Much has been written about the numerous benefits to be had from a failed experience at work. It’s widely thought of as a cliché in the business world to “embrace failure.” There are, to-date, eight TED Talks about learning from failure. Experts extol the virtues of analyzing mistakes in order to avoid repeating them. Many managers have procedures and policies in place that are designed to help their employees embrace failure in the name of positive change. And yet, denying failure and a reluctance to admit defeat are still the norm, from healthcare to politics, from giant corporations to small-town public libraries.
Posts Tagged ‘library management’
The next time you are pondering the point of view of a colleague from a different era, step back for a minute and reflect on all that they have to share with you, whether younger or older.
In public libraries, most managers have an impressively broad range of duties. Our training and background may be primarily in some audience or service specialty and our day-to-day responsibilities may still include significant quantities of work related to that area. Whatever our duties, they can leave us little time or energy to develop our supervisory, management, or leadership knowledge and skills.
The purpose of public libraries can be hard to pin down because it is so broad. We want to be everything to everyone. I struggle with the simultaneous goals: circulation, programming, outreach—you know the deal. I once read about a visioning technique where you discover your purpose by imagining your library receiving an award: What is it for? You can do this at the department, branch, or system level. In one year, what should your library receive recognition for? Lives have been changed, the community has grown, what did you do to contribute?
PL Online’s Alex Lent Talks to Chuck Flaherty, retired director of Brookline (Mass.) Public Library
Were you born without the mysterious charisma gene? Does managing people or projects make you feel queasy? Are you new to management, or just struggling with new responsibilities? Here’s the deal—management is a skill that must be learned.
Anyone who has ever been in a managerial position has experimented with handling conflict and a variety of personalities. From an autocrat to an “in the trenches” type of leader, I have seen the various personalities and reactions that are activated when one has to exercise their managerial obligations. In her article “Top Skills for Tomorrow’s Librarians,” Library Journal’s Executive Editor Meredith Schwartz collaborated with library directors to see what leadership attributes future managers should have. Good communication, teamwork, and excellent interpersonal skills are the types of leadership skills that seem to work best.
Anyone who has worked in or patronized a small public library knows that in order for the organization to thrive, the manager must employ a wide variety of skills on a daily basis. “From chief cook to bottle washer” is a commonly heard phrase when public library managers are asked to describe their duties. While there are skills that can be taught and learned ahead of time to maximize success in the public library manager role, many of the management skills necessary for success are acquired on the job. The job doesn’t necessarily have to be in the public library setting, however. There are commonalities across library and organizational settings that allow for managerial skills to be acquired and transferred so that the public library manager can excel, no matter how he or she might have gained that experience.
The basis of all great detectives and scientists is observation. There is something to be said for using statistics and numbers to determine how the library is being used. It is concrete information. However, observing patron behavior either surreptitiously or based on the evidence left behind in the library tells a complementary story to that provided by statistics.
While libraries strive to remain relevant, you can see the slide to the “let’s run it like a business” mentality. I firmly believe we need to think outside of the box of traditional operations of a library. Creative problem solving is a must in our business! I picked up this monograph and was surprised to be faced with a different line of thinking—we don’t need to be like a business, we just need to be great.
“The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!” Perhaps you heard the hue and cry? Since the early 2000s, market research about the Millennials—also referred to as either the Next Generation, the Echo Boomers, the Y Generation, or the Generation Why?—has filled business and professional magazines, in print and online, delineating who they are, what they believe, how to manage them, and, most importantly, how to survive their incursion. These individuals, who were born in the early 80s to 2000—depending on which source I consulted—are further divided into the Digital Immigrants (those who learned technology at some point early in their lives), the Digital Natives (who since birth never knew a day without technology and social media), and the Millennials’ most recent members—as of yet not nicknamed—who know only smartphones, mobile apps, and who live in the iCloud.
For this first blog post I want to focus on the issue of building trust. Lencioni addresses this in his book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. According to Lencioni, before you can get healthy as an organization, you need to establish a strong team. To establish a strong team, you must establish trust.
I recently started reading Lean Library Management: Eleven Strategies for Reducing Costs and Improving Customer Services by John J. Huber. Not twenty pages into it, I came across a familiar tune that can be found in many management books and articles published in the past fifteen years or so: to motivate your staff, you must learn what motivates them; reward and punishment are not effective.
Towards the end of her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain sums up her advice to introverts. “Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it,” she writes, and advises, “Quit your job as a TV anchor and get a degree in Library Science.”1 There are some of us in the profession who may still blanch at this offhand reference to librarians as stereotypical introverts, but in the context of Cain’s book, which is informed with humanity, experience, and solid research, it is not in any sense a criticism.
If you’ve never written a proposal, be prepared, you’ll probably be tasked with writing one at some point in your career. And if you’re able to skirt by the next 30 years without writing one, you’re probably doing something wrong.