George Needham on Library Management

Via LiB, who consistently blogs so darn well:

George Needham discusses “library management” and it is spot on!

First, we tend to promote really good staff people into management positions, whether or not they have any proclivity for this role. Someone who does great story hours and book talks becomes the head of the children’s department, or an efficient cataloger ends up running the Technical Services department. Sometimes, this works out fine; the promoted librarian applies the empathy and understanding she developed during her days as a staff member to her new role. But too many other times, this is a disaster. Lacking training or a natural talent for leadership, she applies the same attention to detail (synonyms: “perfectionism” and “micromanagement”) to the new job. She huddles with the clique of people who used to be her peers and ends up being seen as playing favorites. Or she decides that she can’t trust anyone any more, so she tries to take on everything herself, delegating only the most routine work because she doesn’t trust anyone to do it as well as she could.

Second, and closely related to the first, we don’t have ways to reward people sufficiently for doing their own jobs well. The only avenue for advancement and a better salary is promotion. (I am told by my mother, a retired teacher, and others in the education business that this is also a big problem in schools. Really good teachers have little chance to advance other than by becoming principals or other supervisors, whether or not they really want to leave the classroom.)

Third, we lack any profession-wide approach to mentoring. The leadership programs provide a handful of librarians with access to greybeards like yours truly, but it’s very hard for a working librarian to establish relationships that could provide good role models and informal teachers.

Fourth, and I promise this will be my only shot at library schools, library management classes in most library schools leave a lot to be desired. Like some connection to reality.

Noted, George, and emailed to the faculty. I have my own opinions about micromanagement and promotions. One librarian even whispered in my ear she was given a manager’s job because she’d “been at the library the longest” not because she wanted it or wanted to manage. I look forward to the students in LIS education as I type, who are reading Got Game and A Whole New Mind and blogging and such, getting into libraries and changing those practices and hyperlinking their organizations.