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Accidental Library Manager

Jul - 8 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

A week or so ago I finished reading The Accidental Library Manager by Rachel Singer Gordon. I was waiting to have some time before I wrote about it – and now I have some time.

First, this is the second of Rachel’s books that I have read and I have to say I like her writing style. I love that it seems like she’s talking right to you – I love that she makes topics like managing budgets something you want to read in case there is a little pearl of wisdom in there (although I will admit I did eventually start skimming that section :) ).

So, I guess the first question is: Am I an accidental library manager? I don’t think so. When I was hired in 2001, the deputy director asked me where I saw myself in three years and I said “Not as a Web Assistant”. It has always been my goal to be a manager – although I guess I never knew it would be in a library. I grew up with parents who owned their own businesses – so I learned a lot about managing business and people. I’m proud to say that both of my parents are the kinds of employees who companies seek out – they are so good at what they do that people know their names and want them on their teams. My mother is a manager and she recently described her managerial style as friendly. She treats her employees as friends, staff meetings take longer than they probably should because she wants to hear about people’s weekends or family before she gets down to business. She has found a way to master the friend/boss roll – something I hope to accomplish in my career.

Back to the book. Rachel starts her introduction by telling us that there are tons of other books on being a manager in a library – but I’m glad that I read this one first because – like I said already – I like the way Rachel talks to me through her writing. She covers everything from becoming a library manager to managing people to managing change and what people want in a manager. Bet you know what chapter I liked the best.

Managing Change. “You may need to challenge ongoing, longstanding practices, some so entrenched that no one remembers their original purpose.” (pg 183). Didn’t I just talk about that in my post about managing programming projects? I think I did – except that I believe a lot of these practices came about because of the tools that people had to work with.

If your work life devolves into a constant series of putting out fires, it may be time to step back, look at the overall picture, and strategize a new way of managing change in your organization. (pg 186)

The other key? Communication! This is a constant theme and something that came up a lot in our strategic planning process at work. People want to know what’s going on – and if management doesn’t share then the staff gets cranky and feels unimportant. This is why our intranet has been so great for our library – it has improved communication significantly – everyone can see what other departments are doing and managers have an easy way to share with the entire staff.

Another theme covered in this book – something else that’s close to my heart. Training.

It is the managers' responsibility to offer and support training within the library. Training doesn’t always have to cost money either. At Jenkins we register for free webinars and hold them for our whole staff in our multi-purpose room. This allows the staff to hear speakers they may not ever hear otherwise. The problem is that if your manager won’t give you an hour off of the desk to attend then it’s a waste of time for the people organizing the event.

Rachel mentioned that some libraries have in-service days so that the entire staff can attend training sessions without having to worry about who’s helping the patrons. I love this idea!!

Anyway, I could sit here and summarize the entire book for you – but the people at Info Today probably wouldn’t like that ;)

I highly recommend this book to anyone in management or considering management in a library.

2 Responses so far.

  1. [...] I wrote my review of The Accidental Library Manager last night. I mentioned that I liked the Managing Change chapter and then this morning I saw that Info Career Trends has a bunch on managing change in libraries: [...]

  2. Rachel says:

    Thanks, Nicole! That’s the writing style I aim for, so glad it’s working :).


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