5th January 2006


“Seven Deadly Sins (and Desirable Strategies) for Library Managers”
By Rachel Singer Gordon Rachel Singer Gordon (rachel@lisjobs.com) is former Head of Computer Services at the Franklin Park Public Library, Illinois, Consulting Editor, ITI Books, and webmaster of the library careers site Lisjobs.com <http://www.lisjobs.com>. During our recruitment and retention discussions, long-term managers often give upcoming generations advice on how to lead. What, though, are effective management strategies and styles in 21st-Century libraries? Focusing on upper management in larger institutions drowns out voices from smaller libraries, middle managers, and frontline staff. Talking to working library staffers and up-andcoming managers reveals some disconnection between received wisdom and what staff actually need. In Spring 2004, 343 library staff members responded to an online survey on their managers' qualities and effectiveness. [The survey and discussion can be found in The Accidental Library Manager <http://www.lisjobs.com/talm/>]. Seventy-one per cent of respondents possessed an MLS or equivalent; Seventy-eight per cent worked in a professional" position; job titles ranged from secretary to department head. The following "sins" and "strategies" contain comments from respondents' descriptions of their best and worst managers and qualities they believe today's library managers need.

They naturally want others to live up to their standards; many have trouble delegating. New managers have special concerns about being "graded" on others' work. Lack of communication "The worst library manager I ever had was a very poor communicator ... I often didn't have the information I needed to do my job well or at all. I often just couldn't understand her. I often wasn't sure what she expected of me." Managers usually fail to communicate because they assume people already know what they need to know, believe knowledge is power (so hoard as much as possible!), or want to avoid giving unpleasant news. There is a line between micromanaging and a lack of guidance and goals. People need information to do their jobs, guidance, and feedback. Fostering divisiveness "The worst library manager I ever had did not respect my years of service and my capabilities because I did not have a master's degree. She did not include me in discussions, and ... ostracized me from my Youth Services team." Differing treatment of MLS and non-MLS staff is librarianship's dirty little secret. Divisiveness also occurs when managers show favoritism to individuals, or play departments against one another. Managers often do this unconsciously, but staff note any sign of unfair treatment. Rather than treating staff like clones, respecting everyone's contribution means recognizing everyone's work is important, and letting them work to potential. Abusiveness "This person routinely treated staff as if they were idiots, ignoring staff opinions and sometimes actually yelling at staff in front of others." Insecure managers often overreact, needing to think about the impression they make and the way relationships change when moving into management. I found my most sarcastic manager amusing, but a co-worker felt perpetually persecuted -- differing communication styles! When communication problems occur, managers need to step back and look at how their behavior is perceived. Failure to listen "She did not listen to all sides of a story before passing judgments, a bit like 'Simon' on American Idol."

The Seven Deadly Sins
Micromanagement "She could not let go of any project and had to second-guess me every step of the way ... She did not trust her employees to do anything but the most mundane tasks without her direct supervision." Micromanagement is employees' most common complaint. Twenty-five per cent of survey respondents used some variation of the word; others described bosses' micromanagerial tendencies. People often become supervisors by excelling at frontline tasks -- a whiz cataloguer given technicians to supervise, a superb reference librarian promoted to department head.

“Seven Deadly Sins (and Desirable Strategies) for Library Managers”

and we will get the job done. not as I do" syndrome." People enter librarianship expecting to continue growing and learning. rather than making easy cuts. her advice when I want it." Managers may take credit unconsciously. Managers who spend even short amounts of time on the front lines and pitch in when needed impress frontline staff. or duties -helps keep up morale and keep people engaged in their work. Encouraging autonomy requires recognizing that people generally rise to expectations. Further. and her support when the best-laid plans go awry. keeping us from getting stuck in a rut. Managers who encourage development. she still worked the desk right alongside us and helped out when staff was short. Managers who ignore opinions that differ from theirs. to ignoring personnel conflicts. managers who give people responsibility and the ability to run with projects instil a sense of ownership." Leading by example involves both keeping a hand in frontline duties and acting as an example in other areas -.out staff. supportive management fosters professional development. or those who ask for input. or unwilling to be flexible. Managers that fail to foster growth instead foster a burned. Conflict avoidance ranges from failure to back up staff following library policy. are better able to retain staff -. Respect for the contributions of every staff member -regardless of job title." The need for recognition is universal. degree status. as this helps to motivate the team. and provide support without constant observation help develop people's independence. This goes back to avoiding micromanagement." Autonomy.com/issues/050106. Respecting everyone's contribution "They should most definitely praise good work when they see it. training.assumes that we're all professionals. He always defended us and our Most of us have encountered managers who fear conflict. self confidence. staff members who feel their managers are unwilling to deal with problems fail to speak up. then. although some of us have different styles.freepint. less capable of dealing with change in an evolving library. getting to know and care about them as people. and (when given sufficient time. simply court disaster. and support) can accomplish amazing things. She was a great reference librarian and kept up her research skills.5th January 2006 www. Leading by example "Even though she was management. Managers who trust people to do their work. failing to back up their staff. and also encompasses managers unwilling to listen to different options and opinions. would staff back up managers who fail to look out for them? Managers should understand their personal stake in their staff's success. effectively delegate responsibility. those unaware of issues are unable to resolve them. Survey respondents were very negative about the "do as I say. While individuals are responsible for their own learning. Looking out for staff "He looked out for us as his number one priority. Why.and most libraries could use more non-monetary motivating factors! employees like adults -. then announce their pre-made decision.ranging from dealing with change to coming in on time. Taking credit for others' work "Before you even opened your mouth.htm This goes back to playing favorites. Lack of appreciation can be very demoralizing. I grow every day under her tutelage. Providing autonomy "I most appreciate a manager who treats “Seven Deadly Sins (and Desirable Strategies) for Library Managers” .' And then two days later this was 'her' idea and it was implemented. and need to be careful to note ideas' origin. staff fell apart. and leadership skills. Respecting multiple contributions also reduces homogeneity and groupthink.especially new generations of librarians that prize lifelong learning. Communicating and listening "The best manager that I worked for allowed for The Seven Desirable Strategies Encouraging growth "I am encouraged to think outside the box and am always given the benefit of her guidance when I need it. People are motivated by recognition of their contributions -. of course." One of the worst things a manager can do is ignore problems and let them fester. is the opposite of micromanagement. Avoiding conflict "Avoided confrontation to the point of destruction of teamwork and morale. her answer was 'no.

Managers who are enthusiastic about where their libraries are going are able to convey this. The ability to make the vision a reality and make staff excited to be a part of it.5th January 2006 www. People who understand the reasons behind decisions are more likely to get on board.com/issues/050106. She was open and honest and made herself available to employees to discuss whatever might come up in the workplace. and bring others along. most of us entered this profession because we are excited about where it is headed! These all come back to the importance of common sense." Again.htm open communication.freepint. staff who understand and know policy are less likely to be embarrassed in front of patrons. Managers who look out for their people know that their staff will look out for them. and recognizing the importance of every staff member. and to lead their people through. Organizations where information flows freely simply work better. the flip side of the previous "sin"." Managers in today's libraries must be able to articulate a vision of change. Managers that treasure the free flow of information when it comes to patrons also need to understand its value for staff. treating people fairly. They turn a skeptical ear to pronouncements of what they need to lead – they are already leading! “Seven Deadly Sins (and Desirable Strategies) for Library Managers” . even of difficult issues. Staff with a stake in the organization and autonomy in their work are more likely to get on board with change. Providing leadership and vision "The need for a leader with clear articulated goals is so vital. Remember.

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