10 Reasons I Will *Not* Be A Library Director Someday

Today is my second anniversary with RPL (only twenty-eight more years to go – but who’s counting?) so I thought I’d do a list to celebrate.

On my old blog, I detailed the story of how, when asked in an interview where I’d like to end up in my career, I blurted out that I’d like to be a Library Director someday.  (To be fair, at another interview, when asked where I saw myself in five years, I replied “I don’t really make long term plans.”  Seriously, it astounds that I ever got hired anywhere!)

Anyhow, as I relate in that old blog post, I know you’re supposed to be honest in interviews but I also honestly don’t know how much of that answer was my serious goal, how much was me saying what I thought the interviewer wanted to hear and how much was what I came out of library school believing that a Directorship is what students who win Spirit of Librarianship awards and are classroom leaders (he says humbly) should naturally aim for.  (Probably a bit of all three.)

So anyhow, only three and a half years into this library racket and two years into my career at RPL (and how weird is it to think of myself as finally having a career?), I thought it’d be a good time to analyze why I *won’t* become a Director someday, pretentious answers at my early interviews notwithstanding. 😉

First, you may want to review a document that outlines what boards *should* look for in a prospective Director [PDF]

Ten Reasons I *Won’t* Be A Library Director Someday
1. As detailed in that last blog post, I’m an ENFP and I read somewhere that most senior managers (not necessarily in libraries although I suspect it’s probably even more the case in our world) are ISTJ, the exact opposite personality type.

2. By being a Director, your job is often more about being an Administrator and less about being a Librarian (although your training and experience as a librarian should and will infuse everything you do as a Director.  But you miss all the “library” work – you’re not doing collections or public service or reference or whatever.)

3.  I try not to take things too seriously.  Most of the time, I think this is a useful quality.  But at times, especially as a senior manager, that’s probably not quite as valued!

4. Obviously right now, I don’t have nearly the range of experience you need to be a Director.  Maybe in ten or twenty years I will but who’s to say?

5.  Simple math.  At Southeast Regional, there were four professional librarians not counting the Director.  Assuming all equally wanted to be Director (not likely the case), I’d still have a 1 in 4 chance.  Assuming that I were to stay at RPL, there are nearly ten times as many professional librarians which means my odds suddenly become much worse.  Plus a city (even a smaller one) like Regina is a much more desirable location than a small rural community so any Director postings will attract highly qualified candidates from all over the country and beyond making the odds even worse.

6. I’m not sure I’d be willing to make the time commitment that this level requires – basically, you need to be prepared to work long hours and be willing to be called upon 24/7/365 as needed.

7.  I have a blog.  Where I’m very opinionated about not only libraries but politics, religion and all manner of “controversial” topics.  That could provide a lot of ammunition for future board members, scorned colleagues, members of the media or general public or anyone else who might want to undercut my chances of becoming a Director or subvert me if I happened to become a Director.  I also tend to be fairly opinionated in general and not always in the most “keep your head down”, politically sensitive way (I’m working on it though!)

8.  I’m too nice.  This was put to me in a conversation about what being a manager takes and the question was asked, “Well, have you ever fired anyone?” (which is a very strange way to measure the worth of a manager if you ask me but whatever.)  I did end up being in two situations at SRL where firing an employee was the desired result – in one, I wasn’t directly involved as I was on the road doing a special project but feel fairly confident I could’ve pulled the trigger no problem, given the *many* problems I saw building with this particular employee.  Without getting into too many details, in the other situation I refused to release a new employee at her six month probation.  I managed to get her a three-month reprieve although the writing was on the wall and she left the library soon after her six month probation meeting.

9.  I don’t know if this is true elsewhere but frankly, Saskatchewan can be hell on Library Directors.  I can’t remember the exact stat but I think we’ve averaged a new library director in at least one of our ten systems at least every couple years or so for over a decade.  That’s a pretty high attrition rate.

10.  This may sound flippant but I don’t like to wear suits and/or ties.  I will “tie one on” very rarely if the occasion seriously warrants it but as a day-to-day thing, it’s not for me.  And as much as I’d like to be seen as a Steve Jobs-esque leader where the tie isn’t required, I don’t think I’m quite that visionary!

I guess my only caveat to this list is that I don’t see any single one of these things as an insurmountable hurdle that would preclude someone from being a Director – maybe just when all ten are taken in combination! 😉

Comments 2

  1. Malcolm+ wrote:

    “I can’t remember the exact stat but I think we’ve averaged a new library director in at least one of our ten systems at least every couple years or so for over a decade.”

    Well, no it isn’t. In fact, even if it were a new director in one of the ten systems each year, that’s an average directorship tenure of ten years. Even if it’s two every year, that’s an avergae tenure of five years.

    Some directors will turn out to be very poor fits (either for the particular library or for being a director at all) and will usually leave relatively quickly – which would draw down the average even more.

    So let’s say an average tenure of five to ten years across the province.

    Not high attrition at all, really. And if the average tenure is closer to ten years than five, it’s probably not a high enough attrition rate.

    Posted 08 Sep 2010 at 9:59 pm
  2. HeadTale wrote:

    Good point and serves me right for using a half-remembered comment from a current Director without knowing the full history.

    Thinking about it more, I’m pretty sure it worked out to a Director per year on average (at least in the last decade or so) with some systems going through more and some (including Southeast) having no turnover for over 15 years.

    So let’s say an average tenure of 10 years per Director with some being quite long and some being very short for, as you say, reasons ranging from “bad fit” to “in over their head” to in one notable example “been caught stealing” (as was the case in one system though I think this Director managed to keep it up for awhile – maybe five years or more?)

    Ten years may sound like a nice, good long tenure but I think the other thing to keep in mind relates to one other point I made – the great difficulty regional library boards have in recruiting to rural areas and, with all due respect to those currently filling the positions, the reality that sometimes rural systems don’t see the widest range of applicants, the most experienced applicants or the most accomplished applicants.

    So although there are negatives with having a Director with a long tenure, having a decent Director who’s willing to stay on for longer can be a good (if rare) thing too.

    Posted 09 Sep 2010 at 7:56 am

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