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I have now been in the position of Director at the San Rafael Public Library for seven months, officially permanently the director for almost two.  Before that, I was the Assistant Director for nine months.  For better or for worse, I think it is safe to say that I have made the transition from being a techie-librarian to being, as Nate Hill so aptly put it, ‘The Man.’*

The Hell You Say…

I believe my response to Nate at the time involved the oh-so-mature phrases “shut your mouth” and “nuh-uh, take it back.”   Some cursing likely occurred in between.  I may have even smacked him on the shoulder.  I don’t remember.  I think I actually blacked out from the shock of the epithet, so I’ll trust to Nate’s memories of that conversation instead of mine.

The Man Suit

Suffice it to say that the idea of being in charge, of being an administrator, raises mixed emotions in me.  I’ve always prided myself on being the fighter, the principled one who stood up in meetings and said the thing the person in charge least wanted to hear and took the beatings afterward gladly.  I am the iconoclast, the rabble-rouser, the pain in the behind of pretty much everyone who’s ever supervised me (sorry to David, Pat, Carol, Mary, Jane, the list goes on…).  The idea that I am now a Director still makes me crinkle my forehead and make a little kid pouty face.  The concept that I’m running a library is still foreign to me, it’s still weird, and it’s still a suit I’m getting comfortable wearing.

All of that being said, those same supervisors I tortured would be the first to say that I like being in charge of things.  I believe that my younger brother and sister will echo that sentiment, telling stories about me being just a wee bit bossy even as a seven-year-old.  I admit that I fully enjoy having the ability to say “Yes, we’re just gonna buy those shelves” or “Good idea–try it and let me know in a month how it’s going.”  But that ability comes at the cost of being the person ultimately responsible when things go badly, messes need cleaning up, and when mistakes are made.

How I Became The Man

When I was debating whether or not to apply for the Director position, I asked a dozen or so close friends and colleagues what they thought I should do.  I got the same answer from almost everyone: “You need to do this. We need more public library directors who are tech-savvy, willing to take risks, and who embrace change.”  I thought “Well, grrr to your making me some kind of weird representative of the tech-savvy-librarianship class–it’s not my responsibility to shoulder that burden!”  But it is, just as it is for everyone else who represents a particularly specialty or area of expertise.  So I applied, was offered the job, and accepted.  I am still humbled and grateful to the City Manager for showing such confidence in me.  I will continue to try to be worthy of that confidence.

Which brings us back to present day, and me being The Man.  *shudder* A local colleague thinking of moving from front line librarianship into administration asked me yesterday what I’d learned so far in my recent role as The Man.  It’s weird how everyone keeps using that phrase, and I was reminded of Nate’s postscript (sometime after I stopped hitting him) which was something along the lines of “No, you really are The Man but it’s not a bad thing. You’re good at it–at organizing people, working through bureaucracy.”  Something like that.  Maybe I dreamed that in an effort to pad my ego as I stepped off the cliff into Administration-dom.  Nate will have to chime in ;)

So what have I learned?  Some tough lessons.  And here they are.

7 Lessons Learned While Being The Man

1. Budgets will hamstring your dreams

I have grandiose plans for 3D printers, enhanced item displays, better signage, community outreach and partnerships, multimedia production…the list is endless.  However, when working in a short-staffed situation, it becomes nearly impossible to realize any of those wonderful dreams.  Even if you could get donations for any items with a direct cost, the reality of short staffing in most libraries means that it’s all you can do to keep the doors open and the desks staffed.  Off desk time! What off desk time? When, precisely, do you want your staff producing that weekly digital literacy program for local cable? During their lunch breaks? I am facing a specific budget challenge at present, beyond the year-upon-year-upon-year of regular funding cuts.  And that challenge kept me up at nights, literally wondering how I was going to keep the library open.  When that is the very real concern, 3D printers sound a lot less important.  Sorry, but it’s true.  I think through this crisis I’m learning quickly that when there’s no money to go around, anything “extra” just ain’t gonna happen…and that’s no one’s fault, it just is. I feel badly for losing my cool with managers in the past who said no to my requests for upgraded networks, web hosting, and equipment. It’s possible they were facing similar challenges to mine.  But if so, they never said anything…which leads me to #2.

2. Be transparent

As soon as I realized our budget situation, I started telling the supervisors, then the rest of the staff, the support groups, etc.  One of the things I have had the hardest time with as a librarian has been the obfuscated decision-making processes that I bore witness to, the closed door meetings, the “nobody gets to know this except for us” mentality.  It is my goal to be as transparent as possible about what’s going on with the library, both internally and externally, and I hope I’m walking the walk so far.  I’m really trying very hard to do so, even when I know what I say will make people mad.  Someone asked me earlier this week for a $500 piece of equipment.  That budget line was already well-overspent so I had to say no, but I told the person why I was saying no.  When I send out messages reiterating a particular procedure or asking staff to be careful about something, I don’t leave it up to the vague-rumor-mill to figure out what prompted my email–I say so…in the email.  Transparency is good, period.

3. Not everyone is going to like you–too bad for them

I know this might shock people (not really) but not everyone likes me.  There are people within the organization and outside of it who made their opinions of me very well-known when I was the Acting Director.  There are people whose opinions of me have changed, and people who still think I am the Anti-Christ.  Too bad for them.  I’m the Director and I’m not going anywhere.  I can’t, nor do I expect to, make everyone like me.  In fact, if I’m not pissing somebody off at any given time about something, then I’m probably not doing my job very well.  If you need to be liked, then being in administration is not for you.  I’ve seen too many friendly, good-hearted people get chewed up by the great administration machine.  You gotta have thick walls and clear boundaries, my friends, to do this.

4. Your job is to make everyone look good

Someone makes a mistake? You take the blame. Someone does something truly awesome? She gets all the credit. You do something truly awesome? Tell your own boss, but otherwise stay quiet. I’ve been doing stuff I’m proud of, and part of me wishes I could crow about it but I don’t. It’s not about me…it’s about the library.

5. Small details matter

That little unnecessary extra step people take in a routine process? It matters. Get rid of it. The paint that’s chipping in the hallway that drives someone nuts? Fix it. It’s easy to get lost in the macro issues. Don’t forget the micro issues matter a lot too.

 6. You’re always on

When I go out walking downtown at lunch, people know me as the Library Director.  They say hi, ask me how the library’s doing, some try to give me books to return.  When I am shopping for tomatoes at Whole Foods, I’m still the Library Director.  When I’m pounding back a pint of Guinness at the pub, I’m still the Library Director.  Any time I’m in public, no matter the day or the time, I’m still the community’s Library Director.  This is why that Guinness consumption now always takes place outside my immediate area.  I cannot have a conversation about library policy with you at 11pm on a Saturday night in a bar.  Any time I’m in public, including when I’m taking the garbage out in my jammies at 7am, I have to remember that some people know who I am and anything I do could potentially reflect positively or negatively on the library. Is it fair? Nah. It’s just the reality of being a public servant.

7. The days of sleeping well are over

This one’s hard.  Maybe it’s just me, but since I was appointed Acting Director I lost any semblance of a normal night’s sleep.  Perhaps that will fade with time (hey, more experienced directors–does it fade?).  I wake up at 2am thinking of something I should add to a report.  I toss and turn trying to fall asleep thinking about the 7 mistakes I made in the spreadsheet I drew up yesterday.  I stress out about how to address personnel issues, about whether or not I’m going to say something stupid at a City Council meeting, on and on.  I have a recurring nightmare involving a particularly scary patron.  I’ve always been on the stressier side, but it’s intensified since the new job.  I really hope this goes away, but I don’t expect that it will.

If you’ve made the transition into library administration, what lessons did you learn? What would you share with your colleagues?  What crash-and-burn mistakes did you make that you can help us newbies from making? What helped you succeed most? Do share!

* I don’t want to hear any crap about ‘The Man’ being a sexist or gendered term.  You know what I mean.  If you have a better way of saying it, let me know.

“7 Lessons Learned While Being The Man”

  1. Amy Says:

    This was amazing and very uplifting to read! I currently am the Head of Circulation at my library and I am always pondering what will happen when our director retires and if I have it in me to be director. I would love to see some great changes around here and I think I could do it. You have inspired me even more and I think you might be my new library role model. Also I love reading your blog.

  2. AMO Says:

    I was the head of Adult Services for more than 4 years in Tempe, Arizona, after being promoted from a reference librarian position. This wasn’t quite being “The Man” – but it was close, especially when our director retired and was not replaced in the City budget. Us remaining managers had to pull up our bootstraps, deal with a loss of more than a third of our staff, a reduction in hours, and a huge hit to our budget, and to top it off – a two-year long remodel that had us constantly scrambling – everything from false fire alarms to power and network outages to a HAZMAT mercury spill and a ruptured sewer line that covered our lower level – it was a crazy time, but we stayed open. Oh yes, and during this time, I had two babies. There were days I felt like I was in combat. Constant change – irritated public – historic recession – employees afraid for their jobs – no director to lead us and an indifferent upper management with a background in recreation. After all this, and when things finally seemed to be calming down a bit, I literally had to make a choice between my small children and my job. Due to the scheduling changes I could no longer pick my kids up at the appropriate time from daycare. After realizing that the whole endeavor was a project in ridiculousness, I could no longer justify my participation in it. I was just sick of fighting what no longer seemed to be the good fight. So I demoted myself down to a 20-hour children’s librarian and have been living large and enjoying my kids for the past 18 months. I still love being a librarian. Working 20 hours a week is a dream come true, and I am grateful. I watch the remaining managers deal with all the crap that I used to do, and I don’t feel one bit guilty. I made the right choice for my situation. Management is not for the faint of heart. Maybe someday I’ll get back to it, but I’m in no hurry. Congratulations on the promotion, LIB – I’m rooting for you!

  3. Lorna Young Says:

    I fell into managing in 1997 because another staff member was seconded to a different part of the university. Suddyenly I found myself as a department head where there hadn’t been one before. Since then I’ve been Head Librarian for a small theological college and a middle manager at a medium sized public library. A few things I’ve learned:
    Observe first, talk later. Most staff are competent if you let them alone to do their jobs.
    Never ask staff to do something you aren’t capable of doing yourself.
    Your vision is as good as anyone else’s vision. One of the things I struggle with is why my vision should prevail over anyone else’s. But nature abhors a vacuum, in leadership as much as anything else. So go forward–but don’t be afraid to fall back if you’re wrong.

  4. Stephanie Beverage Says:

    A big challenge for me when I made the move into administration was figuring out when to be quiet and when not be. I’m opinionated and a bit on the bossy side as well (comes with the position of eldest child I think…), and there have been times when I’ve learned the hard way when to shut up and when to make your case.

    The longer I do this (administration) the more I convinced I am that I am here to make others successful – I need to make sure that everyone has what they need to excel in their work. Whatever that may be.

    Be open with your staff – ask them for ideas, challenge them to find solutions. They generally will surprise you in a good way.
    Any investment you make in your staff is worth it. Oh and don’t forget to have fun. I work at not taking myself too seriously – it really isn’t about me, though I will take responsibility when something goes wrong. But it is all about your staff and the people you serve.

    I keep learning all the time in this job and at this level. Still things I need to do better, still things to learn. That keeps things fresh.

    As for the sleep thing – there will be times when the exhaustion will kick in and help with the sleep. But there will always be times when you wake up at 2 AM thinking about how to better craft a presentation or how to solve a budget problem. I just think it goes with the territory if you are conscientious.

    Great post, Sarah – lots of good things here. Sounds like you really are cut out to be The Man. :).

  5. Nate Hill Says:

    Sarah, it’s ironic that you should post this as I’m driving across the country to also start a new job as “the man” in a certain sense. Nope, I’m not gonna be top dog as you are over there, but as Assistant Director for Technology and Digital Initiatives at the Chattanooga Public Library my day-to-day role in libraries is certainly changing. I’ve got big plans!

    I’m curious if you read any books to help you with the transition. A friend suggested I check out ‘The First 90 Days’, and I’ve been taking some of the advice it gives to heart as I prepare for my own transition. One thing it said was that often folks don’t ‘promote themselves’, so rather than focus on their new responsibilities they try to do their old job only more or better. Naturally this is a total fail. It’s definitely something that spoke to me…

    I’m so glad you’ve embraced your new gig as “The Man”. You will get so much done. It will be so rewarding to grow with the job and tackle new challenges: even the ones that kind of suck to tackle. San Rafael is super lucky to have you.

  6. Jane Says:

    Great post, Sarah. Glad to hear you’re adjusting so well. Part of me has a hard time reconciling you as “The Man” because I’ve known you so long, but then I think back on the time you and I took a list of concerns to our supervisor about issues at the Undergrad Library when we were grad assistants and I’m not surprised either of us has accepted responsibility for making change; even if it means there may be staff who find frustration with what you do… hopefully the conversations are healthy, and they’re probably change agents and future administrators too!
    So I’m not a Director and I don’t currently have any machinations on being one, but a lot of what you said struck a chord with me, and here’s my take on some of your points:
    Transparency: I think in addition to decision making, an administrator’s role is to foster an environment in which staff understands the roles different pieces of the library organization plays (or even the City). I hear bitching about the IT department from librarians, bitching about other supervisors, central staff, and it’s my responsibility to ensure those relationships are healthy and those people can work with one another.
    Not everyone is going to like you: Yup, it’s true. Still, any time you are friendly, smile and say hello, it makes a world of difference to staff. There are a couple of administrators at my library notorious for never visiting the library, and a couple others who know the vast majority of the staff’s names, and are visible. Guess which ones get the respect?
    You’re always on: It took me a long time to learn to say no, and I’m still working on it. Part of succession planning in an organization is delegating!
    The days of sleeping well are over: I think this will get better for you, it’s happened to me too when I start a new job. I was up last night thinking of a project. I grabbed a note pad and pen and jotted some things down, then went to sleep. The note pad will stay by my bed in the event that happens again. :)

    Thanks for sharing, and keep kicking ass!

  7. Jan Holmquist Says:

    Great post… – and good comments.

    A lot is transferable to a Danish context. I am not “The Man” rather the middle man as I work with library development and are head of librarians at my library. I think this post is good advice for people beginning in leadership (Like Nate says) and also it is good for inspiration for leaders. I read an article about Scandinavian leadership yesterday (in Danish and hidden behind paywall sorry) and it appears that number 2 and 4 could fit in under that brand…

    A thing that surprised me when I became the middle man is that “Management by walking around” is hard because people expect you to always have a reason for roaming and that reason should include that you want to check up on something. I find it valuable to roam to get input and learn about what´s on the agenda that is not mine – to make my own agenda better – ofcourse feedback is always a good icebreaker :)

  8. Kristi Says:

    A wonderful post – as a new Library Director myself, it is amazing the amount of minutia that comes with the job, and all of your points are ones that I have faced since April. I love the library and the staff and getting to know the community. They are certainly getting to know me. Wishing you the best as you move forward.

  9. ksol Says:

    “I don’t want to hear any crap about ‘The Man’ being a sexist or gendered term”

    First of all, thank you for this. I’ve been seeing a lot of examples lately of people getting twisted into a knot over innocent terms. Will Manley even posted on his blog about being chided for using “wife.” Apparently, it’s elitist.

    My career goal has been to be a director at a small, preferably tiny, public library. I have been rethinking this, knowing my personality, skills and weaknesses, and knowing I would be up against the things you say here. Truly, I’m more the type of person you stick in a corner and ask to figure out things. I’m in a lead worker situation and the one I struggle with most is that not everyone is going to be happy with me. I am better about it than I used to be. I learned the hard way from an earlier job to not make my social life revolve around my coworkers. We shall see if I get to the point where I feel I can handle these things you address or if I decide to remain in my corner and not fall victim to the Peter Principle.

  10. Kristin Says:

    Crazy! I was just talking to my current boss about my new job at another library, which will involve supervising some staff. I also referred to myself as “The Man”. I don’t think it’s sexist, personally, since it’s a jokey term. But I am also fond of HBiC (Head B*tch in Charge).

    These are great points and I’ll be sure to keep them in mind in my new position. I def. have a problem with wanting everyone to like me and I’ll have to get over that real quick.

  11. Rebecca Says:

    Thanks for the great post. A year ago I went from a part time children’s librarian to the manager of our circulation department. And though I’m not the director I can relate to every one of your points.
    One thing that I learned very quickly is that as a manager I no longer get to have bad days in front of my staff. If I’m off someone on staff inevitably thinks they did something to upset me, or the entire department is on edge.

    I’ll definetly be starring your post as I continue to work my way up the administration ladder.

  12. Cindy Says:

    I’ve been a Library Director for decades now, but I still clearly remember the transition and I’m still learning (thank goodness). When I speak at staff development days or to library school students, I tell them that I became a director because I’d rather tell people what to do than be told. I have realized that’s not really how I do things; I expect people to be self-motivated and autonomous, because I am. It they aren’t, I get (privately) frustrated and then blame myself.
    I once had a staff member (from my current job) tell me that I should be more strict so that staff would be nervous when they saw me coming – and I said to her “why would I want that?” However, when I recognize good work and share information, I realize that does cause staff to stand up straighter when I’m around. So, I try to walk around a lot, both to (hopefully) inspire them and to be accessible to them. Another staff member said to me that, even without looking for me, he could tell when I’m not in the building. Honestly, I don’t know if this is good or bad. (And, if it makes any difference to this story, we have 3 locations and around 50 people.)
    I totally agree about being the Library Director 24/7 if you live and work in the same community. People will react in horror, but I am very glad that I now live 15 miles away from my current job, so I can have the separation of work and personal lives. It’s particularly true when there is political craziness in the library’s town (as there is in mine right now – big time!).
    Oh, and does it ever get easier to sleep? It did for me, but some of that is getting accustomed to the agitation.

  13. someone else’s blog: Librarian in Black « studiumlibrarios Says:

    [...] directly, a post titled “7 Lessons Learned While Being The Man.“  A different perspective on what I was gleaning from my conversation with [...]

  14. Michael Golrick Says:

    I knew it! You are going to be AWESOME as a library director.

    Once upon a time (probably when you were being born), I was the opinionated, impatient, rising middle manager. Then I became “the Man.” It does give one a different perspective. [I am now back in middle management, but get some credibility from having sat in the big chair -- in other organizations.]

    You have hit all the really critical issues. Although, you will learn to sleep better, right now you are on the learning curve. It does get better — or you figure out how to deal with it. And speaking of sleeping better, or not, here is my ghost story which included the dreaded midnight call: http://michaelgolrick.blogspot.com/2006/02/library-ghost-story.html

  15. Jen Says:

    I’ve recently (six months ago) moved up into an assistant director position, and have found out how severely relationships can change when you become The Man. The thing most people don’t realize is that when you become The Man, you cease being One of Us. It can be startling, and painful, even if you are cognizant of that potential. I have found that the biggest lifesaver is finding someone who understands your job and that you can vent to with no ramifications. There has to be a place to release the stress, and it can’t be to the people you used to share frustrations with when everyone was on the same level as you. And learning to let things go, go, go, so that you can reserve energy for a battle that needs to be fought.

  16. K.G. Schneider Says:

    Terrific post, and it’s funny, I have referred to myself as The Man from time to time, and it helps provide perspective. It’s what we are.

    I’ll respond to this on my own blog soon, mostly in agreement/harmony. One thing I would caution you is that you do want to lift up your staff and credit them with the great things they are doing, but it’s also ok to take a bow for being the manager that makes it possible for their excellence. You will definitely be blamed for your mistakes, so acknowledge your achievements. Remember how the bad directors made your work so difficult?

    Consider taking a leadership program at some point. Yes, they are expensive, and how can you possibly justify it, blah blah. Yes, you don’t have time. Etc etc. But one way or the other you would benefit from it, and in turn, so would your staff. And speaking of directors, I have phone/email/Skype/FaceTime and a car, and I can be there for you just as — wait for it! — now that you’re a director, you can be there for us. Twice in the past week I had phone calls from directors I’ve consulted in the past who were turning to me for advice. It’s lonely at the top. Yeah, hah hah, but true. Jen’s comments are spot on.

    Agree on the small details. You cannot afford a 3D printer but you can make sure the toilets flush, and trust me, more people will care about the latter.

    On transparency, my take is always put the best spin on things that you can, and that may mean a certain modified transparency. More about that when I blog. I think my wonderful boss has taught me loads about modified transparency, and I do the same in turn.

  17. Free Range Librarian › Painted ponies go up and down Says:

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  18. 7 Lessons Learned While Being The Man « The Swiss Army Library Manager* Says:

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  19. Ms. Yingling Says:

    I don’t think that you have to worry about being “the Man” unless you set out to bring people down, and/or you ask them to make coffee. If you ask someone to make coffee, you are on a slippery slope that will, indeed, end with you being “the Man”. As long as you have vestigial guilt, you’ll be as good as administrator as you can be.

  20. Hillary Says:

    i’ve been Director for a year and a half now (acting first six months). i agree with all seven points. For point number 1, I got to institute a budget cut in my first six months, the “acting” period. I’m still not sleeping well. i’ve decided 2 a.m. is “brilliant idea time” when I think I have solved a problem – I either don’t remenber the solution in the morning, or remember it and don’t know why i thought I was so brilliant. 4 a.m. means i’m lying awake chewing on my mistakes and spinning around in my own head. If i’m still awake at 6, it is time to just get up and go to work with the custodians. Silver lining – I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts during my self-doubt induced insomnia.

  21. Michelle Mears Says:

    Personally, I prefer Queen Bee or Head Honcho or The Boss Lady to The Man, but it’s what you gotta do when you sit in the big chair. All of your points were very good. I might add that you can’t be a sensitive soul and sit in the big chair, because you could get seriously hurt. Tough skin is a requirement, as is a ton of confidence. You make mistakes, you apologize, you move on. What irks me the most is when you do all the things you are supposed to do, honesty, transparency, flexibility, etc., and the staff still treats you like a sociopath ready to snap. I don’t know what they are afraid of but since I have never done anything to make them that way, I throw it all back on them and tell them to own their own emotions and get over it. I think it was some poor predecessors that made them gun shy, but I’ve heard all the horror stories and I didn’t run screaming. I just wish for some acknowledgement that this is not a terrible place to work and that overall it’s a pretty good job. Sometimes they act like it is so awful, and I just want to grab the blank resignation forms and tell them to go find the color of their parachute somewhere else. I would rather have happy people working at the library than know-it-alls with endless family drama and psychological issues. Library work is challenging and intellectually stimulating but it’s not that hard. We’re not bulding bombs, no babies will die, and that cataloging backlog will still be there. I don’t lose sleep over work stress, but I will admit I lay there sometimes and think about what color to paint the genealogy room.

  22. val Says:

    you actually put stuff like this out for your employees, supervisors to read? wow.

  23. Sarah Says:

    Yes, yes I do. It’s part of that whole transparency thing. Nothing that’s in this post would come as a surprise to the staff or my bosses. It’s part of that whole transparency thing I was talking about. Very important.

  24. Leah Says:

    As a librarian stepping into an interim director role at this very moment I found this post reassuring. I have managed staff in the past and I think the most enlightening thing I have come to realize is this: “nobody is as capable as me.” I do not mean that as harsh as it sounds, as I know many people far more capable than me but in terms of work I am the most capable person in the institution. This is the reason I was offered my current position. It took a while for me to be comfortable with this idea. My thoughts were always that everyone who works for me should be able to do what I do. I realize now that is not the case, and that not everyone has the same passion and knowledge base as me. Coming to terms with the fact that my skill set is the exception not the rule was difficult for me. It has also been a journey to realize when a staff member is just not working out. This perhaps is the most difficult thing a manager can realize. For the longest time I thought there was some fundamental flaw in my managerial style so I bent over backwards for my staff in every way. After years of doing this the answer started to emerge, it isn’t me! Sometimes people just don’t work out.

  25. Things I’ve been reading – June 2012 « Libraries, the universe and everything Says:

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  28. Susan S.. Says:

    I found cognitive behavior therapy improved my sleep. I had bad habits in addition having horrified-waking-in-the-middle-of-the-night-realizing-a-mistake/problem-heebie-jeebies. They don’t go away, but they do get better. I’ve been a director since 1989.

  29. Caroline Says:

    You’ve pretty much got it pegged.

    I’ve been a director for 7 years, all in small non-profit community libraries, which I love. I am absolutely always “on.” Books get renewed over restaurant tables and holds are placed in the grocery checkout line. I love that too, except when I hate it.

    Sleeping does get better. There will always be budget seasons full of 2 am panic, and 4 am wakeups when you realize you forgot to send an email. After a while, though, you make peace with the fact that you will always need more money, space, and staff (because there is always one more wonderful thing you could give your community if only…). Either you come to peace with this, or you find another job.

    One more bit of advice: reconnect regularly with what you love. You are a director now, which means you will spend a certain amount of time doing stuff that is no fun at all. Make sure you always have a way to reconnect strongly with the parts of librarianship you adore, the bits that set you dancing through the stacks, and make you smile. I stick to little community libraries because that means I can always get circ desk and patron time, and I can schedule myself for Story Hour sometimes.

    Know what you love. Be ruthless about scheduling time to do it.

    Have fun!

  30. In My Tabs July 22/2012 : LAC-BAC, Wikipedia, and Being The Man | the zeds Says:

    [...] Following ‘s Sarah Houghton’s recent post on moving into Admin, K.G. Schneider has a great post with hints and tips on what it takes to lead [...]

  31. Cynthia Says:

    I’m playing catch-up on my blog reading and just wanted to say FANTASTIC post (and comment discussion to follow)!

    Your position on transparency is perfect! There should not be secrets–If you are unable to tell people the why of something, it is likely that you need to review the situation again. You can protect privacy and still be transparent. I wish all Public Employees would promote this goal. The secrets, whispers, closed doors, and hidden agendas poison the environment for no real reason (except maybe to retain control and power for the secret holder).

    One last comment–I am surprised at how little support and/or training is given to managers (middle and upper) in this industry. Management is an entirely different skill set than being a good employee, yet simply being the best employee often results in being promoted. One of the comments mentioned taking a management course, please to anyone in a position of authority, do consider this. Audit a basic management class at a college near you–it is in expensive and will introduce you to management theory. This is an area of study that is very established and has great value, even if you are a great manager. Just as people have different learning styles, no one method of supervision will work for every employee (or situation). Being introduced to many tried and true methods will give you the tools to adapt as needed.

    I am sure you going to be great a ‘Being the Man’. Thanks for a great post!

  32. LB Says:

    “I’m the Director and I’m not going anywhere.”

    I was the director at a community college for 16 years, and until the last week I was there, I would have sworn I was liked and respected by my coworkers and that my job was secure. Then, like a Philip K. Dick story, it all turned out to be an illusion. In other words, I was fired. With very little warning.

    What did I learn? Don’t ever believe you’re “not going anywhere.”

    That aside, great post.

  33. Judith R. Says:

    I know this is an old(er) post but reading through your reflection on your place in library administration struck such a cord with me that I found myself doing the same. My reflection went like this:

    I’m currently working behind the circulation desk in my local public libraries while I study to gain the dizzying heights of my information management qualification. On a side note, a year ago I would have said ‘librarian’ without even thinking. It’s funny how studying the industry made me realise just how diverse the information profession can be.

    But yes, I work in a library, and one day I hope to achieve a seat in the secret back rooms where all the library magic happens. The one problem I’ve had so far with my course is probably a personal one – I’m worried about my role in administration.

    I’m gradually coming to believe that librarians, like other information professionals in the business, don’t just smile sweetly at customers or catalogue the latest edition of a popular magazine. They deal with budgets, with purchases, with projects, with formal documentation that has legal implications. They deal, in short, with administration.

    Customer service and representing the parent organisation (in this case my Local Council) is easy enough, though thankfully no one’s tried to hand off book returns to me as yet. There is an expectation of recognition, however. I’m ‘the girl behind the counter’, the one who nods and says something nice and knows what the procedure is for Problem A and where to find books by Author B. That’s almost the satisfying part of the job, in a way, and in my head, I started to wonder whether I really was ready, or even wanted, to past that part of working in a library.

    And then I re-read your post. And I re-read what you said about transparency and in my head, I added accountability to that. Perhaps it’s safe to call it basic professionalism?

    Then it clicked for me. Working in libraries can and should be professional. Enjoy it, yes, and enjoy the people you interact with, but remember that it is, like every other institution in the information profession, a business.

    I’m reasonably sure that isn’t what you were trying to say. I’m not even sure if you’ll agree! But I wanted to say thanks for giving me a starting point to figure out my approach to the wonderful wide world of information management.

  34. Bonnie Cribbs Says:

    I have followed your blog for a while and have always found it entertaining, informative and spot on. Well, most of the time anyway :) I’m having an article published about various library blogs, and will definitely mention yours in the article. Thanks for keeping it real!

  35. Free Range Librarian › I am The Man — and you can, too | Adeel Ahmed Says:

    [...] has a great post about her transition to library administrator. Because she feels awkward in that cloth she’ll [...]

  36. Free Range Librarian › Painted ponies go up and down | Adeel Ahmed Says:

    [...] taking one week in September is about as much as I feel comfortable doing that time of year. I am (to echo a post I’ll write about in the future) The Man, and as The Man, have [...]

  37. Danielle M Rigney Says:

    Just wanted to scour the Internet to learn a little about what it is that a director does and I can across your blog…. I like the transparency you believe in.. I live in a small village of Round Lake NY. We have a cute web site we are an old Methodist camp ground from back in the late 1800′ s . We have a Association library. The Clark house is a small but lovely library located in the center of our Victorian village. Most people walk to our library. Just recent we had a tornado warning in our area our 24 year library veteran closed the doors 40 mins early went home and Called the director from her home. Two days later along with trustees she was asked to 1) retire or 2) be terminated. She chose termination. Our village is in a uproar, and everything is a secret! I think it is disgusting . You can look it up for yourselves. The director name is Carol Sheffer. The town is Round Lake NY. Thank you.

  38. Danielle M Rigney Says:

    *****I want to clarify that she was terminated by the director and the 9 seats of the library board of trustees. One trustee resigned after the final vote to not reinstate her.

  39. Links of interest: ebooks, leadership, and change | Blog | Deborah Fitchett Says:

    […] Two very insightful posts: the Librarian in Black posts 7 Lessons Learned While Being The Man; the Free Range Librarian responds with her own perspective in I am The Man — and you can, […]

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