Would You Work At This Library?

Would you work for this library?  I would in a heartbeat. 

(See the end of the post for the Internet company I cribbed this hiring manifesto from.  I've re-worded it so it sounds like a library wrote it.)

Our Library delights people
It is satisfying to work at a company that people love. When you wear Library clothing, strangers regale you with tales of how much they like our service. We're ranked number one in customer satisfaction across the entire public sector, narrowly besting such great services as the fire department and the police department. And we're stretching every day to make our service even better.

Much of our success is from our creative use of Internet technology and community to help people discover books and information they will love. Each person has very unique tastes, and we offer hundreds of thousands of books spanning centuries of publishing, so helping people find books tailored to their particular taste is both a huge opportunity and huge challenge.

Our passion is not completely altruistic. When people love the books they read, they become more passionate about books, and that helps our organization grow. As we grow, we get better at information management, and help people get even more enjoyment from books and information. As a Library employee, you power this virtuous cycle.

We're democratizing information distribution
Producers of small books struggle to create awareness of their books. Many books go undiscovered by people who would have loved them. We're changing that. We promote a small book as widely as a big new release to the particular patrons we think will love that little information.

For example, Shelf Monkey is a mid-sized press publication that few people saw when it was released in 2007. But many Library patrons rated Shelf Monkey highly, so our site promotes it to many people, and it is now one of the top 10 borrowed books of all time at our Library, outperforming such blockbusters as “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown.

As we grow, the market for small books grows, giving a voice to authors and publishers everywhere.

Values Matter
Lots of organizations have lofty value statements; but sometimes they are not reflective of what the organization actually values. To understand the real values of a company, read how people interact with one another, who gets promoted, and who is let go.

At our Library we value – and reward – the following nine behaviors. The more these sound like you, the more likely you are to thrive at our Library. Each year we conduct a 360 review in which we give each other feedback on performance relative to these nine values. Most people find this refreshingly honest and healthy. We value:

* Judgment

Your judgment calls turn out well (people, technical, business, and creative judgment calls). Your insights are influential and important. You are an expert at what you do and a source that other employees look upon for guidance.

* Productivity

You are very effective in getting work done. What you accomplish amazes people.

* Creativity

You are inventive. You re-conceptualize issues to come up with innovative but practical solutions to hard problems.

* Intelligence

You think broadly and strategically. You make subtle connections others miss. You absorb large amounts of information rapidly. You learn fast. You can change directions rapidly when appropriate.

* Honesty

You are known for your candor. You avoid partial truth and tinted truth. You are non-political and straightforward when you disagree with others. You only say things about people you will say to their face.

* Communication

You are effective communicating both in meetings and one on one. You practice Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood.

* Selflessness
You are perceived to be guided by what you think is best for the Library, rather than best for yourself. You are ego-less when it comes to finding the best ideas and interacting with others.

* Reliability

Colleagues perceive they can depend upon you. You are not prone to flakiness, anger, or impulsiveness.

* Passion

You care deeply about the Library's success and your colleagues know it. Your thirst for excellence is infectious and inspiring.


Rules annoy us
Rules inhibit creativity and entrepreneurship, leading to a lack of innovation. Over time this leads a company to being both less fun and less successful.  Instead of adding rules as we grow, our solution to increased complexity is to increase talent density. Great people make great judgment calls, despite ambiguity.

We believe in freedom and responsibility, not rules.

For example, our vacation policy for salaried employees is “take some” – there is no limit on vacation as long you get your work done. Similarly, our travel expense policy is “travel as you would on your own nickel.” That's it. No soul-sapping policy manuals for us. In our last five years as public institution, growing from a $10m to a $20 million budget, our commitment to freedom and responsibility has only grown.

We have found that by avoiding rules we can better attract the creative mavericks that drive innovation, and our business is all about innovation. We are mitigating the big risk technology companies face (obsolescence), by taking on small risks (running without rules).

Our only absolute rule is integrity, and violations almost always result in termination.

We pay well
We believe that one outstanding employee does more and costs less than two adequate performers. Thus we try to pay at the top of the market, and to have only outstanding employees. Our compensation is guided by market rates and performance, rather than seniority or resume.

We focus on large salaries, rather than on bonuses and perks, to provide employees maximum flexibility. Additionally, we offer investment vehicles including fully-vested stock options granted every month, an employee stock purchase program, and a company-matched RRSP program, to enable employees to make decisions to suit their individual financial objectives.

Consistently outstanding people
We're a high-performance team, not a family.

A strong family is together forever – no matter what. A strong company, on the other hand, is more like a professional sports team, which is built to win. It is the responsibility of management at every level to assemble the team that wins big.

To accomplish this, we seek to fill every position in our company with exceptional performers. In many companies, adequate performance gets a modest raise. At our Library, adequate performance gets a generous severance package.

For us, the cost of having “adequate” in any position is simply too large, when we could have “extraordinary”. Extraordinary performance means excellence in the nine values described above. Plentiful extraordinary talent makes for a high-functioning organization.

The benefit of a high-performance culture is that you work with consistently outstanding colleagues, which is exhilarating. You do your best work, you learn the most, and you achieve the highest professional satisfaction, when you're surrounded by excellence.

We hire people who are great at what they do and we give them the freedom to practice their craft without endless buy-in meetings. The result is that you can get things done quickly and are able to see the impact immediately. Our Library is small enough that you can make a difference, yet big enough to change the way millions of people enjoy books and information.

We love books
Many of us are into books; some of us are just developing the love. Each year, many of us flock to conferences, book fairs, festivals and so on, and employees get an unlimited Library account to gorge themselves on books. Meetings are filled with book references, and laughter breaks out often.

We live at the crossroads of technology and information, and we're passionate about both.

We're creating an amazing future
The Internet is changing everything.

We dream of a world where information content is open, global, and instantly deliverable to any screen from cell-phone to laptop to living-room TV. We dream of a world where
everyone is passionate about books and great storytelling. We dream of a world where unknown authors with a vision get discovered and nurtured, so they go on to write their second book. We dream of a world where the Library is respected as the organization that helped facilitate all this.


Our book borrowing statistics are growing and we are investing heavily in this area. Our Web software, which creates a custom Web site for each patron, is still in its infancy. We are constantly improving our integrated library system which handles thousands of book circulations to and from patrons daily.

In 2007, we added online downloads as a new way for Library patrons to read books. Thousands of books are available to read, instantly, right on the Library Web site. The initial reviews have been quite positive. Every year we'll add more books, and over time we'll make it possible to read these books on more devices.

The age of being able to instantly read books over the Internet is just beginning, and we're starting out strongly. It's going to be a fun next ten years at our Library.

A final point about respect: great companies earn the respect of their customers, suppliers, investors and employees by making and keeping certain promises. We promise our patrons stellar service, our suppliers a valuable partner, our funders sustained, successful growth, and our employees huge impact and opportunity.

We aim to keep these promises.

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Is this true? Take THAT, McCormac!

    Posted 19 Oct 2007 at 6:36 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I don't want to burst your bubble but unfortunately, this was a hypothetical example I came up with to show that a small mid-sized Canadian press publication *could* possibly overtake a highly-pumped and promoted bestseller in the ideal library of the future. I used your book because it was the most recent book fitting that description (the former, not the latter) that I'd read and also as a chance to give you a plug. Someday though, McCormac will rue the day! (Did you read “The Road” – I just finished it so it was on my brain as well. What was your take? Have you read his other stuff? I haven't but a bit of research tells me that “Blood Meridian” should be my next of his.)

    Posted 20 Oct 2007 at 6:44 am

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