This is a post that I started writing over a week ago but was never finished because the Web 2.You conference completely took over my life. I strongly believe that everything in this post is still relevant and important even over a week after the presentations discussed below took place:
Most students do not enter librarianship to become managers. Much to the dismay of these MLIS students, who cannot possibly envision themselves as managers anytime in the near future, the majority of MLIS programs do require at least one core course on management. This semester, I am the Graduate Assistant for McGill’s Information and Agency Management class. This is slightly ironic as, I too, only last year was a student sitting through this class thinking to myself, “I know nothing about business models, managing a budget, or dealing with the conflicts of staff members, I can’t possibly become a manager!” This is such a common frame of mind amongst students as well as a source of some concern. Therefore, it was incredibly reassuring last week in class to listen to Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews, two engaging guest speakers, who addressed this common notion with much honesty.
Gerald Beasley is the University Librarian at Concordia University in Montreal (directing both the downtown and Loyola campus libraries). In the field of librarianship, no one has more management issues to deal with than an academic library director and Gerald Beasley seems to accept the responsibilities of his position with humility and extreme interest. His extensive career demonstrates the potential to be elevated to positions of authority without necessarily seeking them out. Gerald Beasley began as a Rare Books cataloguer, probably the position least likely to lend itself to becoming a leader in an academic library environment. However, when listening to Mr Beasley talk, it is easy to understand why he was promoted to a position of authority. He comes across as a man who genuinely cares about the mission of libraries in addition to the well-being of the people who choose to work in these settings. As a response to one question on how he started taking on leadership responsibilities, he answered that in a work environment, decisions are made all the time and at one point he realized that he wasn’t always happy with the decisions that were being made. He then started to become more involved in the decision-making process and obviously the decisions that he made set him apart as a respected leader in the library as he was then rose in the ranks of management.
Although Gerald Beasley was extremely inspiring and he has had a fascinating international career, I think that it was easier for students to identify with Jocelyne Andrews’s talk on management. Jocelyne graduated from McGill’s MLIS program only four years ago in 2006 and therefore seemed a bit closer to the current mind frame of students. Her well thought out talk highlighted various reasons of why students might be afraid of the prospect of management and discredited these potential fears. Like I said, I did not enter into librarianship to become a manager but Jocelyne argued that as professionals, the likelihood of us being called upon to fill a management position is quite high. We therefore need to think about developing valuable management skills like problem solving, learning to prioritize and communicating effectively. She argued that we can start improving these skills immediately by becoming involved in library associations, taking part in group projects and by drawing on our experiences from part-time jobs.
I am so grateful to be the Graduate Assistant for this class. I honestly feel that I am learning just as much in this position as last year when I was taking the class. It is perhaps because I am getting closer to graduation and I realize more now than when I was in first year just how important management skills are when working as a professional librarian. In fact, I have a few interviews lined up in the upcoming weeks for a few open positions in library management. I hope that the theory learned in the Information and Agency Management course, my various job experiences, as well as the valuable insight shared by Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews will help me convince my interviewers that I have the skills necessary to be trusted in a position of management!