...apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy
Meaning and Importance of Competency
As complex organizations, libraries need good managers. Managers operate not just at the highest levels of library administration but at all levels of the organization. Effective managers possess a variety of skills and perform a variety of tasks throughout the workweek; these can include scheduling, writing performance appraisals, recruiting and interviewing candidates to fill open positions, planning, evaluating, marketing, facilitating meetings, and much more. In her book chapter entitled “Management: An Essential Skill for Today’s Librarians” (2008), Barbara B. Moran points out that “what many people entering the library profession overlook is the amount of time that nearly all professional librarians spend in managing—managing resources, facilities, and people. In fact management is a key element of the work of almost all professional librarians today” (p. 65).
Management is a set of skills that applies to all sorts of organizations, not just to libraries but also to schools, businesses, and other non-profit and public sector organizations. Management can be defined in many ways, but as Moran points out, “the basic task of management is using organizational resources to achieve objectives through planning, organizing, staffing (human resources), leading, and controlling” (2008, pp. 67-68). There are a variety of skills that librarians need to be effective managers, and they vary depending upon an individual’s position within an organization. Some categories of valuable management skills that Moran mentions include political skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, people skills, and financial skills (p. 72); some specific skills that fall within these categories include delegation, motivational leadership, team-building, project planning and management, listening, integrity, character, and competence.
There are various ways that library professionals can acquire management skills and become better managers. Besides the education that is integrated into the curriculum of LIS programs, many skills can be acquired on the job, through continuing education and professional development activities, and by volunteering to serve on committees and in leadership roles in professional associations. In the process of growing and developing as a manager, it is common to make mistakes, and managers should not be afraid to do so, as mistakes offer opportunities for growth and improvement. Many libraries and professional associations offer mentoring programs, and these can be an excellent way for prospective managers to learn from those with more experience. In addition, managers should read management literature and seize opportunities to learn, acquire new skills, and take on increased levels of responsibility.
Preparation and Evidence
To demonstrate my ability to apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy, I will begin by discussing the context within which I have completed my study of these principles as a SLIS student, highlighting experience that has helped me to develop competency in this area. I will then present coursework from LIBR 204, Information Organizations and Management, a course I took in the San Jose State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). My first piece of evidence is a strategic/tactical plan for outreach projects to target customer groups to which I contributed as part of a team project. My second piece of evidence is a collection of assignments in which I reflect on important managerial topics and complete activities designed to develop my planning, management and marketing/advocacy skills.
When I first enrolled in the SJSU SLIS program in Fall 2009, I knew I would be required to take a management course, but I saw it as a requirement to earn a degree, not as a course that would teach me invaluable skills that I would draw on not only throughout the rest of my SLIS program but also throughout the rest of my career as a library professional. My failure to recognize the importance of developing skill in planning, management and marketing/advocacy stemmed from my own self-perception. I did not see myself as a leader or as someone who would enjoy or excel at managing people, so I figured that management was just a course I would need to pass and that, having done so, I would proceed to develop my abilities to work independently and as an effective team player but definitely not as the person in charge.
Fortunately, I soon recognized that I had been mistaken. Not only would I be called upon to utilize my knowledge of planning, management and marketing/advocacy in the required management course, but I would also be called upon to utilize it in seemingly unrelated electives and in my assignment to a series of project teams at work. Early in the same semester in which I took my required management course, Spring 2010, I interviewed for a scholarship from my state library association. During the interview, the panel asked me to describe my leadership experience, and I drew a blank. I fumbled my way through my response, and after losing out on the scholarship, I realized that this was an area in which I would need to seek out experience. So that same spring, I volunteered to serve as Vice President of the SLIS student group LISSTEN (Library and Information Science Students To Encourage Networking) during the 2010-2011 academic year. During that year, I worked with other LISSTEN officers to plan events, and I served as student representative to the SLIS Student Scholarships and Student and Alumni Networking Committee. During that same year, in Spring 2011, I also volunteered as team leader for a group project in my Collection Management course. In addition, I was fortunate to be selected as an American Library Association (ALA) Spectrum Scholar and to attend the Spectrum Leadership Institute at ALA Annual in New Orleans in June of 2011, where I had the opportunity to network with leaders and professionals in our field and to learn about leadership, mentorship, and professional development.
I continued on in my Vice President role throughout 2011 and into early 2012, as LISSTEN underwent a merger with the Alumni Association to form a new organization which we named SLISConnect. In February 2012, when the SLISConnect Student President resigned, I took over as Student President, and since that time, I have taken on increased leadership responsibilities, including strategic planning, writing job descriptions for officers, planning for elections, and organizing in-person events in my local area. Our organization is growing and I am proud of the great work that we are doing together to strengthen connections among students, alumni, and faculty in the SLIS community.
First Piece of Evidence: Team Project, Strategic/Tactical Plan for Outreach Projects to Target Customer Groups, LIBR 204
As part of my evidence for Competency C, I discuss the course “Information Organizations and Management” that I took with Brian Reynolds, Director of the San Luis Obispo City-County Library in California, in Spring 2010. This course explicitly focused on the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy. Through the course, students were introduced to a variety of management theories, principles, and practices and learned to apply strategic planning processes and skills and to identify the roles and activities of managers; topics included budgeting and fiscal issues, marketing, working in teams, working with subordinate staff and stakeholder groups, managing capital improvement projects, strategic and tactical planning, leadership, and employee performance evaluation and discipline (Reynolds, 2010a). In demonstrating my mastery of Competency C, which deals with recognition of the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use, I discussed the team project—a strategic/tactical plan for outreach projects to target customer groups—to which I contributed for LIBR 204. I described how students began by assuming managerial roles and working independently on self-created strategic plans and later worked with groups to develop two individuals’ plans into “fully formed, concise, clear proposals, including detailed project budgets” (Competency C). Now I will discuss this project as evidence of my ability to apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy.
Developing these strategic plans involved many steps: creating vision statements, articulating goals, identifying objectives for each goal, budgeting, planning for evaluation, marketing and publicity, recognizing challenges and constraints, delegating tasks to individual team members, and working as a team to reach consensus and collaborate on the final product. Course instructor Brian Reynolds, an experienced library director, provided valuable insight into the characteristics of a good plan, arguing that it should be “lean, mean and concise,” “aimed at an internal audience, with portions aimed at stakeholder groups,” include “flexible, [scalable], realistic goals/objectives [and] time frames,” and identify “key players responsible for producing and updating plan elements continuously” (Reynolds, 2010b). Applying fundamental planning principles was a central component of our work, and the grade of A that my team received for the project reflected our effectiveness in planning.
In both of the outreach plans my team developed, we included strong marketing and advocacy components. According to Christie Koontz (2008), an important element of marketing is designing services “in terms of the consumers’ needs and desires, with consumer satisfaction as its goal” (p. 77). Marketing includes not just “selling” products and services, but also designing products and services that satisfy the needs and wants of specific groups, or “market segments.” Koontz asserts that marketing “currently is perceived two ways: one, selling, influencing, and persuading people to buy things they do not necessarily want; and two, a weaker meaning in the public mind—yet more correct—is the concept of sensitively serving and satisfying human needs” (p. 78). This recognition of the importance of knowing and serving the user is reflected in my team’s plan. In our plan of outreach to Seattle’s Latino/Spanish-speaking community, one of our goals was “to better understand and meet the information needs of the Latino/Spanish-speaking community in the Eastlake neighborhood” (p. 3), and the objectives we identified for achieving this goal included meeting with focus groups, developing and implementing a publicity campaign, and surveying participants (pp. 3-5). These activities thus demonstrate our application of fundamental marketing/advocacy principles.
I was assigned to serve as team leader for my group, which allowed me not only to participate in the planning process but also to employ some of the management techniques and skills that were a central topic of the course. As team leader, I focused on building consensus while keeping the team focused, motivated and decisive. Good communication among all team members was an important component of our success. In my capacity as team leader, I developed meeting agendas, identified deliverables, listened and asked questions, facilitated delegation of tasks, and ensured that the team stayed in constant communication for the duration of the project. Because it demanded the application of fundamental principles of planning, management, and marketing/advocacy, this team strategic planning project therefore demonstrates my competence in this area.
Second Piece of Evidence: Collection of Writings, LIBR 204
In addition to the strategic/tactical planning assignment that students completed as teams for LIBR 204, we also completed a number of individual assignments in which we either reflected on important managerial topics or completed activities designed to develop our planning, management and marketing/advocacy skills. I am therefore submitting as additional evidence of my mastery of this competency a document that compiles several of these assignments. The discussion below will touch on each assignment in the order in which it appears in the compiled document.
A fundamental component of a library manager’s job is to manage buildings and grounds. Assignment 1 in my collection of writings (pp. 1-3) gave students insight into the types of building and grounds issues that managers must consider in their day-to-day management of brick and mortar libraries that are open to the public. For this assignment, students were instructed to visit a local library and perform a “secret shopper” analysis and evaluation of our visit. Students were asked to rate the library, on a scale of 1-10, on ten different criteria, which included such judgments as “location is convenient,” “the building and collections were easy to navigate,” and “staff was available, friendly, acknowledged me, and met my need(s) readily.” We were also instructed to include 2-3 sentences of written analysis for each criterion. My rating form, included as Assignment 1 in my collection of writings, describes my own experience visiting a library branch in my neighborhood. Completing this assignment gave me valuable insight into the management of buildings and grounds.
For Assignment 2 (pp. 4-5), students were instructed to create a brief outreach/marketing/public relations plan for a group of current non-library users with specific intent and measurable outcomes. We were asked to include an element for customer feedback if or when the target population becomes actual library users. I chose to do a plan for my employer, The Seattle Public Library, to develop a series of programs aimed at young professionals aged 18-35. The simply stated goal of my plan is “to provide increased relevant library services to young professionals in Seattle, Washington” (p. 4), and I identify five objectives in support of the goal, including convening an outreach committee, convening and meeting with a focus group, developing a series of monthly outreach events on various topics of relevance to the target population, developing and running a marketing campaign, and conducting a survey of attendees. My plan includes both a budget and an evaluation component (p. 5). This assignment therefore demonstrates my ability to apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy.
For Assignment 3 (p. 6), students were asked to choose one of two scenarios dealing with employee discipline and difficult customers and write a short essay addressing the steps that we, as managers, would take in addressing the challenging situation and how we would respond if the problem didn’t get better. I wrote my essay about how I would deal with an angry customer who repeatedly yelled and swore at my employees. In my essay, I describe how I would begin by ensuring that my employees were “well-equipped to handle her” (p. 4) and list several actions I might take, including group discussion, review of communication techniques, and following up with staff to evaluate the success of the strategy. I go on to describe how, if the situation didn’t improve, I would talk with the patron myself. By listening to the patron’s concerns, employing effective oral communication, and offering the patron the opportunity to change her behavior, I would attempt to work with her to arrive at a solution and positive outcome. I conclude by considering how I would respond if she continued her behavior, describing how I would “escalate the situation to library security or to the police, depending upon whether she was violating the library rules of conduct or the law,” which “would most likely result in her temporary exclusion from library property” (p. 4). My essay thus demonstrates my ability to apply principles of management, including listening, oral communication, and team-building.
Assignment 4 (p. 7) is a brief essay in which I reflect on an article written by course instructor Brian Reynolds. In the article, entitled “A Psychological Approach to Creating Public Libraries” (2000), Reynolds argues that “public libraries should use marketing techniques based on psychological principles to provide services and public relations that are more pertinent, convenient, and valued by users and nonusers alike” (p. 117). In my essay, I describe how the article’s “idea that people’s use of libraries is driven by, or is at least an important aspect of, their fundamentally human quest for meaning and personal identity resonated strongly with me” (p. 7) and go on to draw a connection between Reynolds’ article and Steven Bell’s American Libraries article “From Gatekeepers to Gate-Openers” (2009), in which Bell argues that the future of libraries lies in designing meaningful library user experiences (p. 51). I conclude with a few thoughts on the use of technology in libraries, noting that decisions about adopting new technologies should be based on studies of how people do or do not successfully use such technologies (p. 7). The ideas I raise in this essay relate to the mission, vision, values, and roles of 21st century libraries. These are all ideas of vital importance to library managers, who are tasked with charting the future courses of their organizations. For this reason, this assignment demonstrates my ability to apply fundamental principles of planning and management.
Finally, for Assignment 5 (p. 8), students were asked to submit an essay of 1-2 paragraphs listing one or two things we learned over the duration of the course that surprised us and that we would use in our future studies and work opportunities. In my essay, I reflect on leadership lessons I learned through my experience serving as team leader for my group strategic planning project. I describe how, prior to the team project, “I [had] never really thought of myself as a leader” (p. 8) and how I felt daunted by my assignment as team leader because of my lack of leadership experience. In reflecting on the experience in hindsight, I conclude that “it was a really valuable experience, because it took me out of my comfort zone and tested me” (p. 8). I discuss observations I have made of different management styles in the course of my own work experiences and describe some of my own positive and negative experiences with managers. I conclude that the style I employed as team leader for the group project, which included “listening to my team, asking for their ideas, and helping us reach consensus…allowed everyone on my team the opportunity to have her voice heard and influence our decisions,” leading to a positive outcome for our team (p. 8). The lessons in leadership that I learned through the experience have already proven themselves invaluable in the time that has passed since I took LIBR 204 in Spring 2010. In my role as Student President of SLISConnect, I have continued to employ a similar leadership style, and I am proud to say that our organization has grown by leaps and bounds in the short time that I have served in that role.
Although I didn’t recognize the value of planning, management and marketing/advocacy skills when I embarked upon my studies in the SJSU SLIS program, I have since been fortunate to have many opportunities to learn and develop in this area. Although serving in a leadership capacity has often required me to step outside of my comfort zone, I know that the experiences have been valuable and have helped me to grow into a stronger and more effective person and professional in our field. I recognize now that management is about more than just supervising people; it is about communication, problem-solving, innovation, resource allocation, and leadership. Although not every one of us may carry the title of manager, we will all be called upon to apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy in the service of our organizations’ missions. In addition, we all have the capacity to be leaders and to influence others in positive ways. The education and experience that I have gained through my studies in the SLIS program and through my participation in organizations such as LISSTEN and SLISConnect and in programs such as Spectrum have helped me to develop a strong foundation upon which to continue developing skill in this area. I now feel confident that when called to serve as a leader, I have both the courage and the capability to excel in this area.
Bell, S. J. (2009). From gatekeepers to gate-openers. American Libraries, 40(8/9), 51-53.
Koontz, C. (2008). Marketing—The driving force of your library. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 77-86). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Moran, B. B. (2008). Management: An essential skill for today’s librarians. In K. Haycock & B. E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts (pp. 65-76). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Reynolds, B. (2000). A psychological approach to creating stronger public libraries. Advances in Librarianship, 23, 117-143.
Reynolds, B. (2010a). LIBR 204-12 Information Organizations and Management Spring 2010 Greensheet. Retrieved from http://slisapps.sjsu.edu/gss/ajax/showSheet.php?id=993.
Reynolds, B. (2010b). Unit 7: Strategic/tactical planning for library services/programs [PowerPoint slides]. Unpublished lecture slides, San Jose State University.