We are in the process of hiring a new director for our library, so naturally the conversation amongst my co-workers is focused on what kind of person we need to run our library. Of course, everyone agrees on the basic things: no micromanagers, open door policy, easy to talk to, etc. But on a deeper level, we know that we need someone who is innovative and is willing to move our library and, ultimately, the campus out of its technological comfort zone. We need someone who is willing to try something new and explore new avenues of providing information to our students.
As the conversation about the qualities we are looking for progressed, I began to think very specifically about not only what I want in a director, but what I need in a director. In theory, we are supposed to be patron focused, but I think we need to be a little staff focused too. We need to be a bit selfish in thinking about the qualities that we are looking for in a new director.
I come to the library field at a strange place in my career. For five years I worked in an academic library as an Archivist’s Assistant and Reference Librarian but because I was part-time, I was left out of the loop. Therefore, I’m not up on the workings of academia and how the wheels turn. So I’m basically learning by trial and error (and, trust, there has been a lot of error). Furthermore, I wasn’t as driven to be active in librarianship because it was a part-time job that was helping me to meet the needs of my family. That’s not to say that I was any less dedicated to the profession than full-time librarians, it just means that my focus was on raising my children and not being a mover and shaker. Therefore, I know that I am in need of a lot of mentoring from whoever becomes our director.
With this thought in mind, I have created a wish list of the things I need in a library director:
- Encourages professional development and lifelong learning. Working at a small private institution has taught me one thing: money doesn’t grow on trees. Not that I didn’t know that before, but I just assumed that money for professional development would be a given, especially in an academic institution. I was wrong. So I’ve had to be creative in finding my own opportunities for professional growth. I want someone who not only encourages this, but can help me and the other staff members find ways to develop professionally without it costing a lot of money.
- Has a web presence. I want to be able to google the individual and see that he or she has contributed to the field of librarianship and continues to contribute using new and emerging technologies. Our library has opportunities for growth technologically and we need someone who is not afraid to get their hands dirty and try new things. I like technology and I think it can be incredibly useful in providing access to our students and we need someone who understands that libraries are more than brick and mortar.
- Can advocate not just for the students but for the staff. Our institution has a lot of people on campus who are looking out for the students but there’s no one really looking out for the library staff. We need someone who can go to the administration and state what we need and why we need it. Sometimes libraries get put on the back burner because people really don’t understand that the library is (or should be) the heart of the campus.
- Has marketing skills. Other departments have people touting their virtues and letting students, community members and administration know what they have to offer. We need someone who can go into the community and tell people this is what we have to offer to our students and to you, the members of our community.
- Understands that their job isn’t done behind closed doors. I want someone who doesn’t spend all of their time holed up in their office without bothering to connect to the students, staff and faculty. For example, I am a big admirer of our president because he is one of the few people I have met who has an honest-to-goodness-true-blue open door policy. His office is in the administration building and when he’s in there, the door is open. If you have a problem, you can talk to him. If you want to stick your head in the door and say “hi,” he knows your name. That openness contributes to the sense of family and community that we are known for.
So those are some of the things that I am looking for in a new director. What would be at the top of your list if you were hiring a new director or even a new staff member?