Apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy.
Libraries do not exist in a vacuum; they cannot persist and flourish on academic principle alone, but are also institutions bound by economic realities and social forces. While the libraries of the past were relatively static organizations, today’s libraries are dynamic, constantly evolving institutions wherein patrons demand the most cutting edge services, access and media. This competency speaks to a librarian’s ability to navigate and manipulate such an environment: to interpret his institution’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, to manage it’s economy, position it strategically in both the academic world and in the greater society, and to lead it’s employees in complex and often technologically advanced tasks. While libraries have always been managed since the time of Ashurbanipal, the complexity of the contemporary information age makes greater demands of the librarian. Today relatively low-level librarians must be able to organize task forces to perform tasks which the old guard were never expected to do. And to this end the library director is perhaps more overworked than ever as he must step to the rapid tempo of the greater society’s thirst for technology; he is no longer capable of setting his own pace, else the library become irrelevant. How the director allocates his funds and coheres strategy now more than ever decides the fate of libraries in a decisive way: squander the chance to invest in electronic plain text journals and chose expanding paper over one year and a library’s population of patrons might reduce severely. And as the patron’s demands, information needs and expectations shift rapidly so does the library’s strategic imperatives.
Central to planning is the ability for a librarian to comprehend, draft and routinely develop a strategic plan. The strategic plan for a library considers the myriad of factors and forces which impact it, analyze their relevance, suggests opportunities to pursue and weaknesses to address and provides a path by which to bring about change. Strategic planning calls for:
- Analyzing the current state of the library: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
- Targeting goals and objectives to improve the institution, in consideration of it’s mission and vision.
- Planning a road map to achieve those targeted goals.
The strategic plan is a perennial document and labor: failure to consider the strategic situation of any institution (libraries included) on a routine basis is a recipe for disaster. Basing practice off old assumptions or the poison of group think, many institutions have faltered due to lack of meaningful awareness. A library which regularly considers it’s strategic position and then produces plans in response to it is one which has impetus to improve and properly harnesses it’s resources in a meaningful and deliberate way. In this way even a library with a limited surplus of resources and manpower can labor toward modest goals whilst maintaining a modicum of consistency in service.
Yet plans are powerless without the leadership and direction to implement them; this is where sound management is essential. Govindarajan and Natarajan define management as follows:
Management is the process of planning, organizing, coordinating ,leading, motivation and controlling the resources (including human resources) of an organization in the efficient and effective pursuit of organizational goals.
In essence management involves the appropriation of resources by a method, and leadership to accomplish the strategic vision of an organization. Management is the foundation of a library, the glue and hierarchy which binds it together. To be an effective manager is foremost to be a motivational leader with a good character. I speak to this ability in my philosophy of leadership below, but needless to say: the best leaders in history were not educated through business school. For all the jargon ascribed to the like of Govindarajan and Natarajan the effective leader is a bastion of strength who is capable of clearly communicating, attracting those around him to his cause, minding the well being of his lowers and establishing decentralized, communicative commands in which those most familiar with a situation are given latitude to address it. The librarian must be capable of exhibiting this leadership at every level; for how can one be an effective advocate for information resources, intellectual freedom and the merits of a threatened program if not based upon an assertive, strong foundation? The effective leader is capable of creating a structure for his subordinates to exercise their labor within, to monitor it and make corrections where necessary. A horizontal, decentralized, democratic, cooperative hierarchy is essential in our new Web 2.0 world; the variety of expertise required for contemporary tasks demands it. The librarian is able to:
- Plan: Consider his resources and develop a strategy to achieve a goal, create a timeline and establish a contingency.
- Organize: Marshall those resources in a way which is comprehensive but not overbearing, brief those under him and above him, place those who are experts in specific areas to tasks which suit their skills, create a fluid communication system which favors open collaboration, honesty and teamwork, allocate and ration physical resources.
- Coordinate: Communicate tasking and create teams, contact and employ affiliates.
- Lead: Establish command and control, discipline subordinates, advocate for the organization and task, address subordinate’s concerns, be willing to sacrifice for the well being of others.
- Motivate: Communicate the importance of a task, act by example, intervene on the exhausted, sick, downtrodden or disillusioned, understand the limits of human fortitude.
- Control: Make corrections where necessary, revise and implement plan changes, request assistance from outside agencies, accommodate strategic realities.
While library management lingers in similar theoretical basing as business management, as librarians we must be cognizant of our bottom line. Libraries are not profit bearing institutions, even those ran by private interests. The library, in virtually any incarnation, is a drain on resources rather than a producer of them. This explains why the library appears in the historical record after the advent of agriculture, at which point certain privileged individuals begin to collect and house records at the expense of principalities. That being said, the bottom line of a library is to provide quality service to the patron. It follows then that managing a library must be a more humane endeavor than managing a corporation: the librarian must always consider the impact his or her work will have on the experience of the patron and exhibit the empathy needed to interpret his work as a user. With effective service derives a continued source of funding. Yet when outside circumstance, beyond our control, steals our funding (as with the recession occurring at the time of this writing) a good manager must have the ability to honestly redress his subordinate’s fears and feelings of despair. In this area the character of leadership, a concept more often pursued in military leadership manuals and in the classical literature, comes to bear. I would again remind the reader that I explore these topics in my philosophy of leadership below.
Lastly the librarian is an advocate for library resources. In this contemporary age in which patrons are drawn from library services to popular, misleading but nevertheless attractive alternatives, the librarian must become an effective communicator of what the library has to offer by manipulating the technologies which the patron has come to rely upon. Twitter, Flickr and other interactive Web 2.0 media are essential to this communication, as is vocal activism. In a time in which libraries are threatened by their government’s austerity measures, the librarian cannot sit idle and watch his institution be dismembered. The contemporary librarian by this accord must be more political than ever, yet in a diplomatic and even-tempered way. The modern librarian is a socially conscious activist: he is impassioned to communicate information literacy to his patrons and close the digital divide, takes proactive action to expand intellectual freedom, and draws the community to him by means of presentation, signage, social media, and exhibition. The keen librarian creates special displays and events to draw the local community in and provides educational services to the patron. Central to this topic is the need to create a coherent model of customer service which offers a variety of access points. Patron input must be considered seriously and internalized, so as to achieve the aforementioned bottom line. The librarian also is cognizant of the state and design of the physical plant, and endeavors to improve it so as to enrich the patron’s experience within it, as I have done in Competency XIII‘s group presentation to a notional sponsor.
My expertise in this competency derives from two principle sources: a business acumen and experience from my professional life prior to beginning my study of library science, and a significant bulk of academic coursework at SLIS.
Before I attended SLIS I was the co-owner of a small national business called Nature’s Passage. My titles included vice president and associate director of operations and plans. I was responsible for the bulk of operational planning for the company, which involved complex logistical challenges, coordinating networks of dependent affiliates, synchronization of multiple services and funding. I spent almost five years in this position and gained a great deal of practical experience in planning, management and marketing. As the company’s IT director I was also responsible for search engine optimization, marketing our web presence and connecting with clients on a daily basis. While helping to operate Nature’s Passage I developed an analytical business sense and the ability to critique plans so as to achieve a strategic goal. I also developed a strong ability of leadership and straightforward communication, as I was often called upon to organize a series of disconnected agencies into a coherent operational force.
So that being said I arrived to my studies at SLIS with a substantial appreciation for this competency, although the institutional particulars of the library science domain were alien to me. It follows that a sizable portion of my coursework at SJSU focuses on management and planning, especially in the form of critique. For the latter is what I am perhaps most keen in: I have developed an uncanny ability to very rapidly detect failings within a system and develop systematic solutions and plans to address them. In this faculty I am exacting, precise and exhaustive, delving deeply to determine the state of affairs. Therefore my pieces of evidence are numerous. In Competency III I present papers on collection development management and a budget plan, although there presented for altogether different reasons. It is the same with Competency II, wherein I present an exhaustive paper critiquing the management methods of a particular public library (there also presented for different reasons). In Competency X I present an interoffice memorandum I furnished to advise a superior on the viability of planning a transition to digital journal access. In Competency XIV I critique two strategic plans then comment on the ideal article. This corpus of work should be considered alongside the works I submit below as they directly translate to managerial expertise. I have omitted them as evidence of this competency so as to avoid redundancy and to demonstrate the range of my expertise. That being said, the works elsewhere nevertheless solidly demonstrate my mastery of this competency.
The first piece of applied work I present the reader is a paper which aims to examine the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital Humanities Start-up Grants program within the scope of special collections theory. An introductory overview of the digital humanities, a notional study of an ideal grant candidate, critical summaries of two NEH grant narratives and a comparison to analogous programs of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) are provided. The findings illuminate the fundamental parallels and differences amongst NEH digital humanities grants and the broader grant agencies. For purposes of this competency, the paper demonstrates my knowledge of grant programs and marketing an institution to achieve grant funding. These skills are critical factors in contemporary planning, management and strategic options, especially as funding decreases amidst a recession. The paper was written for Lynne Thomas’ seminar on Archives and Records Management and was a group effort. I was responsible for formatting and editing the paper, as well as writing the discussion, and the text sections: “The IMLS and NEH: Alliances and Analogs” and “One Good Grant: A Theoretical NEH Grant Project.” The latter section is especially relevant as it presents a theoretical ideal grant candidate for the National Endowment for the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Start-up Grants program.
The second piece of evidence I present is a treatise I produced for Wayne Disher’s management class concerning the quality of a leader. It represents my personal philosophy of leadership. As good character and an effective philosophy and method of leadership is essential to the manager and planner this paper presents a very important oft overlooked aspect of this competency. It is not enough to merely know the theory of management, the stuff of strategic plans, how to draft orders or how to balance a budget. The effective manager, even at the lowest level, has a significant impact on the lives of his subordinates. An effective manager is a communicator, a leader and a force of wisdom. This paper argues that good leadership character is essential to all positions of authority and posits alternative sources of wisdom for the manager to consider.
The third work was also furnished for Wayne Disher and is a SWOT analysis of my local public library (Which was later re-envisioned and turned into a full length research paper). The SWOT analysis is an important tool for strategic planning and this report demonstrates my ability to think strategically by locating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Whether or not one use the business jargon of “SWOT” is irrelevant: an effective manager still must understand the basic forces and circumstances which decide the fate of his institution. In this sense my understanding of the SWOT analysis and my ability to critically analyze the strategic positioning of a firm are elemental to this competency.
My fourth piece of evidence is a finding aid I furnished for Erin Lawrimore’s seminar in Archives and Records Management. In this project I had the unique experience of being presented with a massive, unsorted collection and then being instructed to process and describe it. In order to process the collection I had to create a plan for storage, segmentation and description using best practices, invoking the experience of managing a collection backlog. I feel that this experience left me an appreciation for the sort of process planning and management that is necessary in an archive especially as it relates to the workload of an archivist. The finding aid is in this sense only the final deliverable to the instructor: the process and method by which I managed the collection and planned for the layout of the description is most appropriate for this competency and I feel greatly strengthened my ability to manage large, unprocessed collections.
Govindarajan, M., Natarajan, S. (2005). Principles of managment. New Dehli: PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.
Green, R. (2007). Library Management: A Case Study. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Schermerhorn, J. R. (2005). Managment. New York: J. Wiley.