Moving to a new library is risky personally and professionally. Will you like living in this town? Will you find success in this environment?

Job choice is even more uncertain in the first leap from librarian to director. Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains Public Library, shared what to look for in a new library director job in Publishers Weekly. He has great ideas for figuring out a library’s internal culture:

View the library’s hiring process as a microcosm for how the library operates. The best hiring processes are collegial, involving people from different levels of the organization, and perhaps the community.

woman using binoculars to scan the horizon

cc-by radocaj

Use those librarian research skills in the job hunt. Kenney finds clues about the potential for success in everything from the library board minutes to the “love factor”.

Kenney speaks to an audience of librarians choosing their first director position intentionally, but I hear more often of librarians stumbling into directorship in order to address a pressing vacancy in their own institution. These librarians never intended to rise to administration, but they see a need for leadership in the library they love.

What about you? Did you critically evaluate your library before joining it? Chime in below in the comment section about whether you intentionally chose your first directorship (or plan to do so!).

The confident ask questions to learn what will connect. The insecure just keep talking with the hope something will stick.


Simon Sinek

9780143003267Even though now it’s So Yesterday…the novel, So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (2004) speaks to the “Cool Hunter” in me and explains the world in a way that I understand.


“At the top of the pyramid there are the Innovators…When you meet them, most innovators don’t look that cool…There’s always something off about them…Except…there’s always one thing that stands out on an Innovator. Something New. Next level down the pyramid are the Trendsetterrs. They watch carefully for innovations, always ready to jump on board. Below them are the Early Adopters they always have the latest anything. Further down we have the Consumers. The people who have to see a product everywhere before saying “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” Last are the Laggards, I kind of like them. Proud of their mullets … They resist all change…and soldier on.”


Innovation–is the new buzzword, it’s eveywhere and we know what that means.  It’s not necessarily that new anymore.  It also means since everyone’s on board, now might be the time to try something New.  It seems like you are either doing it or not–supporting it or discouraging it. Here are a few different articles from Forbes and Bussiness2Community that show how and where Innovation is struggling and how and where Libraries and Librarians can and are picking up the slack.

How are you leading your team as an Innovator?  Where are you lagging behind? The base of the pyramid is its widest part think of ways you can focus your energies and rise to the top.

My library instituted a new staff recognition program recently called “Above and Beyond.” It was meant as a way for staff to recognize and celebrate each other and the extraordinary contributions they all make. It is a way to create positive energy in the workplace, which we can all use more of!

photo round squeeze toy with excited face, arms, legs, and thumbs upAnyone can nominate anyone else for an Above and Beyond award. They can even nominate anonymously if they want. They just fill out a form or email their nomination to the Public Relations and Marketing person saying who they are nominating and why. The nominee receives a “Squeezable Praise Thumbs Up Thanks for Being Awesome” guy and a certificate. They don’t get anything fancy or monetary, since that really wasn’t the point of the program. They get recognition and we all get warm fuzzies when we hear these positive stories.

The program is not meant for managers. If we start nominating people for awards, it could look like we are playing favorites. We have had managers (including myself) nominated anonymously (thank you, Anonymous!), but that is possibly so that they don’t look like they are sucking up to their boss. That said, managers could certainly nominate each other. We wanted to minimize all possibility for unnecessary and unintentional drama with this program and focus on the celebration of each other. So far so good!

Photograph of large-scale Athena stone statue topped with gold headdress

cc by-sa Dennis Jarvis

You need more leaders at your library! The best way to squash the curse of competence is to foster more leadership in your team.

I wish every day for a new department manager to spring out of my forehead fully formed, but in reality, it’s my responsibility as a library leader to develop new leaders. The quandary is how to identify leaders before they take on a leadership role. Here’s my quick and dirty guide to identifying potential leaders.

Leadership Attributes

Look for these characteristics of leadership. People who will become good leaders in your library demonstrate these qualities even in non-leadership roles.

Engagement: leaders connect with people. Who on your team develops and maintains good relationships with users and colleagues?

Conviction: leaders persuade others to further the mission of the organization. Who on your team speaks with conviction about the mission of the library?

Invention: leaders suggest solutions. Who on your team brings up good ideas?

Initiative: leaders take those solutions and act to make them happen. Who on your team takes ownership of new projects?

Developing Leaders

You’ve identified potential leaders – now what? The best way to develop leaders is by giving them projects that let them take on bite-sized amounts of leadership responsibility. This can be leading a task force, making a new project happen, or representing your library in the wider community.

I’m particularly fond of encouraging potential leaders on my team to take on a teaching role. If they do something well in the library (like give great customer service), I ask them to deliver a training session. Instruction is a growth opportunity for the trainer, and the session spreads their strengths through the organization.

As your potential leaders take on new projects, celebrate their success and name that success for what it is: leadership!

In addition to work responsibilities, there’s also a lot of professional development opportunities out there for library leaders! Look for our post next week rounding up current library leadership offerings.