The Five Laws of Library Staff Meetings

1) Meetings are for use(ful purposes)

The underlying purpose of a meeting is to bring people together when all other possible and potential avenues of communication and decision making are deemed ineffective or inefficient by comparison. In creating a gathering of people (both physically and through technology such as phone, voice chat, or video), it should be a silent acknowledgement that this is the best way for a decision to be reached, an issue or topic to be addressed, or information to be disseminated. 

This point is asking the question “Is a meeting the best course of action?” This is not meant to discourage meetings, but to ponder whether it is the best use of organizational time and resources in the face of alternatives.

2) Every staff member, the right meetings

Are staff members attending the meetings that they need to be in? As in, does it immediately pertain to their purpose within the organization? Is their presence (real or virtual) essential to the purpose and scope of the meeting? Which meetings can they just get the minutes or a summary?

This point is about the proper management of the staff member by making sure they are involved in the relevant loops and aren’t being sidetracked by things outside their purview.

3) Every meeting, the right staff members

Who needs to be at the meeting? How does each staff member attending relate to the issues on the agenda or the purpose of the committee? Is there anyone who should be at the meeting but isn’t?

This point is about having all the right people in the meeting. These are the people who can make decisions, move the conversations, and/or take or direct action on the issues.

4) Save the time of the attendee

Time management in meetings goes in many directions. It can be about moving through agenda items at a reasonable pace; it can be about limiting the amount of time of the meeting since it takes the staff member away from their other duties. It’s the “all muscle, no fat” approach to conducting a meeting; time is a valuable commodity.

This point is about recognizing that time spent by staff members attending the meetings is important. Make it count by having it be time well spent.

5) The meeting is a growing organization.

You can always add or subtract people. You can always add or subtract agenda items. You can always manage a meeting to be more open and conversational or more rigid and contained. You can always add or subtract meeting time on the basis of keeping it brief or letting thoughts take a more relaxed path. The thing that you cannot do is make up time that is wasted when the wrong people attend, have items that can handled better in another venue, or are not empowered to take action or make decisions.

This point is about the mutable nature of meetings and how they can (and should be changed over time); the only thing that cannot is waste due to time and resource inefficiencies.


I’m sure people can think of additional rules or modifications to the ones I have written. Share them in the comments.

6 thoughts on “The Five Laws of Library Staff Meetings

  1. As an administrator who calls many of the staff meetings, my mind is reeling with responses. If the staff would read, digest and respond to memos, emails, and the like, I wouldn’t have to call staff meetings to, in some cases, repeat the same things that are written! Yet, the face to face interaction does spark comments that bring to mind things we (including me) haven’t considered.
    I have a few staff members (and I am thinking of the maintenance supervisor) who HATE coming to meetings. Yet, he will monopolize my time by coming into my office to get a personal blow by blow of the meeting!
    So people want to have the inside story – and it’s up to the manager to figure out how to get it to them. Usually the most efficient way is in a group meeting. Yet, if you ask almost anyone, they would say they don’t think going to meetings.
    AND, if we skip meetings or if a department doesn’t hold a meeting in a while, the staff complains that there isn’t a meeting!
    Is it any wonder my hair is graying rapidly? Yet, I have to tell you – I love the staff in my library. And, yes, I will continue to hold my biweekly staff meetings, my biweekly managers meetings and others as needed. Sometimes it’s just important to bring everyone together.

    • Cindy, I left the door wide open for calling meetings. I’m not saying they are all bad; but it is when other ways are more effective. It’s just a matter of evaluating as to why rather than just making it a rote reaction to requiring more than one other person to decide or discuss something.

      In your case, it makes sense: it’s the most effective way to function. But that’s not always the case and that’s the point I’m driving after.

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