Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thoughts on 'Managing A Library (or, "Why I don't blog so much about Managing Libraries")

Read this post from Connecting Librarian, which led me to T. Scott sharing his thoughts on management and decision-making from a library administrator's point of view. I found myself agreeing and emphathising with many of Scott's points. Like this one:
And you should assume that every decision will be criticized and misunderstood. This is an aspect of change management that I haven't seen discussed much in the libraryland blogs.

Certainly this paragraph most of all:
Figuring this out on a day-to-day basis is an art. It's never clearcut. I almost never know for certain that the decision that I'm making at any point in time is absolutely the right one... ... On the good days, I look at what we're accomplishing and I'm proud of the part that I get to play. On the other days, I put my head in my hands, grimacing at the bone-headed things that I've done. I have more good days than bad, which, I suppose, is what keeps me coming back.

I have often asked myself, "Have I done the right thing?"
Sometimes I ask the same of my bosses, heh :)

Sometimes I ask certain of my colleagues (bosses, peers or those in my team) that question about my actions. In the end, I think there are really three yardsticks of whether I've done the right thing as a manager, in the following order:
  1. The results achieved, as required by my employer;
  2. My continued employment by the organisation;
  3. A professional and cordial relationship with my colleagues (different from being "friends").

Perhaps the real yardstick is how others acknowledge your worth at the end of a given time period (i.e. we won't know it now, for only time will tell).

While I'm trained as a librarian, I was already in a managerial capacity when I started this blog, i.e. planning, leading, supervising. So why not call this blog 'Rambling Library Manager' from the start? Ah, you'll agree that Rambling Librarian sounds better : )

At that time, I'd considered blogging about the management of public libraries (I was directly managing up to three libraries at one time), e.g. thoughts about the day-to-day running of the library, general issues and concerns as a branch manager, that kind of stuff. In the end, I deliberately chose to blog about the public librarianship, rather than the management of libraries or of librarians.

So far, the closest I've ever blogged about that aspect of managing libraries was perhaps this Open Letter to my PLS librarian colleagues and this follow-up post titled Open Letter to My front-line staff. Note: The posts weren't directed to my colleagues (my blog is NOT for official communications). The posts were merely attempts at using the 'Open Letter' format as a blog-writing technique/ style of expression.

Blogging about the going-ons in managing a library was tricky. It touched on areas like the management of staff and dealing with customer issues, which were often confidential. I could blog about it from a general perspective (like the Open Letters) but there's only so much worth reading before it gets stale.

Anyway, I've shared before that Management and Librarianship are not mutually exclusive areas. Besides, posts about being/ becoming a public librarian and about happenings in the library would be more interesting and 'safer' to blog about.

It's oft said that "Management is more of an Art than an exact Science". It's true because in management, you are dealing with People -- individuals with different wants, needs, perceptions, personalities etc.

I relooked at this Short Reading List for Managers that I posted at RoughNotes back in 2004. Might be worth revisiting those books again. I'm sure I'll gain new perspectives since the last time I read them.

In that same post, I wrote that "management is a lonely business". It still is, but I guess successful managers are those who don't necessarily create or reinforce that statement, but simply accept it as the nature of the work.


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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:04 am

    I do find managing people is a piece of art. This is an issue I am facing now. How to manage a library (even a small but special library) and how to manage a person who doesn't trust you cos' you are not part of their society? There are so much to learn from each other in order to improve your own skill. But would you get a chance from some people? Kitty

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