Donna J. McCloskey
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Table of Contents
As a beginning special librarian,
learning to communicate with upper level management may seem like a daunting
task. It is a task worth undertaking and mastering as communicating
successfully will reap its rewards for the librarian as well as the information
center. The beginning special librarian should start at the beginning
by orienting himself to the organization, asking questions of upper level
management, and defining management expectations. Moving forward,
the special librarian may demonstrate his performance abilities, increase
awareness of available services, promote the library to management, and
keep management informed through formal reports. Finally, the special
librarian can progress from the library proper to the boardroom and the
professional arena in support of the organization.
Orientation to Organization
An orientation to the organization whether formal or informal is an excellent way for the special librarian to answer the question, “How do things really get done around here?” This induction training can help the new employee in achieving the following objectives:
After the initial few weeks on the job, questions may have arisen in the mind of the special librarian which upper level management is poised to answer. These questions can open the door to communication. By addressing any issues up front, miscommunication in the future can be avoided. Some of the questions that may need to be addressed include:
Through an orientation and conversations with upper level management, the new special librarian should have a clear understanding of management’s expectations for support of the library and the library’s role in the organization. A thorough knowledge of the industry or subject specialty as well as the organization itself is essential. The librarian must demonstrate adequate professional qualifications, knowledge of databases, and administrative competence. It is important for the librarian to keep management informed while developing a close rapport with users. A review of expenditures and their cost effectiveness need to be addressed on a regular basis (O’Donnell 1976).
The special librarian may communicate value to the management by meeting the following objectives:
The special librarian may
further demonstrate his value to the organization by possessing certain
performance abilities. Professional recognition as a librarian is
directly proportional to how relevant the information services provided
are to the top management. To demonstrate professionalism, the librarian
must take charge of his personal life and not let it interfere with work.
The librarian must have a positive impact and a positive attitude.
It is important to be a problem solver and not a problem creator.
A professional embraces and adapts to change with determination and optimism.
The librarian must communicate openly and directly, creating a feeling
of trust as well as being a good listener. Being a positive role
model, teaching and sharing ideas, and looking for leadership opportunities
will communicate dedication to the organization (Podesta 1997).
It is important to communicate to upper level management the services which can be provided by the special library, the value of those services, and the skills of the information center staff. Having a prepared, rehearsed message on how the library provides value may be useful in a variety of informal settings: the cafeteria, on an elevator, in the hallway. The savings and benefits of information services include better decisions, time savings, money savings, and productivity increases. The special librarian may communicate these savings and benefits to upper level management in the following ways:
There are a number of ways
to increase management’s interest in the library. It is important
to establish personal contacts and build relationships with others in the
organization. Get to know and show interest in others and what they
are doing. Bring up the library in conversation so that management
knows what the library does, how it has helped others, and how it can help
them. Fight for the library but know how to pick your battles.
Find solutions for yourself before going to management. Be courteous
and respectful not only to management but to all levels in the organization—even
the custodian. Make your manager look successful by understanding
his concerns and priorities. Establish your credibility by consistently
following through. Learn to communicate in the style of the organization.
Learn the unwritten rules of work hours, work ethic, and dress code (St.
Unless otherwise required
by upper level management, the special librarian can keep management informed
by issuing a quarterly report on the progress and future objectives of
the library. More important than statistics is an outline of instances
where library services have had a direct impact on the mission of the organization
and where time and money have been saved. In additions, suggestions
can be made on how to improve the library by adding services and taking
on additional responsibility (Kok 1980). “Management does respond
positively to demonstrated need, cost effectiveness, and contributions
toward the organizational goals” (Holladay 1981).
There may be occasions for
the special librarian to take his message directly into the boardroom.
This is an excellent opportunity to communicate the value of the special
library. It is important to remember, however, that the presentation
is about the organization as a whole and not the library. Relevant
background data is essential. Demonstrate how what the library is
doing fits with the mission of the organization and show concrete results.
Communicate in the language of the organization thereby enhancing your
image. Know the audience; manage and use politics to the library’s
benefit (de Stricker 2002).
Once established within the
organization, learning opportunities should not cease. Hopefully,
this was part of the original negotiation for the job. If not, the
special librarian must communicate to upper level management the importance
of professional development, including attending conferences. Advantages
which may be communicated include keeping up with changes and trends in
the industry, seeing new products and meeting vendors face to face, hearing
from leaders in the profession, and receiving free merchandise or trials
of software (Getting 1999). In requesting time away from the library,
the savvy librarian will address the issues of how the library will function
during this time, how travel costs will be controlled, and improvements
were made as a result of past conferences. A detailed report to management
upon return, emphasizing benefits to the organization, will increase the
chances for participation in future events (Siess 1).
Communicating with upper
level management is an ongoing process. Working diligently at the
task on a daily basis will lay the groundwork for a positive and successful
relationship between management and the special librarian.
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Kok, John. “Now That I’m in Charge, What Do I Do?” Special Libraries 71.12 (1980): 523-8.
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O’Donnell, William S. “The Vulnerable Corporate Special Library/Information Center: Minimizing the Risks.” Special Libraries 67 (1976): 179-80.
Podesta, Connie and Jean Gatz. How to Be the Person Successful Companies Fight to Keep: The Insider’s Guide to Being #1 in the Workplace. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
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