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Management and Leadership

Resolutions of a Library Manager

I woke a year older yesterday: my birthday.

Landmarks such as birthdays, New Year’s and Labour Day (it’s that old September back-to-school attitude that I just can’t kick) always get me thinking about life, about resolutions. It’s the excitement, the idea that I can do anything I set my mind to, that in the future I can somehow be a more organized, kinder, better version of myself.

To paraphrase Gretchen Ruben, author of The Happiness Project (which I’ve just finished reading), one of the key factors to happiness is an environment of growth. Our capacity to change and to learn is key to our happiness.

And so… My birthday + Reading The Happiness Project = An increased tendency to make resolutions

Though I hesitate to jump into any resolutions too quickly as I write this… The time for that will come.

For now I will simply resolve to more consistently make efforts to be a better manager. The resolutions I propose below aren’t quick fixes to be a great library manager. They aren’t the 3 most important management strategies. They are simply 3 principles that I believe make a difference to my staff. They are 3 principles I resolve to work at more thoughtfully each day.


1- Get to know your staff

Taking time to get to know your employees is key to building good working relationships. Listening and paying attention to employees allows you to understand them. This is beneficial because:

– It allows you to communicate with staff in a way that speaks to them. Your message is more likely to get across.
– It gives you the ability to influence the attitude of your employees. They are more likely to rally to your cause.
– And when a problem or a conflict comes up, it helps you identify the source of the issue. This makes it easier to work out the problem.

To learn more about influence, check out How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie.


2- Coach staff to find their own solutions

Whether your staff are not meeting your expectations or in conflict with one another, the best solution is often the one they come up with themselves. The reason: people are more likely to stick with a solution that fits with their view of the world. So next time you find your self thinking Let’s fix the problem this way, roll your tongue a few times and ask your employee What do you think would fix the problem?

– When dealing with poor employee performance, be aware there are some issues people can resolve for themselves (such as being chronically late for work) and problems they will need help overcoming. If an employee has a knowledge or competency gap (for example, I know I have been rather short with our patrons… I’ve just been so frustrated trying to figure out the upgrades to our catalogue).


3- Be proactive, not reactive

Being proactive means choosing the way we respond to situations. Being reactive means responding on the fly, in the heat of emotion, and reacting to situations over which we have no control. Be it by planning for a change ahead of time, by focusing on issues within our sphere of influence, or simply by choosing to respond to a bad situation in a positive way, being proactive has a positive impact on you, your staff and the work environment.

For example, it was officially announced last week that one of the libraries in our system was changing names. Although I wasn’t sure when the announcement would take place (and we couldn’t take action until it was official), I knew the change was coming. Yet I still managed to be caught off guard.

I had to communicate the changes to staff, change the information in our catalogue, update the website, etc. all rather quickly. I faced the situation reactively and went forward with the changes without thinking things all the way through. This admittedly cost a bit patron confusion and made more work for our front line employees. The worst part, I almost convinced myself that I had to respond quickly because I hadn’t known when the announcement would be made.

Were I to face this situation again, I would be more proactive. Regardless of the announcement date, I could have planned out the organizational challenges of implementing the name change. I could have thought of the best way to communicate the change to patrons, and I could have saved my staff a whole lot of frustration.

For an empowering perspective on being proactive, check out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.


So off to work I go with these 3 principles in mind. Thoughtfully and consciously making efforts to be a better manager. Wish me luck!


About Kayleigh Felice

I am a 20-something public librarian trying to find my footing as I start my career, take on new challenges, and enter adulthood (whatever that means). I live in Ontario, and I work for the Gatineau Municipal Library in Québec. Disclosure: The views expressed in this blog are solely my own, not those of my employer.


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