Retirement is a week filled with Saturdays and Sundays interrupted only occasionally by a holiday.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Micro-management and the Library

Yesterday I decided to visit my former library while I was out running errands. I do this every so often to see friends and hear the latest library news (and gossip, of course). I also go to help reinforce the knowledge that my decision to retire was most definitely the right one.

Each and every time I see my friends, I hear nothing but complaints about the current state of the library…both the local library and the library system. No one is happy…not the library pages, not the library aides, not the library assistants and not the librarians. In the past, while I was still with the library, much of the displeasure had to do with budgetary constraints…not enough money for materials (books, audio-visual, etc.), programming, building issues, and, of course, staffing. Now with the funding issue somewhat resolved, the issues are more about philosophy and management at the local and system levels. The Library seems to be in a “micro-management” mode with the present Administration leading the way and the community library manager following that lead. Decisions once made by the librarians at the local library (particularly collection development and hiring) have been snatched away by Administration and handed over to system personnel. The hiring of librarians, once the purview of the local library manager and regional administrator, must now be ultimately approved by the head of the department with additional levels of interviews now added to the hiring process before a candidate is accepted. Certainly, in the case of a small library system, this may seem reasonable. But when the system is one of the largest in the nation, how does the head of the department have the time to participate in each and every professional hiring?

And at the local library, it seems this micro-management style has been duplicated if one believes the staff. Even the smallest of details must be approved by the current manager. Decisions, once made by librarians and library assistants, must now have the blessing of the manager. Responsibilities have been shifted with fewer delegated to the library staff and more taken on by the manager. I cannot imagine working under such conditions. For the most part, I was lucky to have managers throughout my career who had confidence that library staff could make decisions which were in the best interest of the library. Our professionalism was never called into question. We did our jobs and did them, for the most part, well. Only when there was an obvious problem, did the manager step in to offer guidance and assistance. And that’s what I always thought a good manager was…someone who was there to mentor and promote independent thinking amongst the staff.

No comments: