Library Director: A Possible Future

Thinking about the future has been very common for me in 2011.  I’ve asked myself time and time again, “what is my place in libraries?” but I haven’t come to a final answer.  I’ve had this feeling that I can’t be a teen librarian forever, but since it is the only position I’ve ever held I’ve had a hard time looking past it.  Could I be an academic librarian?  A self employed librarian?  These ideas have come and gone, but no one answer has really stuck.  Until recently…

I started thinking about a possible future as a library director after my participation in the 2010 ALA Emerging Leaders program. Maureen Sullivan, who was the ALA Emerging Leaders Facilitator at the time shared a quote by Frances Hesselbein with the class that’s forever changed me:

“The leader’s job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”

(you can read about my ALA Emerging Leaders experience here and here)

It’s a cliche, but I’ll say it…my mind was blown.  Up until that point in my professional career, I always thought that moving up the “library ladder” allowed you to do whatever the heck you wanted to do.  You were the person in charge…the big shot…the leader.  The way that the community views the library is now in your hands and you can mold it and shape it all you want.

How silly of me to think that I was the center of attention.  How very self centered. I went back and thought of the main reason why I became a librarian in the first place…to help people…and it all clicked.  If I was to become a library director, my job wouldn’t be to dictate others, but instead help those that were around me reach their goals. I would still be helping people, but that circle was now larger. Not only I’d be helping my community, but I’d also be helping other library employees in their quest to be the best for their community.

If I was to go in this direction, I thought I better have a plan.  This is a work in progress:

Library Directors need to trust their employees 100% and get their staff on board with everything that’s happening in the library.  If you were a teen librarian before you make the jump to library director, your tools used to be video games, graphic novels, craft events, and more.  Now, as the director your tools are your staff.  Believe in them, their ideas, and their abilities.  When you have a staff that’s feeling supported, the sky is the limit.  Your library will shine, and your community will embrace the services you offer them.

On the back of the life changing quote I mentioned above, I have to add this: don’t stop having ideas, and definitely don’t stop dreaming.  I’ve always been a dreamer myself, and if I ever become a library director, I’m sure that there will not be an “off” button which I can hit and change my personality to director mode.


It’s the public library directors who need to listen. Staff members need better tools and skills, while their youth need more space, materials, and computers. As Gómez says, “We cannot view out-of-school-time programming and services as an adjunct to core library services.”

For that to be true, a lot of public library directors will need to take a hard look at their library’s resources and how they’re spent. Maybe it’s time to stop moaning about that seldom-visited reference desk (now quiet because adults are using the Internet) and hire more staff that can serve your major clients: children and teens. Maybe it’s time to take your materials and programming funds and actually align them to your usage statistics.

-Brian Kenney

If your librarian comes to you with a plan or just a random idea for something to better the library, give them the ability to go for it. While I was a librarian at the Cape May County Library (NJ), I was a teen librarian chock full of ideas. I went to my director Deb Poillon and asked her if I could start a circulating video game collection.  She thought it over, found some money, and a few months later gave me the funds to start up the collection.  Two years and 554 titles later, the collection is going strong in the county library system.

My point is simple: don’t let money or your own opinions get in the way.  Give your librarians the tools they need to embrace change and help them make something positive happen for the community.


The public library is an excellent model of government at its best. A locally controlled public good, it serves every individual freely, in as much or as little depth as he or she wants.

 -John Berry III

Transparency is quite the buzz word these days, but it’s one of those buzz words I can get behind.  I define the public library as an institution that is available for the public to use which is generally funded by some kind of public sources.  Coming at it from this perspective, I see transparency not as a buzz word, but as something necessary to ensure the future of libraries.

I want to take this idea to the limit.

I wrote about this idea over 1 year ago.  While the tools may have changed, I do stand by the basic principles I set forth in this blog post.  Librarians, and to a greater extent, Library Directors, are interpreters for their communities.  We are here to listen to their needs and wants, and use our professional expertise to help make those requests come true.  As a library director, we need to clearly communicate our actions and decisions to our patrons. This involves fully embracing the idea of transparency.

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor