Jan Ison graciously consented to an interview after her motivational and thought provoking workshop on the FISH Philosophy.
Jan Ison is a Consultant – Trainer – Coach specializing in working with libraries, public and non-profit organizations. Her specialty areas include Strategic Planning, Team Building, Community Collaboration, Meeting Management, Group Facilitator, Customer Service and Board Development. She has worked with local governments, libraries and academic institutions.
Previously Ms. Ison was the Executive Director of Lincoln Trail Libraries System (Champaign, Illinois), a multitype library cooperative providing service to libraries in East Central Illinois from 1983 – 2011. In that position she managed a diverse service program based on the needs of the 116 member libraries, which include 7 academic, 52 public, 42 school, and 15 special libraries of all sizes. Ms. Ison has a Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, and is a skilled and trained meeting manager and facilitator.
Ms. Ison has also been active in professional library associations as a member of the American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association. Ms. Ison has served on many statewide and national committees. She is currently the President of the OCLC Global Council and immediate past Chair of the American Library Association Conference Program Committee. She is a frequent speaker on the topic of library cooperation and has also authored many articles on the topics of resource sharing and collaboration. In addition she has extensive experience in library planning.
Before coming to Illinois, Ms. Ison served as Director of the Southwest Regional Library Service System (Durango, Colorado), as Education Consultant at the Central Kansas Library System (Great Bend, Kansas), and as an Elementary School Librarian (Great Falls, Montana).
YT: What or who inspired you to be a Librarian?
JI: Becoming a librarian was a result of a series of events in my life not any individual. I worked in a library when I was in college and enjoyed it. I was working on my degree in History with the goal of being a teacher. At the time the school I attended had an undergraduate minor in Library Science and I choose that program as my minor. Following graduation I was unable to find a position as a history teacher but became an Elementary School Librarian. That changed the direction of my career and for the better. I loved library work and when an opportunity arrived I returned to school to get my Library Degree.
YT: What is your background and describe your career to date?
JI: I retired from being a full time library administrator almost 5 years ago and have been doing a little consulting on Planning, Meeting Management and Customer Service. Prior to my retirement I worked as a School Librarian, an Educational Consultant for a Public Library Cooperative and the Director of a Multitype Cooperative. I am passionate about bringing people and libraries together so that there is more institutional cooperation. We only serve our public better when we work together locally, nationally and globally.
YT: How important is customer service to the survival of a library?
JI: Customer service is critical to all institutions. Without it we have clients who are not satisfied and tell others about the service they received. The question is will the library survive? For the most part libraries will probably survive if the customer service is sub-par, but they won’t thrive and then the institution will not be in a position to meet needs of the users.
YT: What do you think is vital for an academic library leadership to do to make their internal and external customers “happy”?
JI: Listen to customers and when possible and appropriate respond to the needs in a positive manner. Library Leadership also needs to be sure to look outward to what other libraries are doing and to what other service and retail agencies are doing and adapt and adopt to an ever changing environment.
YT: Are there any skills and advice you would suggest to a mid-career professional to have to lead a team and add value to their organization?
JI: One of the most important skills that every leader needs is to effectively manage and facilitate a variety of types of meetings. Just like there is little if any formal training on listening, there is little or no training on meeting management and facilitation. It is an essential skill that is useful for not only someone responsibility for conducting a meeting but also those attending. As librarians we spend a lot of time working in a team and the environment and productivity of meetings will improve substantially if everyone knows how to participate in a successful meeting. I’ve taken several workshops on the topic and conducted training and I know, it works.