REVIEW: THE ACCIDENTAL LIBRARY MANAGER
Rachel Singer Gordon. The Accidental Library Manager. Information Today, 2005. $29.50. 1-57387-210-5. Reviewed by Marylaine Block
Some are born for library management, but an awful lot of us have library management thrust upon us unexpectedly. Should that happen to you, take a couple of days off and read this book. Will it tell you everything you need to know? Hardly. But you can consider it a course outline for the practical class in management that library schools don't seem to offer, complete with case studies, interviews, and recommended reading and web resource lists. [See the web site for the book at <http://www.lisjobs.com/talm>.]
Gordon speaks to the specialized concerns of all library managers, not just directors: assistant directors, project managers, department heads, managers of one-person-libraries, even non-librarians, paraprofessionals, and volunteers. She draws on comments offered by 244 library managers in a survey she conducted in 2003.
As in her previous books, Gordon points out that the skills we've acquired as librarians will stand us in good stead as we prepare for the job of management: the ability to collect and analyze information, organize it, and share it, the tendency to build networks, and our belief in equity of access and treatment ("as useful when it comes to staff as when dealing with library customers").
The first chapter lets you know what challenges you're in for during the transition period as you first become a manager, and recommends resources and strategies for dealing with those challenges, as well as which habits we need to curtail and which to cultivate. Succeeding chapters deal with managing people, facilities, technology, and (perhaps thorniest of all) change. Other chapters deal with managing external relations (with the board, the press, government), and with legal and ethical issues. The final chapter deals with career development planning for managers, whether or not they wish to continue in management.
Perhaps unique in management books, the chapter on What Library Staff Want gives us a useful view of management through the eyes of the managed. Quoting extensively from the words of survey respondents about their best and worst bosses, she draws lessons about the most desired qualities in managers.
This is an extremely practical book for the first-time manager. It says, in effect, "These are the issues you will have to deal with, and here are some tips on how to handle them. Here are interviews with people who've been in the same situation as you, who explain how they handled it. And since this book can't possibly tell you everything, here's where you should go for more detailed, specific help."
It's yet another fine offering from one of the brightest young lights in our profession.
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Before we leave the library world, we recollect our long-held belief that a library, and the library profession, find their analogy in our cat. The brain of the cat directs him to go out and find a mouse; this is Administration. He perceives, by sight, sound, and smell, the mouse: this is Collection Development. He catches the mouse: this is Acquisitions. He digests the mouse: this is Cataloging and Serials. He comes in and tells us about the mouse: this is Reference. He curls up in a ball and enjoys the mouse: this is Circulation. Finally, later on, he produces, for the out-of-doors, an Annual Report, which no one wants to see. So he buries it. However, he loves, and expects, regular supplies of goodies, and adores being brushed and cuddled and told how beautiful he is.
Noel Peattie, Sipapu_ V.23, N.2, 1993, p.12.
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