Friday, March 09, 2007

Holding the door open: Radical Trust and Library Management 2.0

Several posts in the past few weeks have made me realize that a lot of what management does is hold the door open. It isn't necessarily leading or having a vision, although that is a really big part of it. A lot of it is just allowing librarians to do their thing and get out of their way. Only it is not just that, you also have to hold the door open. The ability to withstand pressure from above and to allow smart people do their thing is best thing you can do. The pressure from administration can always deflate progess, but if you can work the charm and deflect or repel that pressure, the library is better for it.

From Execupundit:

Notes from a Boss to an employee

1. I am sometimes under enormous pressure from upper management; pressure that you seldom see. Anything that you can do to make my job easier will be greatly appreciated."


and from Library Talk, a good comment from Sandra Stewart on the subject of the can't do attitude:

Library Talk: The Can't Do Attitude

"Hey guys, don't be so quick to diss Administration. I've been a Director myself of a small library and you've got even more push from political angles and the always present budget issues. I found that the Library Board (which was very strong and all up in the day to day of the library) was very skeptical of some of the initiatives I wanted to introduce. "


Managers and directors must provide more protection for their staff so that they are free to do what they do best. Trusting them and protecting them is the key of progress. Micromanaging is the sure way to lose them, whether they stay employed with you or not (meaning even if they work for you, they will lose their spirit, and they may as well leave if they have lost that).

Another great post about library management is here:

Sites and Soundbytes:

Trust staff – no micromanagement
In my early career, I was lucky enough to be taught how NOT to be a director. I worked for a very intense micro-manager who had absolutely no trust for any of her staff no matter where they fell on the hierarchy. Trusting staff has to be at the core of what we do as directors. We have to trust them to interpret when a patron complaint should be referred to someone else, trust them to deal with the situations they want to, trust them to make decisions about forgiving fines, dealing with disruptions, and extending service beyond the norm. That is their decision as a professional working in our library whether they have an MLS or not. They must be given the parameters, but supported in making the tough decisions where there needs to be flexibility. If we can't trust our staff to a radical level, how in the world do we expect to ever trust our patrons to any level at all? And if you have staff that you can't trust to that extent, what are they doing working at a public library?


Staff must be informed as to why a decision has been made. However, it seems to be a balance between letting staff know of problems from up top without taking the wind out of their sails. If you are always saying, "They'll never support it", then people will stop trying, and they must ALWAYS keep trying. Nothing bothers me more than someone who says "I won't ask you because I know you will say no." You want them to get into the philosophy of getting things done by any means necessary. Even to the point of "beg forgiveness than ask permission". I am always surprised by what the library staff can do when they think for themselves and work together to solve a problem. It certainly makes my job easier.

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