Talking to Public Library Directors About Their Jobs

Megan Hartline —  January 12, 2016 — 2 Comments

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.

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Skills You Need for the Digital Age: Ithaka Report on Library Leadership « Library Lost & Found - March 30, 2016

    […] I’ve long felt at sea when it comes to large budget management. After hearing the results of Douglas Crane’s interviews with library directors, I realized that I need to focus my professional development this year on business principles […]

  2. A Librarian Goes to Business School « Library Lost & Found - September 14, 2016

    […] we heard in Douglas Crane’s conversations with public library directors, library administration involves a surprising amount of finance management. That’s not a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s