OLA Annual Conference 2012 "Dress Your Message"
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Dress your message: what you wear to work and why it matters
Organizers: Mo Cole and Sara Charlton
Presented by Past Presidents Round Table
What’s included here: Overview and Mo/Kate comments
Mo: where this session came from. This session started last year. Sara and I were at the annual conference and we were a little floored at how a lot of people were dressed-super informal, looked like they were not doing anything professionally connected. We were thinking that if people realized how many directors, administrators and hiring types were at the conference, attendees might think differently about how they were dressed. At first, we were very sarcastic in our approach, but after the conference, when we really started thinking about doing a session, we realized what a very sensitive topic it is. Right after politics and religion, talking to people about their clothing is very tough. So we decided to take the topic seriously while also having a bit of fun. We wanted to start the conversation of how what you wear can have a big impact on your life, your job, your library, how you feel about it all and how people feel about you.
We created the session to have three parts:
The first part is a panel of managers. We want people to hear about clothing from a management point of view.
The second part is the viewing and discussion of two Deschutes staff work outfit purchase for $50 or less from area thrift and vintage stores. We landed on April Witteveen and April Sinniger as the game and willing staff.
The third part is a group consultation with an area fashion wardrobe expert, Jeanne Bullock.
Panel of managers/experienced librarians from variety of libraries to address main topic: Why is it important to consider what you wear to work?
Mo Cole, Oregon City Library
Sara Charlton, Tillamook County Library
Kate Rubick, Lewis and Clark College, Watzek Library
Rob Everett, Springfield Public Library
Leah Griffith, Newberg Public Library
Mo and Sara open- the goal of our session:
-to talk about how we represent our library, our profession, and the institution we work for whether we think we do or not; when we agree to this service position, that is part of the responsibility we take on.
-how we can dress appropriately and still be comfortable, not break the bank, and not take hours to shop or get ready
Other points to make by the panel:
-honor your audience (taxpayers, library users, library board, Friends, etc)
-adhere to your organization’s dress code
-reflect the image of your profession, no matter what position you are in (and public has no idea and does not care about our organizational/education differences)
-must be comfortable enough to work
-dress for next level; you never know when your are being interviewed by your current or future boss
-your clothing should reflect the tasks, the setting, which does not mean you must dress in your gardening clothes just because you will have contact with the floor
-situational dressing: Interviews and other dress up affairs
-are your clothes trying to prove a stereotype wrong or just making a scene
PANEL COMMENTS: WILL ADD OTHERS AS I GET THEM
Rob: a mentor of his once told him: “if, after work, you can wash your car without changing out of your work clothes, you are dressed too informally for work”. Rob liked the CNN Ten Commandments of Dressing, which is posted on NWCentral.
When I got my library degree, my first professional job was in a public library. I was then a very young person (in my twenties), and at that time, it was a common occurrence for me to be at the reference desk and have people come up to ask a question and request to "please speak with the librarian." I started dressing very primly and professionally (dress suits and pleated slacks and the like) in an attempt to come across as "the librarian" when I was working at the reference desk. Either it worked--or people started to recognize me--or maybe the experience aged me (!), but that was what I did then and it made sense for that time and that library.
Now I work in an academic library, and my job requires that I be an approachable presence in the library and on campus for students and faculty. Lewis & Clark is a very casual campus. Only Deans wears suits. And my own concept of work dress is considerably more dressed down than it used to be. Of course, no one would ever mistake me for a student these days (I'm in my forties now). That is the depressing thing about working in colleges--the students always remain 18-22, but I get older every year. In fact, these days, I am closer in age to the parents of the students than I am to the students themselves! But from my vantage point at the reference desk, I have a great view of undergrads and undergrad style, and it has certainly influenced my own look. My hair, well, let's just say I have a really good colorist. One of my favorite moments was when a student came up to the reference desk and asked to make a consultation appointment with "the librarian with the multi-colored hair." I felt like I had ARRIVED at my destination, if you know what I mean. That said, I try to strike a balance between edgy student style and something more age-appropriate and professional.
We tried hiring students to work as assistants at our reference desk a couple of years ago. One problem we had was that the students we hired did not seem to have any concept of what professional dress meant. They came to work in some absolutely unacceptable things. Skin showing where it should NOT have been. Provocative rips, too much cleavage, beyond short skirts, you can picture it. One girl even insisted on wearing a bell--a BELL! The reference librarians were all huddled in the office, wringing our hands, trying to figure out what to do. On the one hand we did not want to hurt the students' feelings. On the other hand, we felt that those students were representing the professional librarians and the whole library while they were sitting at our desk, and we felt we should have some say in their appearance, especially since it was clear that their style choices could prove distracting. Our fearless leader, the head of Research Services finally talked to the young women, who seemed surprised that it was an issue. They did complain that they did not want to have to buy new clothes for the job. But things did get at least somewhat better after that.
In terms of my own work attire, I have certainly made questionable choices. One new pair of boots I wore this spring caused my associate director to comment, "wow Kate, those boots are very Lady Gaga." I wore them at work a couple of times after that, but I think I will retire them to the "going out on Friday night" side of the closet. They are gonna be lonely because I don't get "out on Friday night" much...It's too bad--they are really comfortable shoes!
Stores I like:
Switch Shoes and Clothing
CAbi Factory Store at the Woodburn Outlets
Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack
I dress appropriately for the meetings or day. Commissioner’s meeting-suit , Working on the Reference Desk more casual. When I attend my Library Friends (they own the building there) meeting in Manzanita I am business casual due to the audience being retired execs. When I attend my Library Friends meeting in Pacific City(that Friends group owns that building) I am more casual-that audience being retired professionals. When I visit Garibaldi and Bay City I am even more casual. I always dress to honor my audience- I learn that from George Bell who presented a program on this in 1993 at the last Bend conference.
Mo: wrap up only, making sure points have been made
Thrift store demonstration: Two Deschutes County Library employees (Carolyn Sinniger and April Witteveen) have each been given $50 to shop local thrift stores to find an outfit which they feel is appropriate for work. Topics to address:
-Appropriateness for work
-Easy/not easy to find right fit/work clothes; must go back, ok if you like to shop
Carolyn sent me an article from the Bend paper: "Thrifty Threads: Be prepared for your next job interview with a professional look from a thrift store”.
Cardigan sweater: $1.33, Banana Republic
Blouse: $11.88, Banana Republic
Pants: $9.99, Goodwill
Shoes: $4.99, Goodwill
Necklace: $20.00, Macys
April sent me a link to an article that is near and dear to her heart which is celebrating reading and library topics through our clothes and jewelry: http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2012/04/02/30-days-of-innovation-get-a-new-wardrobe/. This is posted to NWCentral.
Vintage Pendleton Skirt: $14.99
Fancy t-shirt: $4.99
All from Goodwill.
This left her about $13 which she used on some jewelry
These two staff members did a great job finding outfits which were work appropriate and also appropriate to their styles and body types. April is really tall and has problems with length. She found a great A-line Pendleton skirt, cute sweater with a tie at the waist which accentuate her waist and colors that flattered her coloring. Carolyn found a fabulous purple sweater for $1 and snagged the deal of the year by finding some low heeled Prada shoes for $5! With an animal print blouse and boot cut khakis, she looked really professional while also being really comfortable and cost savvy.
None of us purported to be fashion experts so we invited a local fashion wardrobe expert, Jeanne Bullock. She has worked for a national clothing line for several years and gets great joy out of helping women feel good about themselves. Here focus was on certain styles which are good on everyone (boot-cut, v-neck) and certain pieces which can help build a wardrobe.
It's a little hard to replicate this portion on paper, but she showed several pieces that went together well. She pointed out several people in the audience who had on things that worked really well and that we could draw a lesson from-certain colors, certain cuts.
Part 4: Macy’s Friends and Family gift card giveaway
Author: Mo Cole
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