The Practical Library Manager

Barbara Allan (Senior Lecturer, Student Learning and Management Learning, University of Hull Business School, Hull, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 1 September 2004




Allan, B. (2004), "The Practical Library Manager", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 215-216.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is aimed at new library managers and its focus is on helping the “fledgling manager in creating an environment of trust, teamwork, and respect” in the context of today's changing (and sometimes turbulent) environment. It is based on current practice in the USA and includes many examples, case studies and useful lists of resources.

Following an introduction, the book is divided into 11 chapters covering the following topics: challenge of staffing; impact of technology on the library manager; building core competencies for library staff; challenges and opportunities for planning and implementing a training programme for library staff; creating and implementing a technology training programme for library staff; evaluating a technology training programme for library staff; clicks and bricks; the challenge of the virtual library; the library consortium; a dynamic dozen; and management classics of the twenty‐first century library manager. This is followed by two appendices covering American Library Association Accredited Library Schools, and Surveys. Finally there is an extensive bibliography.

The author's style is chatty and friendly although at times (to my ears at least) it became over‐informal. The author is clearly a well‐established library manager and director and is active in the profession. The book clearly presents his own thoughts and views, and it is very much a “how‐to” book based on practical experience. This limits its value and I would have welcomed reference to wider research within the library and information community. There are less than 30 references cited in the text and these are listed in the notes section and indicate the US orientation of the work.

My first stumbling block was in Chapter 1 where the author spends some time praising the work of one specific library school in the USA: as a European reader this was irrelevant. Chapter 2 considers the impact of technology on the library manager, and this chapter focuses on the Internet and considers issues such as access and filtering. Again, it refers predominantly to US practice. There are some major omissions in this chapter, for example the development and importance of e‐learning for library managers and staff, as well as users. Chapter 4 considers practical aspects of running training programmes while Chapter 5 focuses on the development of technology training programmes. The content of these two chapters would perhaps be better presented by integrating them. Chapter 5 contains useful guidance on setting up ICT training programmes and includes some valuable checklists (e.g. evaluating technology training facilities). The next chapter on evaluating training programmes focuses on one case study and much space (almost three pages) is spent listing the “classes” that made up the programme. This chapter could have been developed by referring to standard training practice that includes evaluation at a number of different levels (reaction, learning, change in behaviour in workplace and impact on organisation).

The remaining chapters outline topics such as the virtual library and then provide lists of Web sites or other resources for the reader to follow up. These will certainly help new entrants to the profession to identify major areas of practice (e.g. role of library consortia). The chapter on practical library development is concerned with gaining funding to support library developments, and the introductory text is supported by a short list of funding or sponsoring organisations in the USA. The last chapter provides an annotated bibliography of a “dynamic dozen: management classics of the twenty‐first century” which includes items by authors such as Senge, Drucker, Blanchard and Peters. All library managers will have their own favourite works and I would certainly have welcomed a broader list of classics, for example to include works by Hofstede on culture and organisation, Gareth Morgan on organisational metaphors, Wenge and Lave on communities of practice, Michael Jackson (the academic rather than the singer) on systems thinking, and Lyndon Pugh's work on the management of change in libraries.

Finally, the bibliography provides a listing of printed and electronic sources on themes such as general management, career planning, core competencies, training and development, Internet censoring and filtering, and virtual (digital) libraries. For someone new to the field this list would be enhanced by the addition of annotated notes, as I imagine that newcomers would find it difficult to select highly relevant items from these lists. Again the bias is towards US resources and the list contains relatively few items published after 2000.

In summary, this is a book clearly written by an enthusiast, and many US‐based library and information workers will find that it provides a helpful overview of library practice with a particular focus on staff development. It provides access to a wide range of resources. However, the book doesn't completely live up to its promise of helping the “fledgling manager in creating an environment of trust, teamwork, and respect” as it doesn't cover some key topics, such as recruitment and selection, managing teams or working with individuals whom we find challenging. It may encourage new managers or team leaders to read more about management thinking. Unfortunately, I think the overall focus on US practice means that this book is less likely to be of interest to library and information workers elsewhere in the world.

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