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Thanks to everyone who offered solutions to the problem of adult
library assistants behaving badly (jealousy, gossip, complaints,
etc.).  As I said earlier, we will be meeting on Monday to talk about
their job descriptions, duties, and responsibilities.  Part of their
evaluation includes "working as a team" and "completing assignments as

At this point, I now also have two of the assistants refusing to
complete assignments as I have asked which appears to be intentional
due to the fact that before the assignment is "completed" I am sent
numerous emails from each of them questioning the reasons why they
must do the assignment, why I am making the assignment, what purpose
does the project have, or why they must share the project with others.
 (The assignments?  The first one: Create a list of duties that a
Substitute would need to know how to perform, should you be
absent---include specific things such as how to login to the
computers, location of passwords to access programs (such as AR for
students)---and the second assignment: Create a (Word document)
bibliography (author, title, and call number only) of last month's
"new books" added to the collection. ---Instead, I get Excel lists of
books that are not correctly entered and do not follow the criteria

Think we have some "passive aggressive" issues?  Here are your responses:

You could use the Quincy Jones "We Are the World"
approach and spread the motto "all who enter here,
leave your ego at the door".  Just kidding.  I have no
idea what you should do, but I trust you will figure
it out.  I guess I would side with not recommending
the re-hire of the drama queens.  If they can't leav
the drama at the door by now they are probably not
going to change a whole lot.  Sounds morbid, but it
might save you time and energy.

I experienced this in another work setting: at a Ritz Carlton fitness
center that I supervised with the massage therapists.  I think that
pulling people together and facilitating a healthy conversation is
1.    Ask both sides to listen and paraphrase.
2.    Ask each side what they want from the other.
3.    Ask what each side is willing to do.
Many people have never been taught how to manage conflict in a healthy
manner.  I'm currently reading "Odd Girl Out" by Rachel Simmons.  She
keeps talking about how females in our society are afraid of conflict
because it means isolation and the end of a relationship.  So they
resort to all of that other passive aggressive stuff.  She encourages
girls/women to learn how to manage conflict in a healthy manner
without the threat of the loss of the relationship.
One other book that has been powerful for me in learning how to
communicate healthfully as both a listener and speaker is "Nonviolent
Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg.  It has helped me to facilitate
difficult conversations by focusing on what a person feels, and more
importantly, needs.
 As the saying goes - the grass is always greener...   How about
moving the assistants to different schools or at least telling them
there may be transfers if this problem continues?  It's possible that
the assistants in the elem. and middle schools would not want to be
transferred to the high school and deal with "high school issues".
My school has been the victim of RAMPANT gossip, and it has been
detrimental over many years.  I recently got to hire a half-time
assistant.  I also work closely with the principal's sister, a
wonderful helpful volunteer.  In September this year I took the
opportunity to make my big speech with these ladies about the public
face of our library.

"We are the hub.  We meet people on their first day.  We are also like
pseudo bartender/psychologists some days.  People will come to us to
vent or just get something off their chests.  It is our job to keep
the library a "happy place."  We will not engage in gossip.  We will
be mindful or our role to keep a nice balance.  Gossip is hurtful and
only make large problems where we don't need them.  The library will
be a welcoming place where people can relax, trust, learn and enjoy
being at school."

That is a speech I share with other librarians in my district.  I
think that message along with me being a role model, I will NOT
gossip, has been helpful to bring about other, new behaviors at my
school and among district librarians.

If any of my words are helpful, then that is good.  I wish you luck in
this endeavor.  I truly understand the insidious

Does your district permit library assistants to work on teacher
conference days?  Perhaps you could get all three working together
once each year at each library to accomplish some major
task--inventorying a collection all in one day comes to mind, but
other possibilities would include mending bees and major
reorganizations of various sorts.  The "hostess" could plan and direct
the activity, and provide the lunch.  The members of the group would
get a chance to know each other better and might come to recognize
that each of them has unique strengths.

Perhaps you could arrange to rotate the staff on April Fools' Day or
some other selected date.

My experience as a librarian was that in the elementary library my
aide had to cope with 5 times more circulation and shelving, but that
at the secondary level my aide had to be an argus-eyed disciplinarian
and had to accept being "pulled" to cover almost-daily emergencies of
one kind or another.  At both levels, aides said the major job
satisfaction was helping young people find what they want.

So I would publicly acknowledge the differences--elementary workers do
spend more time on their knees shelving,  h.s. workers face more
invective and more "it's not my job" issues--but they all face button
pushers, assist with instruction, and maintain accurate records, etc.
They need a chance to see that their common product is the literate,
information-savvy graduate.

I think it would be ideal to rotate the staff on a fixed schedule
(every third year?), but most staff members would hate that (leaving
longtime friends, taking on unfamiliar job requirements, commuting
farther, etc.).  However, if they did agree to rotate, they would get
a clearer perception of one another's challenges and be better able to
take advantage of loaning materials among themselves and knowing whom
to ask about this or that.
We had a meeting day in our county with all of the media assistants and
I was in charge of the first meeting.  I had a lot of different
activities planned such as how to do book repair, book processing etc.
But the main thing I did was to try and get a job description for all of
the media assistants.  It was an eye opener for all of them as they
started to list their job duties.  It differed greatly from grade level
as well as school to school.  When High School people heard all of the
extra duties elementary had to do, they felt they had it pretty easy
after all.  But when elementary heard everything middle school had to
put up with they thanked their lucky stars they were where they were.
Ditto for the middle school people.

It wasn't exactly what you are going through, but they were rather
disgruntled but changed their minds after seeing what the shoes actually
looked like on the other feet so to speak.
I too am in a new job and am dealing with conflict. I have a colleague
who is jealous of me, cc's the boss when I make a mistake, I suppose
to make me look bad and to make herself look good, and who is
interfering with my ability to get work done by changing the computer
password without telling me.

I am at a loss for how to deal with this as the problem does not
reside with me, but rather than with her. This woman also supervises
me and instead of being happy with my performance, is rather disturbed
by it, as everyone in our work environment is raving about me. Her
supervisor however, is thrilled with my work performance and says I'm
the best thing to have ever happened to the school.

If you receive any hits on how to deal with conflict in the workplace,
please pass them along to the list or to me, if you don't want to post
a hit to the list.

Many jobs ago I too had to supervise library assistants, also adults,
and it was nothing but hell. I hope you are getting paid handsomely
for that job and God Bless You. I would much rather be a humble
librarian, humbly supervising only myself and quietly doing my job to
the best of my ability without having to worry about other people
doing theirs.

 Is there any way that they can change their places? For example, have
the elementary assistant cover the high school for a day and vice
versa? Or even do role playing?

You might want to switch them around, change campus assignments and let
them taste the others job for a while.
This is a tough one because the behaviors are entrenched and were allowed
to continue from previous administrations.  At your meeting I would
suggest starting out with your goals and expectations, go over everyone's
job duties making it clear that everyone works hard.  Then start a full
court press about team work,  part of which is conflict management skills.
Then don't hesitate to call individuals in and remind them what was said
in the meeting and ask how talking about whatever contributes to feelings
of team work.

I have a sign in my office that says:
        Team Rules
If it come your way......... catch it
If you drop it...pick it up
When you're tired...keep on going
When the coach speaks...listen
If you lose...practice harder
If you win a good sport
You have answered your own question succinctly in your final
paragraph. Lay it on the line and treat them as adults. The school
comes first. Period.

Happily not supervising any more,

I work with student council in addition to the library, and ice
breaker activities work well with them.  It may work with your ladies
as a start up exercise to visually show them that all are important
and that if one "falls" they will all fall.

 We had a similar problen  --a little different  -- in our case the
library aide was a "seasoned" veteran, somewhat unhappy because the
librarian she had been working for was displaced  -- and another
"Praxis librarian" took her place. The aide moved to a new school and
caused problems for the new 23 year old librarian  - "we did it this
way at the other school"  and down right refusing to do what the new
librarian wanted.  All of us -- other librarians in the district, the
principal, etc tried everything we could think of -- (the aide had a
reputation as being the "library aide Nazi")  but what finally helped
was giving the aide a forum in which to air her grievances.  She
seemed to get it off her chest and now seems to be tryng to work with
the new librarian.
This does not exactly parallel your situation, but I thought I would
add our insight.
For what it is worth  -- this really helped !!


Shonda Brisco, MLIS
District Librarian
Peaster ISD
Weatherford, TX 76086

Digital Bookends wiki / blog:

Resources for Texas School Librarians:

"Digital Resources" columnist
School Library Journal

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