show me the awesome: reporting

Show Me the Awesome! 30 days of self-promotion

This post is part of Show Me The Awesome: 30 Days of Self-Promotion, an initiative by Sophie, Liz, and Kelly. To learn more, click those links or check out #30awesome on twitter. 

It can be really awkward to talk about how awesome you are at your job. But it’s also really important. It’s not a bragging or recognition thing for me, but it is in my best professional interest to have the library administration realize how good I am at my job. And, out here on the internet, it’s about sharing ideas. Talking about awesome stuff I’ve done might give another librarian the idea to try something at his/her library. I know I get a ton of my ideas from other librarians who have written about the great things they are doing.

Though it’s not very glamorous, I have become skilled at writing quality reports. I have heard people complain about writing a monthly report as if it is something of an annoyance, just another thing on your to-do list that you eventually have to get done. For them, reports are the work of a few minutes before they move on to something else. But the required report is a perfect opportunity to showcase yourself and your skills. It’s important to take full advantage of that opportunity, particularly if you work in a low-profile situation like mine. I work in a branch where I am the only staff person in the children’s room. Rarely do any of my supervisors enter my room or see me in action. If I don’t make them aware of all the awesome things I am doing, how else will they know? Reporting is one of the few chances I have had to interact directly with higher-ups beyond my direct supervisor–and it’s a great opportunity to help shape their impression of me and my work.

I am only required to submit quarterly reports in my current position, but I still try to create them on a monthly basis. I find I am able to be more detailed this way. When I sit down to write my monthly report, I open my calendar, my statistics spreadsheet, my to-do list (a steno notebook that I use as an ongoing list), and my Pictures folder. I also open a blank report template that I’ve created. The template lists all of my regular programming at the top, so I can easily plug in attendance numbers. It also has places for other frequently added statistics, as well as placeholders for certain things (such as an anecdote) so that I don’t forget anything. I begin by scrolling through the past month on my calendar and adding anything else to the list of programming, ie: a special performer,  I also make notes of anything else that pops into my head while I’m scrolling through that might be useful later on. I then page through my to-do lists, looking for anything that might merit inclusion in my report. I have often written down anecdotes/quotes that I want to include, so I scan for those, too.

The first section in my report consists of numbers. I enter in the data for all the month’s programming, as well as any other statistics I might want to report on, which varies from month to month. I keep my own daily statistics, recording how many questions I answer and how many times I simply “help” someone. (I try my best to be accurate, but there are times it’s an estimation.) I write down topics and titles that I’m specifically asked about. Sometimes I even jot down how many people are in the room at a certain time. I know, it sounds a little crazy. I realize this isn’t feasible for everyone, but my advice is to gather as much information as possible for your report. Relating that I have been asked 48 times in a single week for Diary of a Wimpy Kid books has more impact than saying “the kids ask all the time for DWK.” I have also learned how to use the ILS to generate reports that provide more numbers to report on circulation, etc.

The next section in my report is more narrative. Being concise is a challenge for me, though I do think it’s important in a report. I put as much as possible into bullet points. This is the section where I would include any special events, particular projects, or anecdotes/quotes.

I love including anecdotes and quotes. If I have an email from a teacher saying how much they appreciated my help, I include it, or at least a piece of it. An especially adorable comment from a preschooler saying how much she loves story time?–I make sure to jot it down to include in my monthly report. These comments are often the only feedback I receive from the public, and are one of the only ways to measure the impact of my work. I usually choose one, or perhaps two, anecdotal comments to include in my report.

At the end of my report, I list a few goals. Usually they are ongoing and often repeat from month to month. If I have made progress on one of these goals, I mention it in the narrative section. I see this section as a good place to showcase my professional interests and ambitions, such as “Participate in an ALSC Committee” or “Improve Spanish skills.” Perhaps at some point there will be an opportunity for a staff member to attend a Spanish training. I want my supervisor to promptly think of me after her monthly reminder that I am interested in that topic.

I save my favorite part for last: the pictures. A picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Especially a picture of a bunch of adorable children enjoying a library program. Or a group of tweens engaged in homework. Or a nice comment that someone wrote on the coloring table. I take SO MANY pictures at work, but I choose only 3-5 to include in the report. I try not to photograph kids’ faces, but if I do, I simply note on my report that these pictures do not have releases and are for internal use only.

And that’s it! It’s really not so hard once you get into a good routine. And it’s hugely important to me to make sure that the higher-ups know what I’m up to, because it’s in my best interest as a professional. I’ve also discovered a bonus of writing quality reports: when it comes time to update that resume, looking through past reports makes it very easy to remember what projects you’ve worked on and where you’ve done well.

 So, how do you make your reports stand out? Other than reports, what ways do you remind the higher-ups how awesome you are?

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5 comments

  1. I love how organized you are! I always feel like I am scrambling when I do the monthly reports for my Board, and the idea of a running to-do list on a steno pad may help document those things. Thanks for the post, and YOU ARE AWESOME!

  2. I miss having your awesome-ness in the desk behind me!

  3. Last month our library gave us some new formatting instructions for our monthly reports so I took the opportunity to revamp how I did them and make them a bit more of a showcase of what I’d been doing all month, like you’re talking about here. Then my manager only submitted a couple of paragraphs out of it, which kind of undercut the whole notion.

    Anyone have any advice for making reports that actually find their way up the organizational chain? Because though they’re still useful for resume building it’s pretty frustrating to have your work tossed on the cutting room floor.

    1. Could you ask your manager about it directly? Perhaps he/she has to cut down everyone’s reports for space. If he/she could tell you how the choices to cut are being made, you could try to hit cater to that. If it’s simply a matter of space, perhaps trying to be more brief would help. Maybe submitting less material, only that which you think will have the most impact. If your manager has space to include your whole report, all of what you write will reach higher-ups. You might not be able to list everything you wanted to, but at least your manager won’t cut the one thing you really wanted included.

      Another idea would be to tie your accomplishments into something that you know is a hot topic for your library, and your manager may be more inclined to include it. For example, the Strategic Plan is often referenced at my library, so I know that referring to any of the strategic goals will be of great interest.

  4. […] have a lot to share. For instance, in the inaugural May 1 entry,  “Show me the Awesome: Reporting,” librarian Rachel Keeler offers valuable advice about how to write quality quarterly […]

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