Friday, May 9, 2008

Lights, Camera, Action ... Direct!!

Navigating the rushing waters flowing through the director's office can be a daunting task for any director in Massachusetts. For a new library director it can be particularly difficult. Just figuring out all the acronymns (CMRLS, MLN, MMRLS, C/WMARS, MBLC) of regions and networks and institutions of the Commonwealth can boggle a mind ... but keeping up with deadlines, learning who the colleagues and administrators are, figuring out the complicated interactions, making the connections between the library and town departments, and STILL doing the director's job can confuse even the hardiest in our field. (Not to speak of the challenges facing a librarian moving to Massachusetts from out of state, such as making one's way through a rotary or in and out of Logan Airport.)

Margaret Cardello of the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System and a cooperative effort of most of the Massachusetts Library regions were awarded an LSTA grant to develop a Director's Essentials website. An advisory committee has been meeting for the last six months and the project is lifting off the ground with a Director's Boot Camp at Tower Hill in West Boylston on May 20th. Currently, the advisory group is gathering the information that will make a new Massachusetts director's job easier.

The Roundtable was a great mixing of ideas, personal narrative, suggestions and information. Some of the suggestions for the Directors' Essential sites may include listservs, wikis and a decision tree approach to the FAQ-driven knowledge base. So many directors are reinventing the wheel; information should be available in a consistent format between libraries so that new directors can spend less time searching for information that can be easy to locate. Directors need to be 'directed' to resources that are in place in print and in people.

One of the hurdles is that directors are filling positions in many areas: public, academic and special libraries; how many of those administrative tasks are the same and how many are different? How do we address the needs of directors of libraries of all types? Another hurdle is that changes in the field (in technology, in budgeting, in collections) are rapid and library directors already on the job are struggling to keep up; those coming in need to know which changes have occurred and which are occurring.

The talk was lively and personal in this roundtable. Everyone attending contributed and lots of wonderful ideas and laughter circulated. One of Margaret's many, many strengths as Assistant Administrator of the Central Region is that she always welcomes participation and open flow of conversation.

Often one becomes an 'accidental manager' (as described in Rachel Singer Gordon's book, the Accidental Library Manager) for many reasons. One is not necessarily prepared for the job of library director - managing a staff and board of library trustees, communicating with a town, adhering to standards and certification and relating to community groups such as a Friends of the Library group. A Massachusetts directorship can be even more complicated with the deadlines imposed by our towns and the Commonwealth.

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