One of the things I’ve struggled with most as a fairly new manager is facilitating a successful meeting, primarily our monthly children’s services meeting. I realized part of my issue with it was never considering the purpose of the meetings. I simply took it for granted that it was important and necessary that we hold a monthly meeting. However, for the first few meetings, I kept running out of time, not getting through all the agenda items, felt that it was all over the place with people talking over one another and left every meeting feeling disappointed and dissatisfied. After getting advice from several more experienced colleagues, having the amazing opportunity to participate in the Eureka Leadership Program and reading many articles on the subject, I feel like while my meetings aren’t perfect, they are now moving in the right direction.
Hold a purposeful meeting
Thinking about why we are meeting helped considerably. Initially, I felt that people were talking too much in the meetings. However, I realized one of the main reasons is so all children’s staff throughout the library system are on the same page and have a venue for voicing feedback on programs and services. This ensures we are using our resources most effectively to the community’s benefit. While I did need to maintain a lead on facilitating the meeting, make sure we created action items and assigned staff to them, and did not let any one person continually interrupt or monopolize the discussion, it was good allowing for sharing by other staff in the meeting. It was important that I just listen.
Make it a priority.
Staff feel validated and morale is better when the meeting is made a priority in the weekly schedule and effort is made that they are scheduled for it. I find staff are willing to be very flexible in order for them to be able to attend our meetings and feel out of the loop when they aren’t there.
Assign someone to take minutes and take turns with this responsibility
I think it provides a sense of ownership in the meeting discussions. After I review it, I send it out to staff library-wide. It shows other staff all that we are doing in children’s services and keeps the communication lines open informing them of any new policies or procedures.
Food is always welcome
I’ve been bringing baked goods to our monthly meetings and it is very appreciated. It automatically puts a positive spin on the meeting and can act as an informal ice breaker because it is what we talk about first thing, puts all of us in a good mood and makes us more relaxed. Also, everyone is busy eating so it gives me the chance to talk uninterrupted at the start to kickoff the meetings.
Keep it fresh and positive
I think it is important to add a little something extra or new in the meetings. For example, I have asked everyone ahead of time to book talk a book or bring an idea for an upcoming program to the next meeting. Next time, I might propose, as “homework,” for staff to think of one anecdotal story of how they’ve seen library services directly impact one or several library users and practice sharing it. I also must admit that I was slow to realize how much positive feedback is valued. Sharing an example of or commending a staff member on exemplary service goes a long way.
I think meeting effectiveness is something we all need to think about it and work at no matter what level we are at in our careers since we all take part in them in some form or other. Do you have any other ideas or tips for running or participating in effective meetings?
Our guest blogger today is Marie Town, who wrote this piece as a member of the Managing Children’s Services Committee. Marie is also the Principal Librarian of the Oceanside Public Library in Oceanside, California.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’re spot on when you advise to make meetings a priority. I struggled with that when I first started – the department didn’t have a regular meeting already scheduled and it seems like I never remembered to schedule one and I was struggling to find a time when everyone was here. I decided to shoot for the first Monday and make sure everyone was scheduled, and that’s made it much easier. Finding desk coverage was also an issue, but during the school year we are almost always very quiet in the early afternoons, so we meet in our department and one person is assigned to keep an eye on the desk.
I also struggled to figure out what would be on our agenda each month, so I finally sat down and looked at the entire year, figured out deadlines for program calendars, and outlined meeting agendas for the entire year. This way, I know what we need to be planning for, and I can add other agenda items as they come up.
I think both planning meetings on regular days so staff know when to expect them and planning your agenda far in advance are both excellent ideas! Good for morale and goal setting. I’ve yet to find a regular set time when all my staff can make it but that is the ideal. I know it’s easy to put off taking time to set agenda items for meeting months or weeks out but it is so beneficial in the long run! Something I haven’t tried yet that I also think it might be good is to get the agenda items out to my staff before meeting so they aren’t put on the spot and had time to thoughtfully think about things prior to meeting.
I was really hoping to feel inspired by this post. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply very well in the school library environment. When I first became a librarian in my district, we had monthly meetings which really turned into nothing more than an unproductive, nobody could bring anything new to the table as every school has their way of doing things, which would turn into allowing bragging rights to those who believe their way is the ONLY way. Last year our meetings are also, almost, monthly but would potentially involve training and discussions hosted by professionals. This was all well and good, but unfortunately you can only do that for so long, and yet for most of us we’d much rather use that time to dedicate to book repair, cataloging, and shelving.