Some questions asked of me for a management project from a student at the University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science.
1. Can you give a short account of how you came to be a manager? Was it a
conscious goal of yours to become a manager, something you wanted to do from
I have always been a reader, but the idea of becoming a librarian came later, management later than that. I have always been interested in management, but it didn’t become a conscious goal until I worked for some terrible bosses. I came into management with the idealistic goal of caring about workers and creating an organization that creates impact on the community. The former is always a moving target and takes constant care and attention, the latter can be done rather easily, but doing both will affect one or the other. For example, a great service for patrons may take a huge amount of staff resources, straining library services, but if you don't change services to meet patron demand, then usage suffers.
2. What traits, skills, and experiences do you feel prepared you for being a
Reading and experiencing bad bosses prepared me for most work situations. The book that had the most impact on me was On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors by John de Lorean. It talked about his experiences at GM and how he turned the Pontiac division of cars around despite management decisions that made it almost impossible to do so. I think this inspired me to think that with persistence, change can occur and in spite of negative forces working against you.
3. What could have prepared you better? (If you could, is there any advice
you would have given your past self when you first became a manager?)
I don’t know if there is more advice I could have given myself. I probably would have told myself to wait on management because of my family. It is hard with all the time commitments that take me away from my family. You have to take opportunities as they come. This was a big opportunity to run this library and I took it. Looking back I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, but my general advice it to make sure your family commitments are in order and that they understand the pressure and the time it will take away from them.
4. What's the most rewarding thing about being a manager? How about the most
The most positive thing is knowing that you are making an impact on your community and on the organization. I love it when people come to work who are passionate about their jobs and about the library and when the community is just as excited. The most difficult thing is finding enough money to meet both the internal and external needs. Our city is not that wealthy and its priority is not with the library. Luckily, we were able to get a bond initiative for a new library on the ballot and it won by 66% this past November. This guaranteed library support in the community, a branch library, more staff, and more resources to handle our growth.
5. What do you like and dislike about being a manager as opposed to a
frontline staff member?
Any specific field of work is different from management, and management is essentially the same no matter the field. Librarian work is very rewarding as you are providing services right there and get a response from the patron right away. You can see the impact you are making from each patron. As a manager, you don’t directly see the changes you are making, and usually you only hear about the bad decisions. No one states that they liked a change, but you can tell that people do by the increase in usage, statistics, and general chatter.
6. What principles and theories of management have you found most effective
and accurate? How has strategic planning benefited your organization?
Strategic planning has been the most effective approach to demonstrating the library’s impact on the community. The strategic plan was also rolled into performance based budgeting which justifies budget expenditure by how well you are meeting the goals and objectives set by the community. We were the first to do this in our city’s organization and the response has been phenomenal. We have had major increases in usage from a general circulation increase of 20%, to an increase of computer usage by 50%.
7. What is the most difficult situation that you have had to deal with as a
manager? And how did you resolve it?
The most difficult situation was dealing with a major problem employee. In all situations, I would prefer to provide advice and guide the employee back to compliance and to become a productive member of the staff. When they flat out refuse to do so, the process is very stressful and demanding. I think that is why many managers simply refuse to deal with the situation. However, this hurts the organization dearly, and the removal of the employee in the end has helped the organization.
8. What was the most successful change you helped facilitate or implement as
a manager? Was there a least successful?
The most successful change was the re-establishment of adult literacy services at the library. Previously, the library used the Western Pinal County Literacy Council to provide Adult Literacy in the area. In 1998, that program was disbanded leaving hundreds of students to fend for themselves. In 2005, the library began its strategic planning process using PLA’s Planning for Results. This process identified Adult Literacy as the most important service. The establishment of that program took a great deal of creativity and reallocation of resources. Once established, we hit the front page of the local papers stating that Literacy concern Library with a positive article on what we were doing. We received 12 tutors just from the newspaper article. The program recently took the next step in establishing a bookmobile last month. It was a great accomplishment to create something out of nothing and to change the landscape so that Adult Literacy is not only on the radar screen, it is a major concern.
The least successful change has been in staff training. I had some success in December with two training programs on customer service and managing the angry public. I need to do a better job in training staff on technology and the changing world of libraries. We have the double digit growth and changing environment so it is hard to keep on top of all the changes and training staff for them.
9. What kind of relationship do you seek with the employees you manage? What
is your ideal?
I would like to have one that is professional, yet light. I want them to be passionate about their jobs, but not to take things too seriously. I would like their relationship with me to be a good one. In the end, I just want them to be excited to come to work every day and hope that they can approach all situations with a sense of humor. A sense of humor is essential when working for a public library. Some situations can be quite extreme and if you can find a way to laugh it off, it helps dealing with it. I just hope I encourage that.
10. Lastly, what is the key to keeping your team and yourself motivated?
I think they key is rewarding employees for doing a great job. I say thank you and tell them I appreciate them. I try to get treats for them on occasion if it has been a tough week. We have several staff events throughout the year, the Friends of the library provide a volunteer luncheon which staff can partake, they provide a staff appreciation reception, they invite staff to their annual dinner, we have a Pizza party in April for staff (usually indicates the end of the busy period, winter visitor season), and I have an employee of the month program in which the awarded employee receives a certificate, a $20 gift card to Walmart, and eight (8) hours of comp time.
Overall I have really enjoyed running my library. The changes being made in the community and the value the community has placed on the library has been fantastic. I am always excited since there is so much more that can be done and it is within reach.