Open Thread Thursday: Seriously, Who *IS* the Boss?

(Really, it was either this picture or a Charles in Charge one.)

Over on the Library Society of the World Friendfeed group, there has been a couple of threads in the last few days about MLS programs and library management. It’s an common complaint that library management courses come up short in preparing MLS graduates for the various rigors of personnel administration. It’s one thing to study patron demographics and assessing collection needs, it’s another to actually deal with patrons who are expressing (sometimes irrational) needs. And let’s not forget the staff that run the desks, shelve the materials, and do all the other necessary tasks to keep the library running, even if they are driving you crazy in the process.

Personally, I’d give these graduate courses some latitude since the library field is so vast and varied that I can’t see any one course covering all of the nuances. However, I think there are some basics of customer service and personnel management that can be addressed in a library management course. This could go a long ways to resolve the seeming disconnect between the coursework and the actual experience.

So, I posed a question to the LSW group and asked what real life management questions should be asked in a MLS/MLIS course. Take a moment to read through and see the variety of issues that my fellow LSW members came up with, everything from managing services to interpersonal relationships between staff.

For this open thread starter topic, there are a bunch of options here. For current graduate students, read through the questions and answer one. For librarians of all varieties, you can do the same OR ask one of your own and see how other answer it. For the lazy, I will link my question based on my library experience combined with some other stories I’ve heard over the years.

You work at a public library. You have a patron who comes in on a regular basis. They are nice and well humored, but tend to monopolize staff time with questions they could easily answer themselves and commentary that can be (for lack of a better term) distracting. Some staff members complain to you about this person because it takes them away from their work for longer period of times than it should; others enjoy getting the town gossip and think this person is just harmless. What do you do, if anything?

As long before, this is an open thread. Anonymous replies are welcome as are comments that on different subjects. Speak your mind!

8 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday: Seriously, Who *IS* the Boss?

  1. Andy, we’re all familiar with the complaints about degree program content. You’re one of the few I’ve seen who acknowledges that it can’t be as varied as what we’re up against. The daily variety is one of the reasons I continue to support a master’s degree. By the time we become professional librarians, we’re a little older, we have a little more variety in our approach to our work, and, hopefully, somewhat more work and people experience. Fact is, if we were prepared for absolutely everything we came up against, it would probably be a joint MLS/psychology/management/physical fitness/liberal arts/something/something degree! C’mon, folks, we’re supposed to be lifelong learners! Go out and learn something. On the job, like everyone else in the world.

    • Very true, Michael. My position is that there are some basics of administration and personnel management that could be addressed through the coursework. The common factor is that we work with humans; we should address that as best we can and let life, experience, and the individual take over from there.

    • Also many government agencies offer continuing education and management courses for staff. I was just promoted to a management job in May and have already had 4 different continuing education opportunities relating to management, and leadership.

  2. My reply is that staff need to get together to define what the problem is as a team. Set a limit to it, and stick to the limit. Communicate the limit to those who need to know it (others on desk, those who work other desks, security guards, the folks who the patron will complain to, etc).

    I’ve been in library management for a couple of years now. My continuing education efforts (on the job and on my own) have helped me FAR more than the classes I took years ago (and I got an advanced certificate in library management specifically), but isn’t that just how life goes? If folks want school to do all the work for them, then perhaps they aren’t good management material…?

    • I don’t see it that graduate school should do all the work for them; I see it as offering the foundations for that work that you describe. Like what Michael said above, the program cannot prepare you for all the possible situations. But I believe it can put you on the right path for leadership in the future. Or, at the very least, ease into a supervisory role.

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