LIS 650: Library Administration and Management
Although, I have been in libraries for a couple of years now, I come from a corporate, retail background. This helps to explain my perception of management-leadership prior to this course. Previously, I felt management and leadership to be synonymous concepts describing those in charge. I envisioned these individuals as decision makers, paper filers, rule-givers, and policy enforcers, who could be diplomatic and benevolent. In other words, I believed the “command and control” model of management. I perceived that often managers-leaders were intermediaries—enforcing rules and policies established by a higher body, without little individual control. I saw little distinction between the terms “management” and “leadership”. I believed administrative systems to be hierarchical and saw administration in concrete, black and white terms.
Immediately in the class I began to see flaws in these ideas. Using models within my own library system I began to apply concepts of the course. I learned to see “management” and “leadership” as distinct concepts. Leaders are visionaries, unifiers, creators, promoters. In the library world, a leader helps to define the mission through services and policy. Leaders bring the individuals together under one mission. Leaders promote the goals of the library to both internal and external communities. Natural managers are planners, facilitators, and encouragers of the personnel. The qualities of leaders and of managers are necessary, but also must be present in balance. These are present in individuals in administrative roles, but also in all individuals within an organization—to the extent that although there may be an order on paper or in job titles, reality is much more complex. A good organization requires that each individual become a manager and/or leader. All individuals must share the vision and mission of the organization, must plan and implement these goals, and must support and encourage others in the organization.
Preparation is essential to a successful interview. The first step is to select and research a position and organization. One must know the goals of the organization and learn about the services and perhaps even policies and plans utilized to implement the goals. One should assess the talents and skills specific to the position for which he or she is applying. You should be prepared to discuss these concepts to show that you will be not only qualified for the position, but that you will be an invested member of the organization. This means that you should visit the workplace, ask questions of the staff, take a look at literature offered, and research the organization on-line.
Despite experience and qualifications, physical appearance and carriage can be the most powerful message heard by interviewers. People make permanent judgments as to character and personality within the first thirty seconds. Thus the first impression is most important. This must be prepared just as a resume. One must dress nicely as determined by the dress code and the desired position. Dress should be up-to-date, but classic in style. Make-up should be subdued, hair groomed, accessories kept to a minimum. In addition to physical appearance, a perspective employee must be aware of their non-verbal communication. One should smile, make direct eye-contact while talking, keep open body language, and make sure to shake hands firmly. A combination of nice apparel and body-language gives the impression of confidence, competence, and warmth.
One final aspect of interviewing is questioning. You must be prepared for open-ended questions designed to determine how you will perform in the organization, but also what additional talents and skills you may have. You should be prepared to answer in complete sentences, offering specific examples from your own experiences. You should also be prepared to offer experiences which relate to the perspective position in terms of skills and talents.
In addition to being interviewed, you may interview the perspective employers. This is part of learning about the organization to determine for yourself it the position will be a good fit for you. You can also assess the interview staff based on appearance and non-verbal cues, but also in the way they communicate with one another. Moreover, you may want to ask a couple of questions of your own. Introduce the questions with concepts discussed in the interview. Address doubts you may have, but be sure to do this positively. You should be able to determine if the organization will value your unique talents and abilities, if they place the same amount of importance in your position as you will.
Ultimately, the purpose of the interview is for the organization to determine your skills and abilities, but also to determine if you will fit in to the culture—both in terms of performance, but also inter-personally. Thus it is important to communicate the “value-added” aspects you will bring. These might include, in a library setting, dedication to service, flexibility, desire for professional growth, recognition of importance of inter-personal relationships (or internal customer service) and contribution to the culture of an organization, and the ability to follow as well as to lead. Your answers and questions, as well as non-verbal communication should reflect these concepts.
In a new position one immediately begins the process of getting to know your surroundings—your new colleagues, culture, and duties. This process can be summarized as “storming, norming, and perfoming,” as it will inevitably be marked by a certain amount internal or external conflict and adjustment, before getting to a level of effective performance and ultimately excellence in a position. Additionally, this process can be assisted by relating it to the “12 Questions” and stages as described in First Break All the Rules.
As a new employee, I would first ascertain the goals and duties of my new position. This involves learning new policies, procedures, and policies. This also involves an initial plan of performance. In an effectively managed environment, this will be clearly defined and communicated (Q1). I would begin a work-journal wherein I could record the things I have learned, as well as areas in which I need to improve. As I adjust to the environment and position, I should begin to ask myself if I am being given the materials I need to do my job (Q2) and if I am being given opportunities to effectively utilize my skills and talents (Q3). Professionally, as I develop, I should expect feedback, and a certain amount of recognition (Q4). I will begin to recognize and assess the performance of others. In the natural course of working together people learn about one-another—how they work, their abilities, their concerns, and their goals. Eventually, you begin to get to know colleagues on a personal level. It is important to understand in this process, how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. It is important to find out what is acceptable, and adapt to some degree to these office norms. Participation in extra-office work socials and workshops are good ways to get to know your colleagues, but also allow them to get to know you. I should begin to feel, after a few months, that there is someone at work who cares about me (Q5). I should also be able to say that I am being encouraged professionally (Q6).
As I get used to the people and the job, I should begin to really assess my role in the organization. I have obtained a level of comfort with my colleagues and performance, but I should begin to question my professional environment more deeply: If I am contributing to the culture and collective performance, am I receive validation in return—do my opinions count (Q7)? Do I feel as if my job is important to the organization’s goals (Q 8)? I should begin to evaluate the performance of my colleagues, and whether this contributes positively, or negatively to my performance (Q 9). I should feel deeper connection to my job and to my coworkers—there should be someone, in addition to the organization, that I am connected to personally (Q10). I should be able to recognize progress in my performance as I have re-evaluated, and I should expect to discuss this with my manager(s) (Q11). Finally, I should ask if I have had the opportunity to grow (Q12).
This is sure to be marked by some conflict. Conflict can be minimized by utilizing the four domains of “emotional intelligence” or maintaining awareness of self and others, and managing oneself and managing relationships with others. Additionally, I must remember to offer opinions but listen to opinions of others. In this way, I must also be ready to compromise. By maintaining a positive, sharing, and encouraging attitude I can prevent conflict in many cases. Otherwise, problems should be addressed directly. Moreover, individual conflict should be addressed privately.
As mentioned above, it is important that all individuals in an organization be leaders and managers to some extent, whether they are in administrative positions or not. In optimal conditions with effective leadership and management in place, self-management or the ability to lead at times in collaboration is all that is necessary. However, in situations of poor-management, such as “command and control”, one may be called-upon to take on lateral leadership. Often these situations are marked by poor performance, low morale, and conflict. Lateral leadership requires desire and understanding for change, understanding of collaboration, and ability to resolve conflict.
In such a situation, it is my responsibility as a committed individual to affect positive change. The first step is to understand my role within the organization—to align my goals with those of the organization. Only then can I begin to develop and implement methods for change. It is important that every individual within an organization recognize their role and importance within the organization as well. It would be impractical to hold a meeting of staff to discuss the vision in many situations requiring lateral leadership, thus it is important to have informal discussions and modeling. For instance, I have a co-worker who spends “off-desk” time listlessly roaming around, occasionally shelving or straightening. It is clear to me that that they lack clear definition of duties—they are unsure of their role. I might ask them to help me with different tasks, to find ones they like and model a more effective use of time. Additionally, they seem to enjoy keeping the collection in order, so I may bring up a conversation about how important a good collection is to the public. I would also offer appreciation and encouragement to validate strengths or good work. In this way, it is important to understand and discuss what motivates others, and attempt to guide them to discover their own sense of purpose. In turn, motivation and morale can increase.
Another aspect of ineffective management environments is that of conflict. The best way to resolve conflict in these situations is collaboration. Collaboration invests everyone in a solution. In attempt to collaborate, if not already present, I would offer to help, or ask for help in tasks. Once in a collaborative setting I would offer input, but primarily step back and ask questions to garner input. This increases investment in the group goals, and creates a feeling of validation. I would also determine what skills are necessary, from me and my collaborators to get the tasks done. I would be flexible in best utilizing skills toward the goal, rather than personal interest. Additionally, I would compromise in solutions such that the ideas which are best for the group can be implemented.
In conflict, it is important to remember to separate the person from the problem. Additionally, it is important to understand that individuals are not equal; we are treated differently, we internalize differently, and we externalize differently. Finally it is important to remember that change happens slowly and builds upon itself.
Managing involves personal and professional development as listed above, but also encouragement and facilitation to assist others to become effective in their individual roles. To be an effective manager, one must consider a variety of additional topics to ensure the success of employees and thus success of the organization: management styles, time management, quality management and customer satisfaction, micro and macro structures, hiring, development, and addressing poor performance.
Traditionally, management seeks to organize and order the environment through a “command and control” model. The “command and control model” is praised for efficiency and prizes quantitative results. However, as people and organizations that serve a variety of roles in communities and social groups, a networked model is more appropriate. Thusly, the “chaos and complexity” model allows for greater collaboration, contribution, and connection within the organization and with the larger communities. The “chaos and complexity” model better reflects the emphasis on quality service emphasized in libraries as well. Additionally, this model requires greater investment by all individuals in the common vision or goals. In turn, this model can produce a happier culture, essential to creating happier patrons.
According to the “One Third Rule,” managers should spend one third of their time on internal matters (employee development, hiring and firing, working with customers), one third on “business” matters (budget, strategic plan, scheduling), and one third with external matters (collaboration with community, politics, promotion). As a manager, this rule would help to guide my time, such that one area would not suffer in favor of another. I would attempt to balance time by delegating tasks to committees or individuals who possess talent or desire in that area. For instance, I may have an assistant manager work with some of the business matters, employees participate in, or responsible for programming and community involvement, and defer to a board of directors or “Friends” committee for some political and advocacy matters.
Quality of service is what keeps a public library running. Although the institution of “The Library” is assumed to continue, this is not always the case. Funding depends largely on the support of the community, which depends on the community’s satisfaction. Thus, it is essential to work to create “raving fans” out of the community. The three keys to creating raving fans are: Decide what you want, decide what your customers want, and deliver plus one. Although the mission is generally already in place, as a manager I would still need to determine how my successful library will look in terms of what services will be offered, when they will be offered, and how. This involves an understanding of what the patrons and community wants. These wants must be balanced and deliberated upon in relation to resources. Finally, the proper processes and evaluative techniques must be in place to deliver more than satisfactory service.
Excellent service can be evaluated and delivered utilizing quality management systems to measure input or processes, output or services, and usability or relevance to the community. These include needs assessment, use and usability surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, and quantitative measures such as reference and circulation statistics. It is essential to have appropriate micro- and macro- structures in place to assist in the delivery of excellent service. In other words, managers must understand the big picture or ends, the small picture or means, and the processes to use the ends to meet the ends. The needs assessment project is perhaps the most useful of these as it can uncover who uses the library, how the library is used, and weaknesses in service; but also can be used in projecting a strategic plan, developing the collection, determining services, and impacting usability.
Hiring is one of the more difficult areas of management, as talented, skilled, and knowledgeable employees are the most important factor to creating raving fans. Identifying skills and knowledge is relatively easy and can be taught. However, talents are much harder to see in interviewing for new employees. The first step is to recognize the talents needed for each position. The next step is to devise open ended questions which seek to find out past performance. The final step is to look for desired talents in the answers given.
Employee development requires a huge investment of time and thought, but it is crucial to the creation of happy and effective employees. Managers must evaluate and work with employees in order to fully understand the possibilities of each individual. One effective way to measure “fit” is to use the “12 Questions” (paraphrased above). These questions are designed to determine whether employees are receiving needed support, committed to their jobs, and in a place to perform their best. These questions reflect the stages through which employees move as they begin a position until they are in a place to perform their best, and thusly could be reviewed periodically. As a manager, I would use some form of these questions in a structured evaluation process.
If an employee is not performing well, a manager must consider the reasons why. A better “fit” should be attempted for the employee, through training, change of roles, or support. It is important to emphasize the strengths and talents of individuals. When it is necessary to criticize, this should be “sandwiched” by support. The manager must recognize however that people can only change so much, and in certain ways, and sometimes there may not be a “fit” within the organization. In these cases, it is necessary to either terminate the person quickly, and painlessly, or if that is not possible, place them in a position of least harm to the organization. Perhaps, the most important key is to act quickly when problems arise, rather than creating a situation that is more damaging or painful than necessary.
· Service Awareness: I am deeply devoted to serving others. I have a strong desire to contribute to the success of my public library in meeting the various needs of the community. This is something I feel is innate and essential to Public Librarians.
· Perceiving: I recognize that each situation has unique circumstances and unique solutions. When problems arise, I attempt to discover the underlying causes. In interpersonal relationships and when working with colleagues, I look for motivating factors. I recognize that each patron comes to me with a distinct set of emotions and needs, and attempt to utilize this to better serve them.
· Balance: When solving problems and issues, I attempt to balance all sides of a situation. Often I will seek positions of others so that I may see a situation from another point of view and find a fairer solution.
· Time management: I have a very strong work ethic which results in a balanced use of time to complete tasks. I also know when to say I no, in that I know how much I can handle at a given time, and I am not afraid to ask for assistance.
· Collaboration (internal): I work well with others. I communicate ideas well, but I also understand the importance of asking questions and getting everyone’s ideas. Generally, I understand what others are trying to say and can build on their thoughts. I enjoy working with people to get things done.
· Introverted: I am good at working with people in a one-on-one or small group format. However, I have a hard time dealing with large groups, confrontation, marketing, and networking because of my “shyness.” This is perhaps my biggest concern in terms of becoming a manager. I have also been concerned as in order to have successful programs, to develop successful connections with the community, and garner support one needs to be comfortable talking to people. As a result of these concerns and of realizing through this class that these can be overcome, I have begun working with a counselor to become more comfortable with people.
· Collaboration (external): Although I have a strong work ethic, it is sometimes difficult for me to contribute externally to the maintenance of the library. One such area is in networking and reaching out to other community agencies to create partnerships.
· Confrontation: I have long felt management to be fraught with conflict and confrontation—confronting disgruntled patrons, internal and external politics, ‘correcting’ behavior or terminating, resolving disputes. I have a greater sense of management as a benevolent, encouraging position through this class. Additionally, I have learned that each must deal with these types of situations in their own way, but I still face concerns at being able to diffuse confrontations and conflict.
“As a manager, I strive to maintain and contribute to success of the library to effectively serve the entire community, through facilitation and growth of knowledgeable staff who make this possible.”
I wanted to touch on three areas in my mission statement—service to the community, the positive aspect of management, and the importance of staff. I chose to include service as this is the function of libraries and the driving force behind my desire to be a librarian. I chose to emphasize the manager as facilitator and developer of staff, as I feel staff contribute most to the success of a library. An additional implication made by the word contribute is that we all share a role in the success of the library, that it is a team effort. Additionally, I want to speak to the role of the manager as responsible for daily upkeep of the library; I feel this is implied by the term, maintain.
· Service as the heart of our organizations. Crucial to public libraries as we exist to provide for the informational needs of our communities. One cannot force the desire to serve, it must be chosen.
· Collaboration as essential to quality relationships and conflict resolution. Collaboration provides for productive relationships with other agencies and individuals to mutually extend the resources and services. Collaboration can also be used as a preventative measure to conflict, as it fosters investment, morale, and community among staff. Collaboration can be implemented by the creation of several staff to work on projects, or staff representatives on committees to address organizational concerns. Collaboration is another talent or value that should be sought out.
· Validate strengths, rather than weaknesses. By validating strengths rather than weaknesses, individuals can affect positive change and encourage growth, rather than stifle or control. This can be implemented by noticing good performance and offering compliments, formal reviews, and rewards or incentives.
· Communication as key to working with others. Communication is essential to having a successful team. Each individual must know their place, and be able to share concerns, opinions, etc. Communication also prevents a situation where the manager is out of touch with staff, or “CEO disease”. In order to facilitate communication one has to do it. Moreover one should provide ample opportunity to receive communication by asking direct, open-ended questions, and providing a variety of means.
· Promote growth. Personal and professional growth is important to creating a fulfilling environment for staff, but also contributes to the collective abilities of the organization. Growth can occur through open incentive programs like tuition reimbursement; through workshops related to their roles; through conferences for networking and education; and through mentoring.
B. Vision for the future
I would like to continue working as a library associate or reference librarian for another five years, without management responsibilities other than those natural to collaboration and team-work. I feel that I still have some time to be spent in the trenches, learning how to deal with issues and developing my weak areas such as communication and external contribution. After this time, I would like to move into management of a branch within a larger system, where I can practice many of the concepts from the course. Here, I hope to be an effective facilitator and contributor. I hope to create a team of staff who are able to deal with problems as they arise—who have the confidence, abilities, and knowledge to solve collaboratively. I also hope to play a part in the creation of future librarians, and to foster the same sense of dedication I feel starting out. Finally, I hope to end up in a rural library. Rural libraries are truly microcosms, mirrors of their communities. They face unique problems and often have to survive against great odds with little funding, little support, or few staff. I hope to be able to create a place for the community, to provide for the education of a community, to be a part of a community, and to understand the unique needs of the community. I feel that the talents I currently possess are important to this, but in addition, I hope to be more confident as a much needed advocate for my one building library, and for the community.