What is My Role as a Manager?


Katrina Cooks

People go to work to succeed, not to fail.  It is the manager's job to understand people's strengths and weaknesses.  Managers who strive to find the good in their people will achieve far more than managers who only find fault.

(Author unknown)


Table of Contents:


I.                    Introduction

II.                 Becoming a Manager within a Special Library

A.     Managing your Time

III.               Understanding the Responsibility

A.     Managing the Organization Responsibility

B.     Mastering the Communication Responsibility

C.     Assuming the Control Responsibility

IV.              Managing Diversity

V.                 The Support Staff

VI.              Evaluating Employee Performance

A.     Appraisal tools and Manage Performance

VII.            Conclusion

VIII.         Reference

IX.              Additional Readings



I. Introduction:


            Imagine, coming fresh out of graduate school and being offered a position as a manager within a special library. Did all your courses in your M.L.I.S program prepare for this position? Does your work history prepare you for the responsibilities you are about to take on? Do you know what your role as a manager will be within the special library? Do you truly know what it takes to be a manager? Are you scratching your head worrying about your first day on the job and the day after that? If your answer is “Yes” …welcome to your crash course in…“My role as a Manager?”


            As a manager you will have many different roles and responsibilities. “A role is a type of behavioral activity, whereas a responsibility is essentially mental, in the sense that one agrees to do something” (Evans and Wards 98). In this chapter, you will be given a brief synopsis on what it takes to become a manager within a special library, learn your responsibilities as a manager, learn how to manage diversity, get to know your support staff and learn about evaluating your employees’ performance.


II. Becoming a Manager within a Special Library:


            Special libraries encompass specialized areas of interest which include music, laws, and medicine; just to name a few.  As a manager within a special library, you must remember that the library exists to support the work of the parent institution. Your job as a manager is to make sure the goals of the library are aligned with the institution. The parent’s institution interests are your interest.


The parent institution can be academic, public or business connected. A manager of a special library (and other libraries) has to keep up with the ever changing technology and stay current on new research coming out in science, education and so on. Not only do you have to keep current on new research and new technologies, but according to Ronald N. Bukoff, a special librarian also must have certain character traits. These traits are a strong sense of individuality, the ability to see the humor in most situations, the strength to react calmly under pressure and an altruistic interest in helping others:


                        Individuality arises with the need to be flexible and adaptive to the

                        environment of the special library and its patrons. This environment

                        is every changing and the librarian must have the internal strength of

                        character to recognize, identify, and resolve the myriad problems that

                        develop, from small to large…Humor, laughter and joy will get the

                        librarian through most of the trails and tribulations that can occur…

                        and of course humor provides the ability to react calmly in times

                        stress…and last, but not least in this litany of necessary survival

                        traits, is the desire to help others. (Bridges 173)


            The basic skills that a manager needs are the ability to collect and analyze information, share the information, organize knowledge, build networks and believe in the principle of equity of access and treatment (Gordon 3). However, a person can’t manage someone else if they can’t manage themselves. As a manager of a special library, you need to be effective in time management.


Managing your time:


            If you have ever worked in any library in the past then you know that there is really never enough time to do everything. If you are not on the reference desk answering questions, you’re in meetings, going to conference and let’s not forget the unexpected visit from a patron and/or colleague. Your time is valuable, so you must not waste it.


                                                Time is democratic—we all have the same amount of time. Time is         perishable. Time is a nonrenewable resource. Time is even                                                    more valuable than money, because one can always get more money; however, once time    is spent, it cannot be replaced

                                                (Siess 2). 


Some people may ask, “Can you really manage time?” The answer to this question is no, but you can manage your use of time. For example, if you know the slowest part of your day is in the afternoon, go into your office and handle all the things that you could not do in the earlier part of the day like answering emails or returning phone calls.


When you come into your role as a manger, keep track of your time and your activities. If you have a job duty you must do everyday, time yourself; see how long it takes you and so on. Managing the use of your time allows you to get more things done, reduce stress and have more time do other things on the job.  The bottom line is this, if you can’t manage your time wisely, how can you manage someone else.


II. Understanding the Responsibility:


            Once you become a manager, there are certain responsibilities you must take on, like managing the organizational roles, mastering communication and assuming the control responsibilities.


Managing the Organization Responsibility:


            Managers have different roles they must play at different times (or you may have heard some managers say they wear many different hats) depending on the situation. G. Edward Evans discusses in his book three broad categories of roles that were identified by Henry Mintzberg. The three broad roles are interpersonal, informational, and decisional. Within the interpersonal category, Mintzberg identified three distinct roles which are figurehead, leader, and liaison:


                        The manager is the individual most identified with her/his area of

                         responsibility—he or she is the figurehead. That is, to some

                        degree, the individual becomes the unit in the minds of others,

                        including that person’s subordinates. The leadership role is

                        generally understood as the trend toward greater collaborative/

                        team oriented work. The liaison role becomes key in developing working

                        relationships with units that need to interact with the manager’s unit. (Evans; Ward 96)


In other words, as a manager, you will be regarded as the head; the person that brings everyone together in order to make the operations of the library run smoothly.


            The second broad role which is informational has three distinct roles as well which are the nerve center, disseminator and the spokesperson. The role of the nerve center involves being on the front line. Being on the front lines means you may have to deal with a lot of different things that all require your attention at that moment. In other words, there will be something you will have to set aside if another more pressing issue comes up. Evans states, “Learning to handle this role effectively is essential for the newcomer” (96). The role of the disseminator is having the ability to communicate necessary information in a timely manner. The spokesperson role is related to the figurehead role which involves being the official spokesperson for the organization.


            The last broad role is decisional which involves the disturbance handler, resource handler and negotiator. The disturbance handle and the negotiator roles are related in regards to being able to handle and resolve problems that may arise among the staff and/or patrons. The resource handler deals with handling and allocating resources. Allocating resources not only involves money, but the staff, equipment and even time. In the role of the resources allocator, the manager also makes judgments on how to organize the daily work activities.


Mastering the Communication Responsibility:


            In today’s work environments, managers must be able to communicate effectively whether it is through verbal communication, electronic, written and/or listening. In the book entitled Beyond the Basics, “effective communication takes place when the person receiving the message interprets it with the identical meaning that the sender had in mind” (Evans; Ward 130).


As a new manager, you must first learn the communication style of the organization. Evans and Ward state, “Some organizations may be very formal and expect anything of substance to be in written form; others are highly informal and almost everything is discussed orally. Most organizations fall somewhere in between” (132). Because of this, you will have to know when to use certain methods of communications. Sometimes email messages don’t work because the person on the receiving end may take the message the wrong way. The person may take the tone of the email to be harsher then what was originally intended. Because of the different communication styles, you will have to be able to break down communication barriers and convey your message clearly.


Also, watch out for nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication involves communicating through gestures, facial expressions, posture and even eye contact. As the old saying goes, “your actions speak louder than words”, so make sure your actions don’t undermine your words.


            As a manager, you will be communicating with administrators, with your staff, with vendors and suppliers and last, but not least, with the users of the library. The following are a few key points for managers to keep in mind if they want clear and effective communication:


*      Know what to communicate.

*      Know who needs to know what.

*      Know who should communicate with whom.

*      Know how to time messages.

*      Know how to listen and read.

*      Don’t judge and evaluate the other person.

*      Demonstrate empathy and understanding.

*      Be certain your verbal and nonverbal signals are congruent.

*      Give timely, effective feedback

*      Use language that is understandable to the other person.

            (Evans and Ward 152-153)


Assuming the Control Responsibility:


            In this particular area, as a manager, you are in control of the money, budget, and planning. This maybe the first time you have actually had to handle such as task, so this area of the chapter will supply you with the basics.


 For starters, a “budget is an estimate of the costs for some activity over a given time frame” (Evans and Ward 164). A budget is plan that typically becomes fixed once it has been approved. The time frame of a budget is normally twelve months which is usually called the fiscal year to an organization. Your goal as a manager is to stick to the budget. You do not want to mismanage the money and overspend. This may hurt you because “funding authorities always review past spending patterns as part of the approval process. It may result in a reduction of the following year’s allocation by the amount of the over expenditure.” (Evans and Ward 164)


            It must also be noted that if you under spend; you could also see a reduction in your budget. As a manager, you must know the cost of doing business, so you can predict what type of funding needs you and the library will need more accurately in the future. According to Evans and Ward the budget process consists of:


*      Examining current economic trends and projections and review the parents’ organization’s long-range goals and plans. Periodically assess the user’s attitudes toward the service.

*      Examining the goals of the service in terms of the parent institution and the changing needs and wants of users. Based on those assessments, develop projected needs.

*      Examining the current operating costs and projected needs, as well as past fiscal performance and prepare a funding request.

*      Examining the rationales for the requests for new/additional funding and prepare a budget request defense plan. Present the request to the funding authorities.

*      Examining on a regular basis the actual operating costs in comparison to budgeted allocations. Make any necessary adjustments in order to stay on budget.

*      Examining any variances between projected and actual costs to determine if there is a problem or just change in workload

*      Examining variances for possible adjustments in current operations and implications for future budget requests.



Managing Diversity:


            Managing diversity isn’t an easy task, but it is something as a manager you will have to do.  As you develop your style and priorities as a manager within a special library, you must understand that each person you supervise will have their own background and issues:


                        The concept of managing diversity covers a range of groups, from persons

                        with disabilities to cultural or ethnic minorities. Managing diverse groups

                        often means managing people who do not share your background or values,

                        which can lead to gaps in communication and difficulty in creating

                        a sense of workplace community. Openness in communication and a

                        willingness to confront these gaps in outlook will serve you well.

                        (Gordon 100)


Because of diversity, you will have to make adjustments in your management style in order to manage different people effectively.  As a manager, your aim is to create a climate of trust:


                        A climate of trust supports individuals and where individuals take a

                        genuine interest in other people and their ideas, are willing to listen,

                        explore differences in a positive way, and clarify what is said and done.

                        the aim is to help people to work together as a team and be productive

                        and efficient. (Evans and Ward 204)


            Diversity management involves leadership commitment and involvement, direction-setting, a strategic action plan, accountability and responsibility, a system of measurement and an assessment process. (Evans and Wards 205)


Your Support Staff:


            Delegate! Delegate! Delegate! You are one person, which means you can’t do everything and be everywhere. Your support staff is there to help you. Your supports staff can consist of volunteers, student assistants, technical assistants, paraprofessionals, etc. Each staff member should be assigned a specific responsibility depending on their experience. However, you must keep in mind one thing:


                        Many support staff perceive their work in the library as “just a job”.

                        Although these individuals will do a good job and take pride in doing their

                        work well, they have less personal investment in the overall success of

                        the organization. (Mosley 51)


            As a manager, you must remember not to undermine your non-MLS staff members. Each person has something to offer to the organization. Besides, if you are coming into a new position; a new environment, the staff members are the ones who will make your adjustment in the new position smoother because they know the institution:


                        Many paraprofessionals possess a wealth of knowledge about a particular

                        institution, its customers, and its procedures, built up from years of experience…

                        separating out any group of people as less qualified, or less

                        than capable of participating in the complicated world and

                        work of librarianship is unfair to that group of people, undercuts

                        the mission and goals of the organization, and reflects poorly upon

                        the profession of librarianship itself. (Gordon 105)


Evaluating Employee Performance:


            The last thing that will be addressed in your crash course of your role as a manager is evaluating your employees through various appraisal tools and managing the performance of staff.


Appraisal tools and Manage Performance:


            All managers have to face the challenge of having to evaluate their staff. As a new manager, you should discuss the appraisal process in regards to the appraisal culture of the institution with your administrative supervisors, HR representatives and the support staff being appraised.


            Most annual appraisal forms will consist of the employee information, quantitative or categorized ratings, and future goals or objectives (Mosley):


                        The employee information will often include the employee’s name,

                        ID number, title, rank and a brief description of regular responsibilities

                        in the unit or organization. Quantitative or categorized ratings can be

                        numerical scores, a verbal scale, or both. The verbal scale will use a

                        range of terms such as excellent, above average, exceeds expectations…

                        the goals or objectives section set the stage for employees to understand

                        what will expected of them during the coming year. (Mosley 151)


            When preparing an evaluation it is important to focus on the facts and behavior of the individual rather than their attitude. Mosley states that a manager cannot tell an employee to be happier, less paranoid, etc. Instead the manager needs to address the behavior that results from the attitude. It is also important to remember that the evaluation must be kept private.


            Evaluating the performance of an employee should  go smoothly, but if you feel some tension or the employee is getting upset about the evaluation, you must remain calm and not let your emotions get carried away. Talk to the employee about their performance and remain firm. However, let them share how they feel about the evaluation. From there, both you and the employee should set goals on what needs to be done or worked on in order to get a better evaluation for the next year.




            In conclusion, the role of a manager varies and cannot be addressed in one chapter. However, you should be better equipped in knowing what is expected of you in your position as a manager of a special library or any library. Remember, this chapter was just a crash course; the test comes as you step into your role as a manager.





Bridges, Karl. Expectations of Librarians in the 21st Century. Westport, Connecticut:

            Greenwood Press, 2003.


Evans, G. Edward, and Patricia Ward. Beyond the Basics:The management Guide for

            Library and Information Professionals. London: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.,



Gordon, Rachel, The Accidental Library Manager. New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.,



Massis, Bruce, The Practical Library Manager. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information

             Press, 2003.


Mosley, Pixey. Transitioning from Librarian to Middle Manager. Westport, Connecticut:

             Libraries Unlimited, 2004.


Siess, Judith. Time Management Planning and Prioritization for Librarians. Lanham,

            Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2002.


Additional Readings:


Evans, G. Edward. Performance Management and Appraisal. New York: Neal-           

            Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2004.


Hayes, Robert . Models for Library Management, Decision-Making and Planning. Orlando, Florida: Academic Press, 2001.


Whitmell, Vicki. Staff Planning in a Time of Demographic Change. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2005.


Blumenstein, Lynn. "Librarian as CM LEA." Library Journal (2005): 38-40.


Sen, Barbara. "Market Orientation: A Concept for Health Libraries." Health Information

             and Libraries Journal 23(2006): 23-31.


Margulies, Patricia. "Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship."

            Leveraging the Skills of the Corporate Librarian to Enhance the Perceived Value

             of Information and Sustain Communities of Practice 7:1(2006):


Yamazaki, Hisamichi. "Changing Society, Role of Information Professionals and

             Strategy for Libraries." IFLA Journal 33:1(2007): 50-58.