Managerial Complacency in Libraries

Let us be clear on this point: libraries like any other organizations, whether small or big, have been set up with specific missions, goals and objectives. Consequently, librarians (Directors, Heads of Library Department, etc) who are the executives invested with the required power and authority have responsibility to achieve the specified mission and objectives of the organization.   They are the managers in the real sense of the term and they do carry out all the managerial functions of planning, organizing, directing (leading) and controlling. Without going into the technicalities of the definition of the term, I would take a first definition (though not the only definition) of management as the responsibility for the performance of a group of people. If the organization fails, management fails! There is no other explanations if an organization fails to deliver as per specified expectations. Internal problems of an organization (employee’s problem for example) not solved within but referred to an outside party is symptomatic of an ailing organization.

In our local context, most libraries are in a really sad state of affairs. Why can’t they improve? Some library executives are smart, capable and fully qualified but they are stuck and cannot do much better than the daily routine things. Years in and years out, they keep on doing the same activities, without any novel idea, project or innovation. Why management (librarians) can’t improve? What’s stopping them from doing better? The answer seems to be: the librarians themselves!

Some librarians, after obtaining the so much desired position in the LIS sector are just practising the traditional librarianship of a bygone era. Other  executives having attained a certain level of proficiency have ended up by accepting things as they are. They are tuned to the “keep going” mindset and have ultimately become complacent. Still others are clinging to their post as if there would be no end even after reaching normal retirement age. They forget the simple truth that everything, whether good or bad, has an end. They pretty well know that they are where they are, not on the strength of their professional aptitudes or reputation as good library executives, but on the basis of a particular set of skills known to everyone. All these have brought in a generalized lethargy in the LIS sector. What ought to be a dynamic field is now perceived by people outside the profession as a sluggish, moribund and unattractive profession.

Library executives have tried to “woo employees” by adopting friendly attitudes. Their management style is based on personal relationship with their employees. They favour “managerial populism” and want to be liked by (or become popular with) all their employees. They are as if permanently electioneering to contest an election for which they need to secure votes. Others have become tyrants/ autocratic with the ” I am the only boss”, “do as what I say or else you will be fired” attitude. With such friendly attitudes, managerial complacency sets in the organization and the tyranny of the boss contributes in the high turn over of employees. How librarians can improve themselves?

Asking questions about oneself, “how good I am”, ” am I doing things correctly”, “can I do better“, etc is the first step toward improvement. Librarians must first manage themselves.  Librarians should take time and effort to grow and develop themselves. The day that they stop growing, they start dying. Moreover, they should project a positive image of  themselves,  command respect of their employees and their authority should come not solely from the chair of the position they occupy,  but also from personal and professional competencies. They should be perceived by their employees as  good and great managers, fair and just in dealing with staff matters. One of the common blunders of awful managers is the allocation for overseas training to employees, not on the basis of merits to meet the needs of the organization, but using it as a reward to mediocre employees for their faithfulness and docile attitude.

Managers should be aware that what they do, their beliefs, their actions and values and how they communicate, are constantly being observed by their employees who create a perception  of their managers on the basis of these observations. It is good to remember that managers achieve results through people. How could librarians/managers exert productive influence on their people? To be effective, librarians need to be able to exert influence that makes a difference not only in what their employees do but also in the thoughts and feelings that drive their actions. For this to happen, people’s trust in their managers is important. Without this trust no manager can influence the attitude and bahaviour of the people they are supposed to manage. Managers should believe in their own competence, their values, what they do and how they do. Their motives and intentions should be equally transparent enough to all employees to serve as the foundations for the trust people will place on them.

Are our library executives capable of this transformation?

P. Hauroo

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7 Major Ways We’re Digitizing Our World…

In an interesting article entitled “7 Major Ways We’re Digitizing Our World, And 3 Reasons We Still Want Hardcopies”,  Jaymi Heimbuch of San Francisco, California  identifies and discusses   major ways we have digitized our world. These are

  1. Books to e-Books
  2. DVDs to Streamed Movies and Television
  3. CDs to MP3s
  4. Road Maps to GPS
  5. Photos to Flickr
  6. Snail Mail to e-Mail
  7. Magazines, Newspapers & Journals to Online Article Databases

The author argues that our digitized content is also at risk in case of fire or other calamities. The entire data may be lost for ever. However, the issue of preservation of digitized content is not fully discussed though a point  is made for less environmental damage. Read the full article 7 Major Ways We’re Digitizing Our World, And 3 Reasons We Still Want Hardcopies” here..article

P. Hauroo

Faculty-Librarian Collaboration in Academic Libraries

Courtesy: Ti Yu., 2009. A new model of faculty-librarian collaboration: the faculty member as library specialist. New Library World. 110 (9/10)

In view to serve and satisfy all the users in the academic community and also provide the right information to each user, academic libraries overseas are looking for better ways and means to promote their services and resources. The faculty-librarian collaboration is a new approach to assist users find, organise, evaluate and apply content of the information they require. It consists of active, close and consistent work between faculty members and the personnel of the library. It is found that the sharing of individual experiences and knowledge of both groups enables the provision of suitable guidance. Consequently, in order to establish effective faculty-librarian collaboration, the Jinwen University of Science and Technology (JUST) in Taipei, Taiwan introduced the new model of “Faculty member as Library
Specialist  to improve the provision of services in various ways”.

Provision of subject-specific information needs:
It is not easy for qualified professional librarians to provide accurate subject-oriented reference services to students and faculty members from different fields of learning in a particular university. As a result, the Library Specialists are assigned to provide more in-depth information, reference advice services on subject-specific information needs and database retrieving skills for students and teachers. Complicated topics are thus passed on by the library staff and handled by Library Specialists to better answer the users.

Integration of library resources into courses:
At the same time as teaching the students how to find and use both printed and electronic resources in the library, the Library Specialists work closely with the library staff to integrate the library resources into their curricula. They design library assignment sheets, workshops, classroom activities which in addition encourage the students to use the library resources and
share the knowledge and experiences.

Organising book clubs:
The JUST library provides a reasonable budget to Library Specialists to organise book clubs in particular subjects. Stories and ideas in fields like Business Management, Hotel Management and Chinese Literature are posted in the blog by different lecturers where they are able to share their experiences, discuss a famous person or talk about a new book with different readers online. Moreover, there are regular reading workshops and introducing of the works of a particular author in order to attract students to read and encourage them to borrow more books from the library.

Consultation support for collection development:
Library specialists become consultants to the library staff as they provide suggestions, answer inquiries, select the right monographs, journals and e-resources to review the quality and build the collections of each discipline in the library.

Providing e-portfolio skills:
The Library Specialists give training and advises to students in the JUST to create their own e-portfolio on the web which is an important collection of electronic evidence of their learning record and achievements.

The implementation of the faculty members as Library Specialists clearly marks a positive influence in the use of the library which led the university to recommend a teacher from each academic department to be a Library Specialist to provide professional knowledge to users. Incentives such as extra two points for their annual teaching evaluation and financial
rewards for their time and efforts are also given to motivate the faculty members to join the project with the aim to help the library to promote its resources and assist students to become a knowledgeable person.

The traditional methods of providing services and building up the collection in the academic libraries in Mauritius compels the users to depend on the inadequate resources and knowledge of library staff to satisfy their information needs in particular disciplines. The faculty-librarian collaboration system is indeed required at some stage in higher learning
and it could be given some thought in the local context. Obtaining a good support from the authorities, establishing an active relationship and good communication with the faculty members could facilitate to set up a harmonious faculty-library collaborative platform for the benefit of the users.

Lalita Chumun