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Aug 2 / Christine Illichmann

SLIS Leader: Doreen Hannon

Photo of Doreen HannonIn the final interview of the SLIS Leaders series, we’re talking with Doreen Hannon (MLIS ’00), recently retired director of the Salem-South Lyon District Library in South Lyon, Michigan. Even in retirement, Doreen has taken a leading role in libraries through her work with the Friends of Michigan Libraries

You recently retired as Director of the Salem-South Lyon District Library (SSLDL). However, you’re still very active in the Salem and South Lyon communities and with Friends of Michigan Libraries. What recommendations do you have for those considering retirement but still wanting to lead and help libraries in a different way?

It’s pretty hard to leave library-land cold turkey when it has defined who you are for so many years! I’m looking at this as a gap year before I enter an encore career.  My advice for finding ways to continue to lead and help libraries (post-retirement) is to think about what you are good at, what got you excited to go to work every day, because that’s where your gifts are.  Sharing those gifts is a great way to give back to the profession and truthfully, when you give back, it makes you feel good!  If you can engage in work that is meaningful and has a positive impact on society, you will feel a sense of purpose that you are contributing to something bigger than yourself.

I have found a great organization (well, they found me!) – the Friends of Michigan Libraries.  The Friends of Michigan Libraries (FOML) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization dedicated to support and advocacy for Michigan library Friends groups.
The Mission of the Friends of Michigan Libraries is

  1. To support Friends working on behalf of Michigan libraries.
  2. To serve as an information resource for Friends’ groups.
  3. To be advocates for libraries at the state level.

Friends of Michigan Libraries offer innovative and relevant workshops for Friends and trustees annually in the spring and fall.   The Friends of Michigan Libraries fall workshop will be held Thursday, October 12th at Kent District Library and the Friends of Michigan Libraries Trustee Alliance Workshop will be Friday, October 13th also at Kent District Library.

I am now the chair of the Strategic Planning committee, chair of Social Media & Website Advisory committee, and I also serve on the budget committee.  In helping grow the FOML Facebook presence I have become much more aware of libraries all across Michigan.  Follow @FOMLibraries and see for yourself the incredible value that Michigan’s 396 public libraries are providing to people of all ages!

You started out at SSLDL as a clerk, and over time, became Library Director. For those starting out in their library careers, what recommendations do you have for honing leadership skills?

I absolutely love the topic of leadership!  You don’t have to be at the “top” of the organizational chart to be a leader.  I feel that each person in an organization is a leader in their own right and that working together as a team, great things can and will happen.  It is important to continue seeking out leaders that you admire and learn from them, find books and articles written by leaders, and also podcasts.  My favorite way to read is to “listen” to books and podcasts. This allows me to multi-task. When I really get serious about something I am reading or listening to, I take notes and then I share what I have learned with my colleagues and we take action!
My leadership role model is Rory Vaden, a self-discipline strategist and author of the New York Times bestseller Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success and the new national bestseller Procrastinate of Purpose:  5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. I listen to all of Rory’s podcasts, The Action Catalyst with Rory Vaden which also leads me to find even more leadership books and podcasts based on who he interviews.  Rory’s famous quote has become one of my favorites: “Success is never owned’ it is rented – and the rent is due every day.”

During your time at Salem-South Lyon District Library, you became known for your incredible ability to balance library expansion and improvement with thoughtful fiscal management. For instance, you paid off a debt millage, led a building expansion that added a new wing to the library, and invested in technology to increase Internet speed at the library by 650% to 150 megabits per second. Can you explain some of your methods for creating forward organizational progression while keeping an eye on budgets?

I can say that I truly LOVED my job and the people I worked with!  Fiscally, I ran the library no differently than I would run my own personal finances.  My parents grew up in the Depression and were extremely frugal and hard-working people.  The same thing at the library, we were very frugal and each year able to set aside funds until eventually, we had saved enough to pay for the library expansion without going back to our taxpayers.  We were very intentional about how the library’s tax dollars were used and we did not take lightly our responsibility to provide great value to our residents.  I enjoyed being behind the scenes, making things happen at the library, but I’m sure my delight and excitement were quite contagious.  My personal motto is “Little things are big things – attention to details matters!”  I spent many hours working on and monitoring the budget.  Having a strong team comprised of the staff, the Library Board, and the Friends of the Library multiplied my efforts.  The budget committee of the Library Board worked closely with me – no stone was left unturned, and our efforts definitely paid off.

What do you recommend to libraries that are trying to prioritize what is most important to their library and community while working within a specific budget?

You cannot work in a vacuum and presume that the library knows what is best for the community!  You need to immerse yourself in the community in all ways – get out there and be a part of it, read the newspapers, stay on top of social media, listen to / attend township and city council meetings, pay attention to the schools, senior citizens and everyone in between.  You need to understand what the needs and challenges of the community are, and be ready to fill in the gaps.  We were fortunate to obtain a grant through the Library of Michigan and Midwest Collaborative for Library Services to participate in Harwood Institute training.  The Harwood Institute teaches you how to turn outward and make more intentional choices in creating positive change and relevance in your community.  A third opportunity for Michigan library staff to apply for this training was just announced (deadline to apply is August 31, 2017).  I would highly recommend applying for the Harwood Institute training.  You can learn how to apply and more information about this initiative at:

You’re a SLIS graduate, and at one point, every librarian on your staff had an MLIS from Wayne State SLIS and some of your circulation clerks were earning their MLIS degrees at Wayne State. What do Wayne State SLIS alumni bring to libraries and how did those traits help you and SSLDL?

I’ve always felt that Wayne State grads have a well-rounded, hit-the-ground-running degree.  At SSLDL we had 20-some employees who obtained the MLIS degree at Wayne State University and I think that really contributed to the library’s success.  Professors in the SLIS have a passion and integrity that is expected of students, and this becomes a way of life for Wayne State’s SLIS grads!

Are there trends or issues that you are seeing in public libraries that you think need more attention? If so, what are they?  

I think libraries need to be constantly on the look-out for ways to make library service as simple and convenient as possible.  No one should have to jump through hoops for anything that they are needing at the library – they should always feel surprised and delighted by every single library experience.  I also feel that Early Childhood Literacy is crucial and everything that libraries can do to assist parents and caregivers in helping with that is paramount.

You built strong connections between the library and the surrounding communities during your time at SSLDL. What recommendations do you have for those library managers seeking to improve community relations?

Once again “Little things are big things – attention to details matters!”  Every single person we serve is important and valued.  I would sometimes sit near our fireplace at the library and just observe how our customer service representatives and librarians interacted with our customers.  I can tell you in all honesty, I don’t know where you could possibly go and receive such caring, friendly service as at SSLDL.  Many libraries eventually need to ask their taxpayers for a millage.  You cannot expect voters to approve a tax request if they don’t believe the institution is providing value.  Every day is a new day, each person you serve deserves the best you can give.  If you make a mistake, own it and make it right.  You do that and you can’t go wrong.

Looking back on your career, what have been some of your fondest moments?

SO many great moments!  Seeing children excited to come to the library and not wanting to leave!  Laughing with my co-workers.  Helping a customer and realizing you just made their day…their week…; being open during a winter storm because of the library generator and providing warmth when every other place around is closed; seeing a word of thanks expressed to a volunteer who is tending the gardens, the list goes on and on.  If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, there’s no better place to do it than the library.