Like a Boss: I had a great boss, now we have no staff

Catherine was a really cool boss. Here’s a picture of Catherine:

She hates having her picture taken.
She hates having her picture taken.

I thought that she was just the best ever. But then she left me. All by myself. All alone. Abandoned. The only living librarian in New York.

I made this specifically for Catherine's departure.
I made this specifically for Catherine’s departure.

It’s pretty depressing, but at least she taught me that good supervisors do exist.

I think I’m qualified to say who’s been a good boss and who’s been a bad boss, since I’ve been working since I was 14 years old and I’ve held about a million jobs, library-related and otherwise. I’ve had some pretty awful bosses. I will document them here, so that you may judge and mock them:

☹ Putting my thumb through the deli slicer at a supermarket I worked at, the deli supervisor said (as I was spewing blood everywhere), “I’ve seen worse! That’s not bad at all! You’re FINE! This is worse!” At that point, he showed me his stubby thumb, which, to be fair, did indeed look worse. He didn’t help me stop the bleeding, though. Luckily the cashier supervisor had me sit down and gave me some orange juice. At that point we figured out it was just a scratch. A really bloody scratch.

☹ I was a nanny for many years. One mother said that I didn’t need to talk to her 19 month old children. Ever. They were twins. She said they could talk to each other only, because that’s how children learn to talk. She fired me 2 days later, citing that I did “too many activities” with her kids.

☹ Another nanny disaster: I arrived at the family’s house to find their three year old with a plastic bag over his head. I freaked out and removed the bag, telling him that this was never OK. His mother came out of her office, informing me that she said it was OK, as long as she was in the house.

☹ I watched a children’s library supervisor congratulate a child on getting her braces off. The child kept insisting that she never had braces. Ever. The librarian said, over and over, “Yes you did! I remember! You look great now!” I wanted to say, Hey. You’re thinking of the other Asian kid. Doh.

☹ I once processed some books for interchange in order help a very overwhelmed circulation department. My supervisor said, “I can’t believe you’re touching the books. Librarians don’t need to touch books. That’s for circ. staff. Or patrons.” He looked at me like I was sifting through used cat litter.

☹ We caught our library’s kids playing with a dead bird outside the library. My supervisor, using gloves, took the bird away from the children, but then promptly brought the dead pigeon inside the library to throw out in our library’s workroom garbage can. I freaked out, saying that dead birds didn’t belong in the library. He reprimanded me for insubordination. (My friends are so sick of hearing this story, but really, it’s the best bad boss story I have).

But enough about Bad Bozzapalooza. Let’s talk about Catherine and why she was/is a great boss:

♥ Catherine is a fantastic children’s librarian who delivers amazing programming. She realized that while all librarians are different, we’re all capable of running a great program. We were free to be who we are. She didn’t try to turn us into little mini-Catherines. We all had our own styles and strengths and she was OK with that. 

♥ She advocated for her staff. If something was wrong, she stood up for us, making sure that our department was treated fairly.

♥ She didn’t expect anything of us that she didn’t expect from herself.

♥ Catherine drinks a mess of coffee. Honestly, I don’t trust a single person who isn’t coffee-loading all day long. If you care about libraries, then you better be knocking back some caffeine.

♥ Catherine is personable and honest. I really appreciate honestly from a boss. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear or what the administration wants you to say. Tell me the truth.

♥ I always saw her working. Sure, she watched tennis matches on her lunch break (to each their own, I suppose), but she was never once of those bosses that played Candy Crush all day. If you needed a little motivation, all you had to do was look in her direction. Chances are, she was working on something awesome.

♥ Catherine always bringing new ideas into the library: Book Bundles, The Dewey Decimal Number of the Day, and 1000 Origami Yodas (just to name a few). Whether she was adopting the ideas of other librarians and modifying them for our library (she reads a lot of library blogs) or coming up with stuff on her own, Catherine was always trying to make the library more fun. She was never satisfied with the status quo. She realized that a good library should always be evolving and improving.

Catherine is the third librarian to leave the Youth Wing in a matter of months. We lost Megan (a total badass of a librarian. Losing her was like losing two people) to a private school, Edwin to a supervisory position in a branch library (I have no one to bicker with all day. I’m a shell of my former self), and now Catherine. Not only were they hard-working librarians, I genuinely liked all of them (Yes. Even Mr. Edwin). This was a very rare work environment. Everyone got along (Yes. Even me and Mr. Edwin) and everyone worked hard. We worked well together. We had fun. At work. 

That kind of collaboration is somewhat gone, mostly because we are so very short-staffed. All it takes it for one person to call out sick or be on vacation for us to scramble to cover desks (we have two: One for children and one for YA. In a pinch, YA has to close, which means we’re not properly serving our teen patrons), programs, and class visits. I know it’s like this everywhere, but it’s been sad for me to see my favorite library struggle like this.

Please do me a favor and wish Catherine luck at her new job. If you’re a public librarian, you should be following her blog. She’s one smart cookie. I miss her like crazy, as an all-around rad person and as a supervisor, but I know she’s going to do amazing things. Branch libraries need love, too.

This one goes out to Catherine “Z before Y” Skrzypek, who is one badass librarian and boss:

Now’s the time where you tell me about your favorite bosses and why they were so wonderful, and you’re least favorite supervisors and why they were so cray-cray.

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

14 thoughts on “Like a Boss: I had a great boss, now we have no staff

  1. “I once processed some books for interchange in order help a very overwhelmed circulation department. My supervisor said, “I can’t believe you’re touching the books. Librarians don’t need to touch books. That’s for circ. staff. Or patrons.” He looked at me like I was sifting through used cat litter.”

    That makes me crazy. I’ve witnessed the “we don’t work in separate departments” behavior before, and it just screams of entitlement. As a librarian, how DARE you touch a book?

  2. Say it ain’t so! I can’t imagine a YW sans Catherine. She was my SUPERvisor as well. I will be wishing her well, but good luck to those of you who are left!

  3. My litany of terrible bosses. Each had a good quality or two that was completely overwhelmed by their particular weirdness. Before I was in libraries, I was a hotel clerk.

    😦 Mall Dude: Insisted I interact with people to the point of harassment. “Go check up on them.” Ookay. Three people have already. I don’t really need to step in. I was practically shoved into this person’s personal space who, as predicted, felt harassed and left.

    😦 Hotel: Ran out to give him an urgent message. Wrote me up for wearing a black shirt instead of a white shirt under my collared shirt uniform top. This same person told a woman with an extremely high risk pregnancy that she should “lose some weight” because it reflected badly on the hotel and suggested we didn’t have self-control. Same person installed security cameras that pointed at the front desk and were hooked up with a direct feed into his office. He was creepy and awful.

    😦 Hotel: Didn’t take care of the property. Hired a sociopath who regularly screamed at coworkers to communicate and was profoundly argumentative. Example: “I think you’re lying about being a Scorpio. You’re not intense enough.” Mostly I didn’t want to talk with her. Birthday is November 18th, lol.

    😦 Hotel: Boss went on about how “salary is slavery!” and never communicated with anyone about anything until mistakes were made. Oh, and you had to clock in EXACTLY 3 minutes before your shift started to avoid generating overtime but if you were not at the front desk five minutes before your shift (timeclock was on a different floor) she’d come down all blustery and needlessly angry. When I moved out of state she actually said to me “Their minimum wage is lower than ours, I don’t know why you are leaving” Hired and promoted her friends with identical personalities. Same boss tried to let someone go to dodge paying out PTO. Lots of illegal stuff happening.

    😦 Hotel: Slightly better, but still very moody. The HR department pissed me off more by saying things like “Well obviously we’re going to hire someone with a Master’s degree over a high school graduate,” FOR A FRONT DESK JOB AT $9/HR. Written up for violating policy no one mentioned, nor could it be referenced in a handbook. No orientation.

    😦 Library: Condescending to everyone and mean. Used Bing at the reference desk – What. The. Hell. I was shelving reserves in clear view of the circ desk and was asked “Do you know why it’s important to watch the desk?” – while I was on the way to help a customer.

    😦 Library: So. Very. Touchy. Feely. Shot down new ideas (required an all staff meeting so they could give input on simple changes, like say, moving requests to a folder instead of a bin) before appropriating them as examples of his ability to listen. My “drastic change” was brought up at every meeting for a year this way. Nice guy, but it was kind of demoralizing. He also wanted everyone to have ten thousand babies and I tried to explain many times that I did not want children whenever the subject came up.

    ❤ Library. BOSS WINS ALL THE HEARTS. omg. I get to be magic! I get to make things happen! Everything is blue sparks awesome. Hooray professional development and ideas and let's make stuff better! But the most important thing? I'm trusted to make good decisions. I'm not micromanaged. I mean really, the guy sends me LOLCats. Every day is amazing.

    1. My new clerical supervisor and I decided today we were dumping all VHS, all audio-cassettes, and any other format from the mid-80’s. Done and done. No all-staff meeting required.

  4. We debated that in staff meetings for years, I finally removed all the children’s VHS, when I’d practically finished one of the circulation staff, as we were leaving at closing, decided this would be an excellent time to restart the debate…
    We finally got rid of the rest (except a few audiocassettes still hanging around, but they’re not in MY department) and we STILL have patrons come in and ask “where are your VHS?” and complain when we explain that we got rid of them.

      1. That….would not have occurred to me…I mean, I’ve cleaned plenty of anatomical drawings off the tables in the teen room, retrieved the sex ed books from behind MLK, and I check the magnetic poetry board every day (doesn’t matter that I took out the iffy words – they make up their own) but…wow.

  5. We apparently have one woman who still looks for VHS, but no one has seen her in the library for 5 months. So we’re going to do it, and lay the blame on the new, over-zealous branch head (that would be me) if she shows up again. Our clerical supervisor tried to chuck them 3 years ago, but her supervisor got cold feet and had her un-delete them. I PROMISED her I will not do that. At BPL’s Central Library, the children’s multimedia used to be housed with the adult multimedia. When the children’s collection was sent to us 6 or 7 years ago, I told them not to bother with the VHS. They sent it to us anyway, and I deleted all of it. At Central, we did not have a mandate to retain that format for research purposes, and in 2013, that mandate definitely does not exist in branch libraries. If a community clearly has numerous patrons who are clinging to their VCR’s, then you probably have an argument for sticking with your VHS collections. But if it’s one patron every two or three months, don’t be afraid of drawing a line in the sand. VHS takes up space, a number of them probably don’t work, and the cases probably look faded, cracked, and sad.

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