I read several articles and chapters last month. Some were interesting, some were common sense things that most librarians are already doing every day, but one of the chapters really had me shaking my head. There was good information there, but I found myself thinking a lot about top down management style.
The chapter was from Managing Children’s Services in the Public Library. I wish that I could link to a full text version so you can read it, but I think the quotes will speak for themselves. I’d love to hear what you think about these topics.
“In supervising librarians, one goal is to help them develop the skills necessary to take positions as department heads in other branches or libraries.” (31)
“Support staff members need to know some of the background and reasons for library policies. Their major need for information, however, is to help them do their daily jobs, not participate in administration.” (32)
Both of these quotes made me say “what?” I know librarians who only want to be librarians. They might only want to be a children’s librarian, even. There’s nothing wrong with allowing a librarian to become the best librarian they can be without pushing them towards management.
I also know clerical staff who love working at the library and plan to continue to do so as long as possible. They are good at it, there are management positions they can move into if they are interested. There are definitely some for whom working in the library is merely a stop on their way to the future, but who’s to say what information they need, and what they don’t?
“Group decisions are most appropriate when the entire group must accept the decision and the time limit for making it is fairly long. … Allowing each staff member to suggest ways for coping with inconvenience will minimalize general resentment. The manager will not appear to be the person who handed down decisions that cause inconvenience.” (35)
The first part of this statement I agree with, but the last sentence? I wrote the word “ouch” in the margin. Avoiding blame as an important management strategy? It might work for a while, but eventually your employees are going to start looking at you in a new light.
All of this led me to think about a recent post by Meredith Farkas called Be the Change You Want to See. The post isn’t necessarily about managing, although I think it is sound advice for anyone who is or is interested in being a manager. The main theme in Meredith’s post is that you can’t base your own actions in your career on those around you. If someone else is slacking, it only wastes your energy to be mad at them for doing so. If someone else is an amazing dynamo, you will most likely just wear yourself out trying to compete. And don’t stop doing amazing things because your co-workers glare at you for being a overachiever.
How do I think this applies to managers? It tells them not to judge their employees too harshly or quickly. It reminds them to sit back a bit and make sure they can see all the parts of a person: the “slacker” who only works 24 hours a week and does what he/she can in that time, the “overachiever” that is escaping something outside of work and throwing all their energy into projects, and all the grey areas in between. There are a lot of things to consider when looking at what a coworker or person you supervise is accomplishing. This is something that I’m working on now–not jumping to conclusions.