ILS 565 Library Management
Prof. James Kusack
There are two essential rules to management. One, the customer is always right; and two, they must be punished for their arrogance.
If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less.
~General Eric Shinseki
An examination of the general principles and practices of library management. This course fulfills one of the requirements of the M.L.S. program.
Learning Goals and Outcomes
On successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
- Describe various approaches to management;
- Apply management activities to the library organization (planning, organizing, staffing, leading/directing, controlling);
- Perform basic cost-finding in a library;
- Create and lead a strong service-oriented library staff;
- Treat staff and library customers in a fair and ethical manner;
- Identify problems and issues in library management and recommend solutions when appropriate.
Highlights of the Course and Samples of Work
In my previous career as a software engineer, I was on two occasions the team leader, responsible for the work product of between four and six other software developers. This activity has often been unfavorably compared to "herding cats." Imagine my surprise to discover that managing a library staff is often no different.
My first library job was as the Helpdesk function for the computer users at a public library. As such, I never got entangled in the day to day problems of managing the library. By the time this course rolled around, I had a position as the primary technical support person in a different library. While I did not have a staff to supervise, I reported to the director and the deputy director, and I was starting to get involved in the internal workings of each department. That's when it began to dawn on me that the issues that I had had to deal with as the supervisor of software developers were not unique to that environment, as I had assumed, but were common to all workplaces that have people in them. The biggest difference is the fact that library operations have a much more important customer service component than the typical engineering department deals with. Engineers have customers, to be sure, but most engineers are insulated from customer contact by higher levels of management. In contrast, most librarians spend several hours each week at the front lines of customer service.
Our first assignment was to interview someone working in library management, either a director, department head, or other supervisor. Probably the most important thing I learned from this exercise is that public libraries always operate on a limited budget, even in one of the most affluent communities in Connecticut.
The Customer Service exercise asked us to build on and extend the lecture material by reading six to ten articles on service issues from library publications or the general management literature, and identify ten to twenty recommendations or techniques that a library can use to improve the quality of service offered to its community. We considered staffing, training, evaluation, incentives, and other issues.
Our next assignment required us to read and review a book about customer service in an unrelated field. I read Hug Your Customers: The Proven Way to Personalize Sales and Achieve Astounding Results, by Jack Mitchell, owner of two of the most successful clothing stores in the country.
The In-Basket exercise required us to consider a stack of problems that are typical of those that a library director routinely faces, and think about how and why we would prioritize them. Some of the interesting problems we considered were late employees, possible financial malfeasance, overflowing toilets, porn on the public computers, budget cuts, antiquated computers, inappropriate hiring recommendations, and an on-going feud over the temperature in the office.
The Cost-Finding exercise required us to determine the cost of a library service of our choosing, taking into account all costs, including but not limited to recurring and non-recurring costs, salaries, overhead, and capital equipment.