Competency D – Management

…apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy

Introduction

LIBR 204 was one of my first classes at SLIS, and exposed me to an elucidating perspective of management, that challenged my pre-conceived beliefs. As a long-time employee in non-managerial positions, I had been resistant to the idea of management, or more specifically, to the idea of myself as a manager. However, during the semester, I discovered several skills, resources, and competencies I possess that translate well to library management and the art of maintaining positive stakeholder relationships. Along with the lectures and coursework, this discovery helped catalyze a fuller understanding of what makes an effective manager, and a solid base for utilizing the principles of management to promote team building and maintain beneficial work environments.

Behind half-doors, in back offices, and behind reference desks, there is another side to the inner workings of libraries that patrons do not usually see: the library as an information organization. While patrons are aware of library services, programs, and resources, it is not often known that libraries have their own respective organizational principles that fuel the decisions that determine how libraries are operated and maintained. Libraries are information organizations founded on four main principles – planning, management, marketing, and advocacy – in an attempt to best meet the needs of its community and other stakeholders.

There are three specific types of planning involved in effective library management: operational, tactical, and strategic planning. Operational planning occurs in the short-term to determine necessary procedures for daily, weekly, and monthly operations. Tactical planning sets goals to be completed within six months to a year’s time. Finally, strategic planning sets long-term goals to be implemented within five to ten years. In drafting strategic plans, libraries often reflect on and/or revise their mission and vision statements to determine strategic directions to ensure future relevance and success. Library managers also evaluate existing services, programs, and resources with the aid of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to determine whether changes need to be made to best match user and stakeholder needs. Strategic plans also include drafting budgets to assess costs and estimated revenue. Best practices in most libraries include utilizing all three types of planning concurrently to implement and effect positive changes and maintain vigorous standards.

There are numerous definitions of management; yet, the elemental understanding is that management is a means of both maintaining standard operations and facilitating necessary changes to best serve organizational needs. Moran (2008) states “Libraries need good managers at all levels to manage the change as they face the redefined world of information provision.” (p. 66). There are three tiers of management within a hierarchical organizational structure: upper, middle, and lower. Upper management refers to library directors, who “have the power to establish organization-wide policy.” (p. 69). Middle management includes “department-heads” who are responsible for their respective teams, and whom also make decisions about allocating funds. Middle managers must understand effective ways to navigate both ends of the hierarchical spectrum as liaisons. Supervisors are considered lower-level managers and facilitate day-to-day operations; they must also know how to connect with staff to boost morale and aid productivity. In current library systems, there is also a prevalence of cooperative and non-hierarchical organizational structures where staff and managers collaborate and brainstorm to make necessary decisions.

Marketing and advocacy, according to Evans and Ward (2007), help develop and encourage a partnership between the library and its community (p. 83).  It also demonstrates to the community the services the library provides, and why it is important to support the library, especially in difficult times. Library managers utilize several methods to direct their marketing and advocacy efforts. They include evaluating circulation statistics and other internal records to assess user interests on which to base their marketing endeavors. Managers also consider the socioeconomic, political, and cultural compositions of their local communities, as well as the world beyond their immediate environs and how those events shape user decisions and interests. The act of grouping users who share similar wants and needs is referred to as market segmentation (Moran, 2008, p. 81) Considering various demographical needs including ages, gender, and socioeconomic status help shape library resources, programs, and services.

Whether they employ hierarchical or flattened organizational structures, libraries exist to serve community needs and reflect patron interests. The provision of information resources, programs, and services to patrons and other stakeholders is only possible with the aid and support of organizational teams dedicated to the four principles of library management.

Evidence

Libr 204_Strategic Plan

My first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency D is a strategic plan I co-wrote with two group-mates for my LIBR 204: Information Organizations and Management class. As I explain in Competency M, “each of us wrote a section and shared it with the group for feedback. I wrote the organizational description, created the budget and strategic action plan and set goals for our library: BPL.” This paper was a major endeavor for my group, as we had to navigate the new territory of drafting an organizational plan along with a few speed bumps that included a very short timeframe and an absent group-mate. Managing these difficulties while describing strategically efficient ways to manage libraries was indeed meta enough to aid knowledge transfer and memory retention!

This strategic plan demonstrates my competency in effective short and long-term planning for library success, and includes an organizational description explicating the library’s mission, philosophy, and guiding principles; an organizational chart; a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, a vision statement, strategic action plan, and a budget for implementing the recommended goals, objectives, and action plan.

Libr 204_Philosophy of Management

My second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency D is a paper I wrote for my LIBR 204: Information Organizations and Management class describing my managerial philosophy. In this paper, I discuss several key experiences that catalyzed my current philosophies and beliefs about working with people and managing effectively, in relation to the professional literature and required reading I engaged with for this class. Writing this paper provided me with the focus to synthesize several difficult past events into a workable understanding of these extant beliefs, and also helped transform any negative feelings by both providing this outlet and allowing me to reshape them into a cooperative and healthy framework.

Other values that infuse my philosophy of management include non-hierarchical, organizational structures that foster cooperation and collaboration between library workers and other stakeholders. I also discuss how flexibility, adaptability, and openness to change are vital effective management strategies due to the ever-changing nature of the field of library and information services.

Libr 261_Implementing Advocacy

My third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency D is a paper I wrote for LIBR 261: Programming and Services for Young Adults about implementing advocacy for teens in the library. In this paper, I describe BPL’s current underused teen space, as well as their teen resources, programs and services, and enumerate multiple ways to attract teens to utilize BPL’s teen services. I also suggest the need to create an app just for teens where they can feel free to use specially designed forums to engage socially, intellectually, and positively to meet developmental needs and assets. I compare BPL’s existing teen services to OPL’s Teen Zone as a benchmark, and describe attributes of OPL’s programs and services that would facilitate developmental growth and lifelong learning.

This paper proves my competency in library management by describing efficient ways to improve and advocate for an underrepresented demographic in the library, as well as my ability to benchmark local library services to develop a sense of opportunities and possible funding sources.

Conclusion

My vision for future library organizations involves a flattened organizational structure, in which all workers are respected and fairly treated, afforded diversity training, and provided with opportunities for regular professional development. Library workers will each become stakeholders and cooperatively manage branches by delegating responsibilities according to areas of expertise and skill sets. This structure will respect and buoy worker morale, as well as foster imaginative solutions to difficulties or problems by removing the adverse hierarchical relationship. A flattened organizational structure will help promote creative problem solving through collaborative brainstorming, as will it invigorate library programs and services with play.

References

Evans, G. Edward, Ward, Patricia Layzell (2007). Management basics for information professionals (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Moran, Barbara B. (2008). Management: An Essential Skill for Today’s Librarians.  In Haycock and Sheldon (Eds.), The Portable MLIS (65). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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