Advice for a New Library Director

nighthawk309 —  September 3, 2013 — 1 Comment
photo credit: duncan via photopin cc

photo credit: duncan via photopin cc

Day one of library school: “I want to be a library director.” That was me, stating my career ambition from the start. I was only one of a few who raised my hand during the required “Library Administration & Management” course when the professor asked who wanted to be a library director.

I’m delighted to report this lifetime ambition has been reached. I’ll be the next director of the Berkley Public Library starting in September. To prepare for this transition, I wanted to hear some words of wisdom from other directors in the area. Several were kind enough to share their thoughts.

  • “One of the main things is to be open to ideas yet take a leadership role – that is always a balancing act – and it never ends.
  • “One piece of advice that I’d like to give to new directors–aside from: “Be ready to keep saying: ‘They never taught us THAT in library school!'” is, it helps to keep a stiff upper lip and a healthy sense of humor. So, if you don’t already have one, try to develop a thick skin, and brush up on looking at the hilarity of a situation. Because if you can’t cry, you might as well laugh.”
  • ”The best advice I got when I started came from the assistant director of our co-op at the time. He told me to get everything I possibly could during my first three years because those years were my honeymoon period.”
  • “When I took my first director job, my former boss gave me this advice: Never regret a decision. I have found these words of wisdom very useful over the years, both during the decision-making process and after.”
  • “There is NO SUCH THING as too much communication. As a director it’s super easy to get caught up in director-y duties and meetings and stuff, and the front-line staff may feel neglected or out of the loop. That’s especially true if there are things going on that will directly impact them, like budget meetings, personnel issues, elections/campaigns, and the like. The (not-so-good) old days of “cuz i’m the boss and i said so now shut up, do your job & be grateful you have it” are long gone.”
  • “Listen to your staff, reward them, and trust them. Let them experiment, be creative, and enjoy their jobs. Listen to your community and work to give them what they want. Get to know the movers and shakers, and find partners that will go to bat for you when needed. I have also come to believe that we make our own luck. If you work hard and try your best to do the right thing, everything else will fall into place.”

Many thanks for those directors who shared their insights. I’d like to give a special thanks to a superb professor, great mentor and stellar employment reference, Dr. Bob Holley. Here’s to the start of a grand adventure!



Matt Church is the library director at the Berkley Public Library (Berkley, MI). He was previously associate director at the Baldwin Public Library (Birmingham, MI). He's all about libraries, Tom Waits, coffee, trekking and family adventures.

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