A Reflection

IMG_8600 Of all the lectures we had over the semester, it was undoubtedly that of Dr. John Howard that stayed with me. His laconic delivery, his wisdom and his honesty were impressive. Some phrases I will never forget. His description of a library as ‘a semantic web of linkages’ is pure gold. He brought library science from the days of the card catalogue to the present day digital revolution in terms of a breaking up of the linear model to reveal something much more vast. Dr. Howard’s ability to look at the library sector at such a macro level of observation reflects his experience and his skills as a manager.
Reflective writing is something that I don’t find all that difficult. I think it would be a good idea to continue this type of writing into the future. In fact, it would be a good idea if all managers spent the last 10 minutes of their working day writing down their thoughts on how the day went. It would help in sorting through how they made their decisions in the hope of making better decisions the next day.
Before taking this course, I would never have seen myself as a manager. But management is not always about being the boss. Most organisations are arranged hierarchically. Even a very junior level librarian, with one student book shelver reporting to him, is a manager.

Marketing for Libraries

shopping_cart-300x210Marketing, as a concept, is generally perceived as irrelevant in the library model. Yet, once an organisation has stakeholders, whom they all do, marketing becomes something not to be ignored.Evans and Alire (2013, p. 263) describe marketing as a ‘communication between your library and its service community’. Much of the research literature around libraries targets user services and reader/librarian interaction. It was refreshing to read something about the nonuser, and about the reasons why a person may not engage with their local, university or national library. Much of this comes back to marketing. The authors used words like ‘product’, ‘brand’ and ‘service’ in conjunction with library services. While these corporate-type words may jar with some, it was, for this reader, a revelation in how proper library marketing might entice nonusers.
Libraries, while being ‘not-for-profit’, are important service providers and so ought to be handled with the same respect as a Fortune 500 company. This necessarily entails a degree of promotional activity, which I believe most libraries are enthusiastic about. Webpages are specifically identified by Evans and Alire (2013, p. 279) as a being ‘a powerful tool’ in conveying the culture and tone of a library. UCD library’s webpages, for example, are presented in a functional and clear manner to cater for the needs of a busy student. They can be contrasted with those of the County Library in Tallaght. One of the first items the eye is drawn to is a pdf of this month’s activities. This reflects its status as a public space catering to the needs of many. The nonuser may be drawn in by some of the non-traditional library activities on offer. Bouncy Baby Club, anyone? (Thursday mornings).
Branding, whether through an online presence, social media or any other channel is a vital outlet for promoting the library. Again, the target audience should be the nonusers as much as the users. Evans and Alire provide much food for thought in this chapter. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of us, as new information professionals, to communicate to stakeholders the message that our libraries cater for all: from bouncy babies to Phd students.

Evans, G. Edward and Alire, C.A. (2013). Management Basics for Information Professionals. London: Facet Publishing.

Change is possible

tortoise The core text readings for this week linked in nicely to both Monica Crump’s and Dr. John Howard’s lectures. While rapid change and innovation are not the first concepts to come to mind when one thinks of libraries, it is an issue and, ‘successful organisations address change proactively’. (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 209). The model of ‘tortoise’ change is mentioned too by Evans and Alire. (2013, p. 211). In my experience, this is the best way of implementing change. It does not ‘frighten the horses’ as much as sweeping change may. It leaves staff members with a feeling of control and autonomy that otherwise they may not have. There is, however, disagreement in the literature about this. (McLaughlin, 2011).
The bottom line about organisational change is that some people embrace it and others recoil from it. Dr. Howard spoke of ‘change management’ being a large part of his day-to-day job.
A very real and understandable issue around the arena of change is that of ‘learning anxiety’. (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 218). If a new technology is being introduced to the organisation, it can be very disconcerting and stressful if it is not something that one is familiar with.
Monica Crump (Head of Information Access and Learning Services at NUI Galway) spoke about her stakeholders being, for the most part, professors in the university. Crump must be aware of their needs in terms of which journals she ought to subscribe to and which books she needs to purchase. She made the point that she, in turn, is responsible to the finance department of the organisation for decisions that she makes. As Evans and Alire state (2013, p. 237) ‘funders…want…evidence or, to use a business term, ROI (return on investment)’.
Although (or because) libraries are ‘not for profit’ institutions, funding, budgeting and money are major issues. Assessment of value from the point of view of users is a valuable yardstick of library management. Various methods are used, depending on the type of library under analysis. For example, public libraries may use something as simple as footfall, whereas an academic library may require something more sophisticated, e.g. tracking journal article downloads.
Good assessment techniques lead to good quality control. Libraries and librarians should not become complacent on this front. Readers, clients, customers – whatever we may term them – are the ultimate stakeholders and are who we are tasked to help as much as possible.

Evans, G. Edward and Alire, C.A. (2013). Management Basics for Information Professionals. London: Facet Publishing.
McLaughlin, M.W. (2011). The trouble with incremental change. [Electronic version] The Conference Board Review, 48 (1) 12-13.

LibGuides!

IMG_8600 The UCD libguide on bibliometrics is easy to navigate and is mercifully free from jargon. The menu bar gives good direction to other related areas. I found the most informative of these links to be Journal Impact. It, in turn, led to subsections including a comprehensive explication of what precisely a journal citation report is. The only add-on I would suggest would be to provide a brief history on the field of bibliometrics. Having recently written a paper on the contribution of one Eugene Garfield to the field (a name that will be well-known to anyone interested in bibliometrics) it would be nice for a student new to this topic to have some context as to just why it is so beneficial and on so many levels.
I have used this libguide before, as a means to get a foothold in my understanding of bibliometrics. The link to Altmetrics also captured my attention, having been mentioned in class.
The libguide to Electrical and Electronic Engineering is a guide that I have not had cause to visit. Yet from a layperson’s point of view, it appeared to be formatted similarly to the other guides, with comparable ease of navigation.
On the link to theses, there is a comprehensive section on the procedure to retrieve a past thesis on the subject. Most of the other libguides did not provide this step-by-step guide. Hats off to James Molloy, the electrical engineering subject librarian responsible.
The twitter feed looked intriguing – James Bond and Dr. Who were trending. Of course there was jargon – it is a specialized area – but important to remember is that one man’s jargon is another man’s linguistic tools of the trade. (The word ‘bibliometrics’ could be jargon to an engineering major; for a library science student, it is just a word to describe something).
Scanning through some of UCD’s 66 libguides, it seems that the university as a whole has succeeded in allowing each subject librarian free rein to deliver the guide as they see fit, yet ensuring near uniformity of content, display and tone. They are an invaluable source to both student and scholar.

Top Quality Speakers

images-4The lecture by Cathal McCauley of Maynooth Library was illuminating in so many ways. Having never really given much thought to library funding, it was a revelation to know, from an insider perspective, just how a modern university library is funded. Especially interesting was the realisation that money, as well as being an enabler, is a benchmark for performance. Not having ones budget cut must mean that your library is doing well, according to Cathal.

The national book tender was something I did not know about before listening to Cathal. Bulk buying is a basic principle of economics, so there really is no reason that it should not apply to the library sector.

The cost of donations sounds like an oxymoron, but it was explained really well. Someone has to catalogue and possibly conserve the material – this all costs money, whether it is completed by staff or by contractors.

Holly Fawcett’s talk was different but equally interesting. I have had a LinkedIn page for a while, but I will certainly pay more attention to it now. Employers and recruiting managers set great store by it, according to Holly.

Lots of interesting tips were given, such as turning off your activity broadcasts while updating your page. Holly’s advice on the types of photos acceptable and on the level of detail you should go into with regard to education was really practical and valuable.

Using LinkedIn to its maximum impact is something I would say that only a few of us achieve. It is a tool that can be used in its most basic form or it can be turned into a quite sophisticated method of communicating with your professional world. Adding media, blogs and even a link to a CV are ways to stand out from the crowd if an employer (as most of them seem to be) is looking at LinkedIn.

Planning Responsibly

xLibrary-research-overview_level_1_opt.jpg.pagespeed.ic.tI0yiUuwpu Chapters four and five of Management Basics for Information Professionals (Evans and Alire, 2013) are interesting in that they provide real-life parallels to help in the explanation of theoretical stances. Two ideas in particular caught my attention.

The idea of there being different types of management plans is not a new one, but it is helpful to see strategic, tactical and operational plans (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 88) being condensed so efficiently. It helped this reader understand the management process much better, particularly in terms of applying the theory to my experience of working in a library. Especially convincing in terms of application to the workplace is how the day-to-day work – the operational plan – will eventually feed into the long-term strategic plan. Years are made up of days. My last organization was experiencing some difficulty with change; from a management point of view, resistance could be combatted if change was recognised as being best achieved in baby steps.

The second idea that struck a chord was the subtle difference between accountability and responsibility. All library managers ought to keep this distinction clear in their minds, as should library staff. The authors do make the point clearly that although they are not interchangeable terms, there exists a degree of overlap. In a practical work setting, for instance, although the shelver is accountable for replacing the book correctly, it is both the manager’s and his responsibility for ensuring that the job is done properly, ‘when you accept a task, you also accept responsibility.’ (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 119).

The reading of these selected chapters of text was, for me, a most beneficial exercise. It clarified the dynamics of many management events and decisions that I have witnessed in the workplace.

Evans, G. Edward and Alire, C.A. (2013). Management Basics for Information Professionals. London: Facet Publishing.

Reflections on management styles

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His voice is immediately recognizable. Its gravelly quality implies authority, coupled with a distinct element of bungling and defensive verbal posturing. It is of course, Mr. Carson, chief butler in Downton Abbey. His management style, to the casual observer, is authoritative bordering on authoritarian. But Carson is not a parental figure (though he might fancy himself as one). He is a manager. He manages Mrs. Patmore, Thomas Barrow, Joseph Molseley, amongst many others. The style of his management is apparent through his demeanour as much as through his actions. Carson walks defensively. He talks defensively. He expects conflict at every turn. The term ‘micro-managing’ was not in the lexicon in the 1920s when this show is set, yet this is what Carson does. When Thomas asks for leave to attend the village fete in the last series, Carson almost panics at the idea of one of his staff having some free time. It is analogous with the modern library manager’s reluctance to introduce flexi-time for employees. Rachel Singer Gordon (2005, p. 135) writes, ‘above all, avoid the temptation to micromanage, which inherently demotivates your staff.’ (My emphasis).

The defensiveness exhibited by Carson is borne from the fear that his micromanaging will be insufficient. It inevitably is. Singer Gordon’s demotivation occurs due to this unavoidable failure to successfully closely manage every aspect of your employees’ work lives. It is stifling. Creativity, decision-making skills and openness to new ideas all suffer at the hands of the ever-looming boss.

Perhaps if Carson had been more relaxed about Thomas taking a short day to go to the fair, he may have worked harder that morning. He may have gone to the fair in a state of motivation – his mind open to ideas of how his colleagues’ morale may be improved by such outings.

Singer Gordon, Rachel. (2005). The Accidental Library Manager. New Jersey: Information Today Inc.