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?