ASSOCIATES (2008, July, v. 15, no. 1)


My View from the Back Room
A skewed take on all things library…

carolb.gifCarol Borzyskowski
Library Associate II
Winona, MN 55987

Job performance reviews. Job evaluation reviews. Employee performance or evaluations. ISH!

I have decided to write my own employee evaluation form. I think it will be as reflective of one’s work habits and production as any official one used. I think most library workers are inflicted with evaluations, right? The thing about them is that NO ONE likes them. Not the employee and not the person doing the evaluation. They are simply a tool dreamed up by someone farther up the line, to find a quantitative way to measure your performance. In a best case scenario, they show you have improved or grown over the course of your employment. In the worst case scenario they give management the tool to fire you due to poor performance and no improvement.

Seriously, I can see the reason behind them and I can understand management’s position. But the thing is, reviews are just not objective. Perhaps you have a personality conflict with the reviewer or someone else in the building who is friends with the reviewer; you know that will color their answers. Especially on options like, “How does the employee interact with staff and patrons?” If they don’t like you, they don’t like you, and the chances of you snagging an “excellent” are pretty slim.

So how about questions like:

  1. How well does employee meet expectations on contributing to staff potlucks?
  2. How well does employee meet expectations on the Library’s softball team?
  3. Does employee co-ordinate their outfit with other staff members?
  4. Does employee contribute to reading material in the break-room?
  5. Is employee willing to overlook wildly fluctuating library policies?
  6. How well can employee alphabetize?
  7. Does employee read and share their reviews?
  8. How willing is employee to mop up vomit, unplug toilets, sprinkle salt or sand, and shovel out stuck vehicles?
  9. Is employee married? If so, what is spouse’s name?
  10. Does employee have children or pets?
  11. What IS the employee’s name?

What started this topic was my recent Employee Evaluation. Surprise, surprise! Over the course of my 22 years working for the city, we went from six month reviews to Total Quality Management (remember that?) where reviews were a big no-no, and then back to having reviews again. Somehow or another, the library (and me in particular) weren’t on the city radar and the reviews never happened. First one director and then another went to classes on how to do one, but reviews just were not implemented.

But the time finally arrived. So, last month, after my one and only “30 days on the job review”, 22 years ago, I had another one. I kid you not. I am not lying when I say my reviewer had no clear idea of what I actually do–and had to ask “other” people about my job performance. Add to that the fact that I have a big mouth at staff meetings, and in the last three months I got TWO PEOPLE upset and they complained. One was a guy who was coming in every day and checking out 20 CDs at a time and bringing them back the next day. I asked if he was burning them. Seriously, what else could he be doing? The other time was with a woman on the phone who called when I was swamped, and we got off on the wrong track. Then, no matter what I said it was wrong. She was angry; although I tried to apologize to her over and over it was no go. But, the really bad thing about evaluations is only the LATEST things count. Good, or bad, that is what is remembered, everything else is forgotten.

So, because of these two complaints, I am signed up for a city-sponsored class on how to have good relations with patrons. I assume it is good relations with staff too, which means I have to be politer at staff meetings. So I asked if my reviewer ever heard good things about me; the answer was: “Sure, lots, but the bad things counted more.”

I am not the only one going to the class. It was split about 50/50. Fifty percent are the “nice, never make waves, and the boss is always right group” and then there are the vocal 50% who say what they think and feel. I am in the latter group.

But back to the actual evaluation. I am pleased to announce that I am basically overall “Adequate” in my job. Isn’t that exciting? Out of ten areas, I have one “marginal” and it was because I sometimes makes people uncomfortable (staff?), three commendable, and the rest were just adequate. I am not sure how many new tricks this old dog will pick up at another “dealing with people” class, but I will try to keep my barking at a minimum. Perhaps I will even write out a schedule of what it is I actually do and slip it in my reviewer’s mailbox, so if and when I ever have another evaluation, we can look at my “real” job and talk about that.

Carol Borzyskowski, Library Associate II, has worked at the Winona Public Library in Winona, Minnesota, for over 20 years. She is almost 2 inches shorter now than when she started. To the left of her computer monitor is a magic wand which she uses to answer circ questions and regulate the weather. She has been known to make lights dim when passing under them. She co-edits and publishes a “Dam Fine!” literary magazine (Main Channel Voices) and although she has not given up on being recognized as a brilliant poet, she realizes no longer can anyone say “and she did it all so young!”