reading Registration, and after all of the usual questions, I listed all of the programs and asked them to mark which ones they might be interested in. Then, a week before the program, we emailed only the patrons who had shown interest to tell them that registration is now open. 


  1. Find out people's interest in your programs right away. We found the responses were a good guide for how popular the program would be... And if there weren't a lot of interest in a program, it was best to cancel it.
  2. Allows you to target your advertising to only those interested so you don't become "noise" to the patrons and they start ignoring your emails.
  3. People are more likely to follow through with attending when they register close to the date.


  1. Can be time intensive. We had weekly programs, so we had to send out specific emails every week.
  2. Harder to buy materials ahead of time since you open registration close to the program (though you could open registration two weeks early to prevent that).
  3. We had to create our own form on Google Forms since none of the big Summer Reading programs offered this option for listing programs. It was easy to make, though, and easy for us to later group emails together by interest.
  4. It may not work for Summer Reading, if you want them to use an official Summer Reading program like Wandoo Reader. (Who would sign up twice?) It worked for us because we used our homemade Scratch Tickets program.

Do you have any other suggestions on this topic? We'd love to hear them in the comments! Unfortunately, there is no one right answer. Try them all out and see what works best for your community. It might be a combination. The good news: you have options!

Friday, August 4, 2017

7 Tips for the Newbie Library Director

Congratulations, you have landed the coveted role as a Library Director! But what to do now? This was a question posted on ALATT Facebook Group, and there were so many great responses, we thought we'd record them below so they would not be lost in the black hole of the internet.

1. Find Mentors

Reach out to other directors in the area. They will make a great sounding board and resource.

2. Interact with All Staff

Don't hide in your office. Meet with all staff members, not just your supervisors. Work with staff on the desk and out in the stacks. Find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Give them opportunities to shine and ask for feedback. Help them re-tailor their jobs so they can love it as much as they can. Make sure to establish clear boundaries between boss and friends (No Facebook!).

3. Support Staff

Attend staff programs so they know you care and patrons can also interact with you, too. Ask questions about their workflow. Every library does things differently and there's usually something that can be improved. Ask them what their biggest challenges are and find ways to help them through them.

4. Reach Out to the Community

Create community contacts (PTO/PTA,Chamber of Commerce, Women in Business, United Way, Lion's Club, EDC, etc.) for possible donations, supporters, etc. Attend all meetings so they can become familiar with the library and you get to learn more about your community. This will help with knowing who's who in your community and for collection development and program planning.

5. Read, Read, Read

Read the minutes from previous board meetings. Read the Trustee manual, internal procedures, State and Federal laws, flowcharts, who's who in the internal and external environment, history of your library/library system, human resources files: the resum├ęs of your people, if you have a person covered by ADA in your staff and so on. Learn the HR rules in your state.

6. Remember:

  • There is very little that you can do which cannot be fixed. It might take time and money, but they can be remedied. So, don't worry about mistakes!
  • Treat your first year as your learning year. Listen, watch, assess, then take action.
  • Morale is your number one asset. Treasure it, nurture it, do not let an individual destroy a team. 
  • You don't have to fake it to make it. Just act as what you think a dynamic holder of the position would look and plan to grow into that full role.

7. Visit the Library Directors' website

Lastly, you can connect with a broader group of library directors through the Join the listserv, check out their long list of resources, and more! If you are active on Facebook, you can also join the Library Management Group.

Do you have any tips for new directors? Please share below.

Like this article? Check out:

Management 101: What to Be & What to Do
Management 101: A Manager Should Not, A Manager Should Know, A Manager Should Remember