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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.2 (2002) 338-340
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Practical Strategies for Library Managers
Practical Strategies for Library Managers, Joan Giesecke. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001. 102 p. $32 (ISBN 0-8389-0793-8)
Across all disciplines, diligent workers with technical competence are frequently promoted to leadership roles, regardless of their preparation for management. Librarians promoted to administrative responsibilities must often teach themselves to become effective leaders. While managers in other fields may take several management [End Page 338] courses to prepare for their positions, librarians seldom take more than one management course during graduate training. Many library professionals, even those in supervisory positions, have never formally studied management, and, therefore, sharpen their skills by reading professional literature and popular management publications.
This short but thorough introduction to the intricacies of management is the perfect read for new library supervisors. Joan Giesecke examines the complex role of the middle manager and outlines strategies to successfully manage departments, units or teams. Within each suggested strategy she details specific steps that librarians can take to become better managers. The library manager's role is changing from one of traditional command and control to one of leader, facilitator, and catalyst. The author provides guidance and practical examples of effective ways to lead in today's complex management environment.
The work is divided into ten highly readable chapters that address topics such as the new roles for middle managers; mentoring and managing professionals; and planning, decision-making, and communication skills. In each chapter, the author suggests concrete steps to assist new managers in establishing themselves within a new department. For example, she presents four steps to taking charge, and the appropriate time frame for each. The first step, to be taken in the first three to six months, is assessing the unit and making some quick fixes to gain credibility within both the department and organization. Step two (at four to six months) is a stage of in-depth learning in which the new supervisor focuses on gaining as much knowledge about the department and organization as possible. Step three (at about the one year mark) is the time for major changes and step four (at about 18-24 months) consists of stabilizing the unit in the wake of positive change. In the chapter on communication skills the author explains that today's manager needs to be more than an effective speaker and writer. Effective managers must also develop mediation and negotiation skills so that they can resolve conflict in the workplace.
The book provides detailed instruction and practical application for the new skills of leadership. Unlike other useful books for beginning managers, such as Managing for Dummies (IDG Books, 1996), this book provides specific examples relevant to the library profession. Unlike other library management books, precise instructions follow each suggestion. For example, the author suggests that each new manager establish a self-orientation program and she poses several questions to ask during this orientation to learn more about the department and organization.
The volume's practical bent makes it the perfect complement to a management class for LIS students. While some of the popular library management texts like Robert Stueart and Barbara Moran's Library and Information Center Management (Libraries Unlimited, 1998) provide a thorough theoretical overview of management, Giesecke's book provides practical advice for approaching a new management job. Like many management books in the popular press, this book accents concrete steps and useful solutions rather than theory. While other management books may provide a definition of strategic planning, for example, Giesecke describes the steps of the strategic planning process. She also provides descriptions of interactive planning and scenario planning, and suggests the different instances in which each is useful. The book provides steps and strategies, but still acknowledges that there [End Page 339] is no one right answer to all management challenges. As much as new supervisors might crave it, the "one size fits all" approach to library management never works for all situations.
Joan Giesecke, who holds both an MLS and a doctorate of public administration, is...