27 January 2012

How to succeed in Library Management

Part Two of an occasional series

Communicating with your staff

The golden rule of library management is to make sure no one finds out that you don’t know what you are doing, so the ability not to communicate well with your staff is vital to your success.

Here are ten top tips on how to do it.

1. Establish your groundrules. Make sure none of your staff escapes the knowledge that you are so terribly busy. You can do this by filling your diary with as many events you can, providing very few of them actually bring you into contact with them.  However, this must always be a constant surprise to you.  Goodness me, I have to go to another meeting! you say, before gathering your papers and bustling out of the room.  Hint that you are coping (just) with an unspecified but heavy burden of many top-level, confidential matters. An awkward meeting this afternoon?  So sorry, but at very short notice you simply must meet the Head of the Library Board, or a private donor who just might give the Library a million pounds.  And if you're trapped in the corridor by your assistant who wants to know why that piece of equipment you ordered doesn't meet his requested spec, you must regretfully break off to answer a very urgent  text.  
2. Timetable your unpredictability.  Avoid appearing at regular times in the Library.  Explain that this is because you are so often called to attend mundane meetings (a bore but absolutely unmissable) or conferences (absolutely fascinating but you never quite find the time to report on them to anyone).  As an amusing twist you should also turn up in your office when your staff are under the impression that you are safely away holidaying in the Nordic fjords.

3. Never solve a problem.  Isn't that the other person’s job?

4. Emails and phone calls. Now, don't be foolish.  If you absolutely cannot avoid not replying to them, couch the response in such a condescending tone that it is made clear to the recipient how fortunate s/he is to be hearing from so busy a person as yourself.  Then answer only some of the points, and miss out the critical bit.

Phone calls should always be returned out of office hours.  This is because you are so terribly busy and means you need only leave a message.  Emails should of course be sent no sooner than 5 minutes before any deadline.

5. Changing your job title, or the description of your department are both useful as they increase the potential for incoming missiles to go astray, especially if you are too busy to reveal the new names.

6.  All changes to working practices should be made by first fixing the institutional procedures behind the scenes and then sending a firm, directive email to the entire institution,  preferably when most of your staff are on a training course/holiday/off sick.

7. You run a happy ship, don't you?  Of course you do.  So if anyone is unhappy with the way things are done they must be, shall we say, out of step.  Treat those unfortunates with the utmost sympathy and offer them re-training or, better still, counselling.  Subsequent illnesses can be diagnosed fairly speedily (we are all under so much stress in this department) but if they lead to absenteeism you can rely on shrinking staff  budgets and the unemployment figures to help you out.

8. Like a good double agent, you should share occasional nuggets of information with your staff, but restrict them to matters which raise more questions than they answer.

9. While maintaining silence about your own activities, you must make absolutely certain you are aware of every scrap of communication by and between your staff. There is usually someone who is loyal, or ambitious enough to supply you with information about what they are all thinking.  Any criticism is a discliplinary issue because of course the Library’s P.R. image is of international significance, so ban all use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, by anyone unless you have approved it first.  Then create an account as Miss Muffin Cheeks and enjoy stalking your staff.

10. Don't be too disappointed that your staff have such a narrow view of their work and are constantly engrossed with trivial matters like missing books, argumentative students, floods in the media centre, system crashes at peak times and the $k in the 049 field.  Any criticism can be rebuffed by pointing out that their concerns are a little behind the times for such a progressive department, and encouraging them to adopt a more aspirational approach.  You can only pity those who lack your ability to live in the clouds.

How to succeed .... part one

1 comment:

  1. I'm starting to get a completely different view of librarians after reading this!