Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guide to library management in a nutshell? On this show, that’s what you’ll get as I talk with Lisa Hussey, Associate Professor at Simmons and editor of the book Library Management 101: A Practical Guide.
It’s all here: how to deal with change and conflict, planning and decision-making, communication, and even respect in the workplace. Whether you’re a current manager or perhaps looking at going into management this information will prove invaluable.
This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast where we talk about libraries and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guide to library management in a nutshell? On this show, that’s what you’ll get, as I talk with Lisa Hussey, Associate Professor at Simmons, and editor of the book, Library Management 101: a Practical Guide. It’s all here, how to deal with change and conflict, planning and decision-making, communication, and even respect in the workplace. Whether you’re a current manager, or perhaps looking at going into management, this information will prove invaluable. Enjoy the show.
Question #1: Lisa, welcome to the show. I’m really excited to learn from you, so let’s jump right in. First of all, can you tell us why management theory is important? 01:00
I’m a little bit different than a lot of other people in LIS who teach management. I think management is incredibly important because we need to understand how we’ve gotten to where we are today, in management. We need to understand these seminal ideas that have created the framework of what management is seeing today.
It is also incredibly important to me, and one of the reasons I stress it so much when I teach it, and why there’s two chapters of it in the book, is that people have a tendency to grab pieces of theory and say, Oh, we’re going to implement X, Y, and Z, and here’s what we need to do, without understanding the larger theory. Actually understanding there’s more than just, let’s say like with Kaisen, there’s more than just stressing quality. There’s more than just minimizing the mistakes. There’s actually an entire culture that has to go with it.
It’s really important when somebody comes in to say these things. People in professional positions stop and say, Okay, but what about this? And, are we making sure we’re taking these steps, and are we doing these things that are part of it?
Even more than that, to me it’s incredibly important that we recognize how so much of what we see in modern management started with Frederick Taylor in Scientific Management. We still see this today, this idea that counting works really well, that you can take anything and put it in any setting without recognizing that in a place like libraries what we do is not something that can be counted easily.
In archives, you can count something like how many things you’ve processed, but that processing a modern piece of paper is very different from processing a diary from one hundred years ago. But, they both count as one.
These are things that come up again, and again when we’re trying to understand the best ways to run the organizations that we do. If you have a good grounding in this theory it really helps you build how you want to approach what you do within the profession.
Question #2: It’s a great starting place, for sure. What is the difference between leadership and management? 03:23
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate when these terms get used interchangeably, because they really aren’t the same thing. Management is about process. The role of the manager is really about making sure things go the way they’re supposed to. I’m going to make a few broad statements, and I’ll explain them in a second, but the role of the manager is really to adhere to the rules, adhere to the plan, to understand what the operations are supposed to be, and make sure that those things happen.
The role of the leader is to actually inspire people to do things, to really look at what the future is, and understand how the organization can get there. The manager is all about, how do we function, where we are right now? The leader is all about, where are we going to be in five years?
Those are two very extreme statements. I do want to say that managers often have to take on leadership roles, and leaders are often not managers. That’s one of the things that I think can really be important to recognize that leadership can come from any level. It’s somebody who can actually inspire others. Somebody who can come up with new ideas and who has vision, who can bring people to the next level.
Managers are a hierarchical role, they are people who are assigned to certain places. By the way, one of the things that also drives me crazy is when—and I’m doing this a little bit right now, is when you compare managers and leaders. Managers come out sounding horrible, and they’re not. Managers are essential to a functioning organization.
You can’t have just leaders because nothing will get done. If you have a room of leaders they’re never going to listen to each other because they want to lead. You need to have a leader with vision, and you need to have managers who understand how to actually take that vision and make it work for the organization.
There are concepts that work together that are important for each other, but they are in fact, two separate things. Just because someone’s the manager does not make them a leader. And just because somebody is a leader does actually not make them in a position of authority. It’s something that I think is really important to understand—to understand actually how things work within an organization.
You might have a department that works wonderfully. And, it turns out that you have a great leader in that department. But, they’re not part of the administration. And, you might have somebody who’s in administration who is a bureaucrat, who is doing nothing but exactly what has to be done. And, the organization never goes anywhere because they don’t have that vision to see where the next role is. So, they’re important concepts to understand, but they’re not the same thing, but they work together, and they’re very important to each other.
Question #3: Absolutely, a lot of interplay between those two roles. How can we deal with change and conflict when we’re talking about these things? 06:26
First and foremost, people have to recognize that conflict is part of change. That when you introduce change, and this is one thing I don’t think enough people recognize, change, even when it’s for the better, is something that is going to cause tension. It’s something that’s going to upset people. It’s very hard to get out of a comfort zone, even when you know the comfort zone is not a good place to be. Part of that process is going to be conflict.
Rather than fight against it, you need to recognize that it happens. How do you use that to actually move forward as opposed to trying to ignore it? The absolute worst thing you can do with conflict is not address it, or minimize it, or act like it’s not happening, because that’s only going to make it worse.
One of the things that is really important is change is a process. Part of that process is that conflict. I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how people deal with our changed norms soon—how people are going to look back on the good old days. The conflicts that are going to come up with it, people are not going to want to deal with them because, Well, we have bigger issues. No, you have to address the fact that when you’re asking people to change, when you’re requiring that it has to happen, you have to be open to the fact that there’s a process.
Lewin, who was a management theorist, had one of the best models for change, ever. It’s three steps. You recognize the need for change. You unfreeze things, and what that means is that you go through the process. Then once it’s set, you refreeze it. It sounds simple but it’s not, because that unfreezing time is when you have tension. When you have people resisting the change, working against it, We don’t need to do this.
One of the things that you can do as a manager and as a leader is to one, listen when these things happen, to recognize you have to let people mourn what is no longer going to be. From there you have to work with them, to be transparent about the process, This is why we have to do this. To give them space, but not let them become mired in it.
And to again address the fact that conflict is going to be part of this process. People are going to very much pick fights—for lack of a better way of saying it, that don’t seem to be part of the change process but are really fueled by that change process, because people are upset. You have these growing tensions.
And like I said, rather than just minimize it, the best thing to do is try and use conflict as a way to grow, rather than a means of destruction. What I mean by that is somebody saying, I don’t think this is right. I don’t think we need to do this. Then say, Well, what do you think the next thing should be? And have somebody figure out that energy from that level as opposed just telling them, Well, too bad. That’s kind of how that has to be.
When I was getting my doctorate I did my minor in Public Affairs. One of my professors pointed out in the class, that was one of the most amazing things I’d ever heard, is that for something new to happen something old has to be destroyed. When you recognize that no matter what you do, even when you’re changing something for the better, that means something’s going away.
That’s going to bring up a lot of issues that are part of it. You need to address that. That needs to be part of how you approach change. Recognizing that conflict is going to happen and not avoid it.
I realize that was a very long answer, but I’ll stop there because I could probably keep babbling.
Question #4: And when we do this well it leads to our ultimate goal of providing excellent service. So, what can make us most effective when it comes to customer service? 10:46
We need to always keep in mind that we are a service profession. I don’t care where you work in the library, or the archive, or any other LIS institution. Everything we do is about an end-user. It’s not about us. We did this because we love it. We did this because we love what our profession does. But, we’re not doing it for us. We’re doing it for somebody else.
I tell my students over, and over again, It’s not about you. It’s about the person in front of you. That needs to be a big part of our attitude in what we do. This is one of the ways you can really stress customer service, is to always remember that what we’re doing is for others. We always have to keep in mind that we might want things one way, but it’s not about what we want. It’s about what they need.
As a manager, as a leader, as somebody in a professional position—one of the best ways to do that is to model the behaviors, to show that you care about that end-user. That’s where your main focus is. Don’t get me wrong, you obviously always need to protect your employees. Working with the public is a very interesting thing. But in the end, everything we do is about those that we serve, and we need to model the behaviors and show that that’s in fact what we’re doing.
Question #5: Some of this also takes some planning and decision-making. What can you tell us about that? 12:18
The thing to remember about both planning and decision-making is that they are, in fact, a process. They’re not just a step. With decision-making, one of the most important things to remember is decision-making is actually action-based. It’s not a passive process. You just don’t make decisions, you then act on them. You implement them. You make sure that they actually take place, as opposed to just saying, I’ve decided this, and then think that that’s all there’s going to be. You actually have to engage with that decision.
You have to be willing to admit you’re wrong when you’ve made a poor decision and that’s so hard. But, part of decision-making is not just, again, acting on it, implementing it, it’s evaluating it. It’s making sure, in fact, it’s happening in the way you expected it to.
You can see in the literature there’s different conditions for decision-making. There’s different levels of uncertainty, with no knowledge. One of the things that I would say is that we never have full certainty. You can never know exactly everything that will happen. That’s part of what makes decision-making scary. You realize you have made a decision. You have the responsibility of it, and then you have to do this without having all the information, because we never have all the information, and that something might go wrong, and you have to be willing to deal with that and address that as well. Ultimately it’s up to you to take on all that responsibility.
With planning, the best thing you can do with plans is to recognize they are always going to change. No plan you make is going to end up exactly as you wanted it to. And, that’s a good thing. That’s not a bad thing in any way, shape, or form. Plans need to be flexible because nothing in our world is set. The past three months there were so many plans for things, like for summer reading that have had to be completely overhauled, that you have to completely and utterly rethink.
Even when you don’t have major things like COVID-19, things change. There might be issues with funding. There might be positive issues with funding. You might get a grant that completely changes what your original plans were going to be. You might have some new ideas. There might be something that’s part of things that you need to actually be flexible enough to be willing to see, to recognize you have to change what you’re doing, to make decisions about what you’re doing in figuring out those next steps.
The last thing I’d say about both planning and decision-making is that it also should be a solo process. Ultimately if you’re in the management position, you’re the one who takes responsibility for it. It’s ultimately up to you to say what’s final. But, the best planning and decision-making that happens usually happens when you get as much information as possible. That involves talking to not only the people you work with, but the people you serve. It’s understanding that this should be a collaborative process. This should be something where you’re getting input from a lot of different areas to figure out what is best for all involved, not just what you think is best, but to really understand what the needs and wants are.
Question #6: And as we do all of this, communication becomes very important, doesn’t it? What aspect should we be thinking about in terms of that? 16:15
One of the things that I learned years ago—but I’ve reinforced so many times, is you can’t assume people know. This is something that I think causes a lot of bad communication, that the idea is, Well, everybody knows this. You don’t actually say it because you assume everybody knows it. In fact, one of the most important parts of good communication is not just making sure that you’re telling people things, it’s getting the feedback to get a sense of, did they understand what you meant?
Communication is a complex process. It should involve dialogue, not just one-way, but an actual engaged dialogue where you’re actually building a shared understanding of what’s being said. When you’re doing your best to get feedback—to get an understanding of what’s happening, to be willing to be asked questions, as well as asking questions, that can sometimes be frustrating to have to answer a hundred questions.
One of the things to take from that is, I obviously need to rethink how I’m saying this if it just keeps bringing up questions. It’s understanding that you need to be criticized when you don’t communicate well, and figuring out what that means.
It’s trying to be as transparent as possible in what you’re saying. It’s also understanding that you need to craft your message based on the audience. You have one piece of information to give out, but how you tell it to different audiences actually has to be crafted for those audiences. You can’t just have one monolithic way of saying something, because you’re going to lose understanding at different levels, and what’s important gets lost in all of that.
You also need to recognize how miscommunication feeds into that, and what you can learn from miscommunication, what you can learn from that process. That if you have a failed message one of the things you take from that is, Okay, what can I learn from this, or how do I fix this? And again, it’s that willingness to be asked questions, that willingness to engage, not just to speak.
Question #7: So important to have that willingness. Is there anything else you’d like to share? 18:53
When I teach my management class, one of the things I always ask at the beginning of class is, How many students want to actually go into administration? The best I’ve ever had was eight students in a class of thirty. One of the things I always tell them, and I do it in a kind of joking way, but realistically is, Too bad, you’re all going into management. And what that means is, you’re going into a profession, you’re entering as a professional. What that means is that you’re taking on these responsibilities even if the only person you’re managing is yourself. You need to understand what that role means.
The other thing is, management is complex. Management can be scary. Management has a lot of responsibilities. But when it goes right, it is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. When you get your organization, or your department, or for that matter yourself functioning in a way that you feel good, you feel confident, you recognize the benefit, it is so hard to top that feeling. It is one of the most amazing things you can do.
Going back to customer service, when you show those things and you see how they’re being reflected, when you model the behaviors and you see that being reflected, oh my God, that is so important. One of the best things I ever had anybody say about me, as a manager, was that I might be tough, but I was fair, and I was respected. That to me is the beginning and end of all of management, is this idea of respect, and not being respected.
Managers have to earn respect. Going into any situation the manager automatically needs to respect the people that are working for them. And you always, always, always need to respect people as people. That to me is where good management begins and ends.
Question #8: Thank you for that. Do you have any books or resources you’d like to share, and why? 21:05
Two theorists that underlie almost everything I do with management, and they’re not from LIS, are Peter Drucker, and Douglas McGregor. Peter Drucker was basically relevant in management for over sixty years, up until the day he died. Part of that was he understood the flexibility and the changing of time, and the focus on the individual. There’s a great book, Managing the Nonprofit. It’s a great read. It’s actually a short read. It’s not a very big book. He’s actually very easy to read. He actually went out and interviewed people who run hospitals, people who run churches, people who run the Girl Scouts, and found out what were things that made them effective in what they did.
He really drove home, I’ve always thought this was really important, recognizing that ultimately the task is not about you, it’s about the organization. That the best way you can leave an organization is when you’re gone it survives beyond you. One of the biggest focuses for leaders and managers should be that you could leave and somebody can come in behind you and you can still be successful. That’s when you’re successful at what you do.
Douglas McGregor, who’s known for Theory X and Y, which minimizes what he does, but The Human Side of Enterprise is his book. The big focus is recognizing the employee for the employee. My favorite quote by him is, We hire adults and treat them like children. What’s really important is we hire people to do their work, we need to trust them to do the work. We give them the space to do the work. And, we give them feedback to be honest with them, and treat them like adults, and let them actually succeed. Those are two of the most important things in there.
There’s a great article by Camilla Aleiray about the human side of management, or Humanistic Management. My students have been reading that for over a decade. She brings in a lot of these ideas that McGregor talks about, and Drucker talks about. That’s a really good article for somebody who really wants to get a good sense of what it means to look beyond yourself as a manager.
Question #9: Those sound like great resources, thank you. Lisa in closing, what do libraries mean to you, personally? 23:36
Libraries have been a part of my life for my whole life. I don’t remember not knowing what a library is. They’ve been a refuge for me. They’re a happy place for me. It sounds a little weird, but they’re a place that is incredibly important to me, and I think incredibly important to us as a larger society. I’ve devoted my life to them, to this point in time. They’re also one of the most important institutions we have in the United States, especially public libraries. They’re one of the last public spaces available. They are something we need to fight tooth and nail for because they have so much potential, and they provide so much for our communities. I cannot imagine a world without libraries. I grew up with two amazing librarians in my family, my dad’s mother, and my mother’s sister.
Libraries have always been an important, central part of my life. I think they are, again, one of the best institutions that we have in our current society, especially here in the United States.
That is just marvelous. Lisa, thank you so much for being on this show with me today, and sharing so many important concepts that we should take away as leaders and managers in our organizations.
Well, thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed it very much.
It’s been a pleasure.
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You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at LibraryLeadershipPodcast.com where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.