Management: Within the Competency

Preparing the library and informational professionals of today, necessitates an education in library management. “Librarians are managers. Even if they do not want to be, they are managing personnel, resources, budgets, public opinion, and time.” (Schreiner & Pope, 2011, 2).  Library and information science education must migrate outside of the library and information world, as positions both inside and outside of the library world become more competitive. Educational institutions can no longer send out librarians disadvantaged, as “the need for management skills in librarianship is only increasing” (2011,7). Fraser-Arnott’s research indicates that “Management and Supervision” (2013, 6-7) is ranked fifth as a library competency and seventh in the government of Canada job advertisements.   What though does it take to be a good manager?

Communication resonates throughout the literature. Fraser-Arnott (2011, 6-7), ranks communication in both library and non-library job advertisements at number two. “LIS professionals have to be effective in oral, written, and electronic communication with users, colleagues and supervisors” states Kumar (2010, 76). It is an expectation that librarians will have good communication skills, “These days good communication skills are essential for library professionals of all levels” (p. 79). In becoming managers, librarians need to be able to “communicate the vision” of the library (Westfall, Johnson & Royse, 2013, 19). From Wojciechowska, a librarian’s ability to communicate was ranked second with library users and first with librarians themselves (2014, 134). Interpersonal skills were ranked first in both 2004 and 2010 according to Wise, Henniger and Kennen (2011, 277) who define interpersonal skills partially as “communication skills” (p. 278).

What then is managerial level communication? Communicating is more that just restating policy, rules and regulations. The ability to communicate effectively and successfully is an interpersonal skill that will influence the work environment, motivation, and job satisfaction, for the manager as well as the staff.   This skill is essential in writing job descriptions, conducting performance reviews, delivering information and resolving conflict. A crucial aspect of communication is often forgotten – listening. Listening dissolves communication barriers because it allows for upward communication and facilitates horizontal communication. Responsible communication additionally includes discerning what information to communicate. “Communicating information that is irrelevant serves no purpose, and communicating information that is nonresponsive is far worse than silence; it erodes and damages relationships” (Lee & Wu, 2004, 10).   Communicating at the appropriate level also means going beyond the verbal. “Supervisors must follow rules, recognize differences in personalities and individuals emotional baggage,” (Westfall, Johnson, & Royse, 2013, 18) reading and interpreting a person’s emotional state and body language, so that relationships are established and maintained.

“Interpersonal skills and behavioral characteristics remain unchallenged as the most frequently required competencies,” concludes Wise, Henninger and Kennan (p. 276).   Beyond communication, what other interpersonal skills and behavioral characteristics must information professionals, as managers present in the job market as a whole? In Table 3 (p. 278) of Wise, Henniger and Kennan, behavioral characteristics have the following attributes: “adaptability, lifelong learning, commitment, confidence, work ethic, creativity, time management, enthusiasm, flexibility, problem solving, self-motivation, organizational ability, analytical skills”.   Interpersonal skills include “collaboration”, “mentoring”, and “teamwork”. All of these qualities are transferable skills informational professionals can bring into any managerial realm. Training for these qualities, recognizes the need for an extension beyond the boundaries of information science. Wojciechowska (2014, 132-133) concurs that the competencies of action, cooperation, creativity and information technology are competencies the modern librarian should possess and it is easy to see why that translates into the success as a manager.

“A common theme in literature on library management is the lack of respect or praise received by those who perform their jobs well” (Lee & Wu, 2004, 19) and retention is directly affected by “manifestations of supervisory problems” (p. 17).    Paying attention to and developing these qualities in oneself and one’s staff, staves the erosion of morale, increases job satisfaction and improves retention of the organizations most precious asset, its personnel. Education should be continuous and provide a sense of accomplishment and demonstrate the importance of the individual to the organization. “The passively plateaued employee” will challenge the administrator and “may be less productive, have low morale, and be intolerant of administrative actions or decisions”   (p. 22-23).

Professional competencies must be expanded to include the skill sets that not only to transfer across employment sectors but provide the ability to navigate an almost certain terrain of management.   “For anyone to assume that management is something that one can simply learn on the job at the expense of a well-run department or library seems impractical and detrimental to the profession.” (Schreiner & Pope, 2011, 7). Libraries have ever shifted, never more so, than now. If ignored, the changes in technology, services, and skill sets will jeopardize an important vehicle of information distribution and vital resource to many in our communities.   It will be the fault of the library, the librarian and the information community if library management is not educated as it should be. Creating a culture of continual change, instilling creativity and play will go a long way in keeping the information flowing. In order to accomplish this communication, behavioral and interpersonal skills development is the first order of business for our present and future information professionals.

References

Carpenter, M., & Green, R. A. (2009). Managing library 2.0. Journal Of Access Services, 6(1/2), 158-162. doi:10.1080/15367960802247874

Fraser-Arnott, M. (2013).  Library and information science (lis) transferable competencies.  Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research, 8(2), 1-32.  Retrieved from https://jounral.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/index

Henricks, S., & Henricks-Lepp, G. (2014). Desired characteristics of management and leadership for public library directors as expressed in job advertisements. Journal Of Library Administration, 54(4), 277-290. doi: 10.1080/01930826.2014.924310

Kumar, B. (2010). Employability of library and information science graduates: Competencies expected versus taught-A case study. DESIDOC Journal Of Library & Information Technology, 30(5), 74-82. Retrieved from http://www.drdo.com

Lee, L. A., & Wu, M. M (2004). Personnel management in access services. Journal of Access Services, 1(4) 5-44. doi: 10.1300/J204v01n04_02

Schreiner, S., & Pope, B. (2011). Management training in library school: Do graduate programs prepare an individual for real world demands?. Endnotes, 2(1), 1-16. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org

Westfall, M., Johnson, K. G., & Royse, M. (2013). Making the leap to mid-management. Serials Librarian, 64(1-4), 15-20. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.761017

Wise, S., Henninger, M., & Kennan, M. (2011). Changing trends in lis job advertisements. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 42(4), 268-295. Retrieved from https://www.alia.org.au/

Wojciechowska, M. (2014). Managing professional competency enhancement among polish library staff. Slavic & East European Information Resources, 15(1/2), 121-138. doi:10.108015228886.2014.913953

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