As a new library director, Douglas Crane wanted to learn more about his role. He started interviewing peers nearby, then expanded to connecting with directors from public libraries across the United States.
Eventually Crane ended up talking to more than a dozen library leaders about their roles and wrote up his findings. I was struck by the steep learning curves that directors encounter after stepping into that role for the first time, especially in politics and finance:
I was warned that bad financing and unbalanced budgets can quickly undo a director’s tenure. Unfortunately, library directors rarely have a background in finance. Sharon Hill served as my mentor for many years after hiring me into PBCLS in 1998. Her main advice about directorship was to learn about the government budgeting process, since it is the director’s duty to draft and defend the yearly budget.
A lesson for aspiring library leaders: find ways to learn about finance! And the meta-lesson: informational interviews are great tool for growing in your profession. After talking to lots of library leaders, Crane not only learned practical lessons about how to do his job, he also built his profession network.
We also love interviewing library leaders about their jobs, and are so grateful to those in library administration who are willing to share lessons learned along their career paths.
If you’ve got a commute, use that time for one day to learn about library leadership. Download the Public Libraries Online podcast to get a fascinating peek into the minds of a large cadre of library directors.
For those of us who prefer reading over listening, check out Douglas Crane’s summary of his public library director interviews on Public Libraries Online for more insights on how library leaders view finance, politics, and more.