Contents - Previous - Next
On library management (I)
Biblioteka Akademii Medycznej
(Library of the Academy of Medicine)
This article is a continuation of the subject matter initially dealt with in "Wybrane problemy organizacji pracy w bibliotece" ("Selected problems of the organisation of library work"), Poradnik Bibliotekarza (Librarian's Guide), Nos. 10/81, 11-12/81, 1/82.
The presentation of several theoretical aspects of management science, based on examples taken from work in libraries, is intended to give interested individuals a better understanding of these important issues. They certainly deserve to be taken up, because many people still believe that management and administration are easy and do not require special training, that to be a good superior it suffices to be well versed in the domain of activities of the institution to be directed, and finally that it is quite enough to be a good professional in the particular field, so that the better the professional, the better prepared he is to occupy a managerial post.
In a large organisational unit, the post of director requires mostly managerial qualifications. On the other hand, the lower one goes down the official hierarchy, that is, the smaller the organisational unit to be directed, the greater the importance of technical qualifications in the sense of professional expertise, and the lesser the degree to which managerial qualifications are needed. Those who occupy non-supervisory working positions do not have to display any managerial abilities, except in so far as such abilities are useful for the organisation of their own work. This view has been illustrated by Fayol by means of the following diagram:
|Senior manager (e.g. chief librarian)||Professional EXPERTISE||People MANAGEMENT|
|Middle manager (e.g. department director)|
|Immediate supervisor (e.g. head of section or branch)|
Hence the often derided view that management is a profession does not deserve blanket condemnation in all instances. To be a professional manager is very difficult and requires extensive training. It does not work well when managerial posts are filled by people who do not have the right preparation, who are not experts in the given field (even this happens, and not infrequently!), or who do not even have the necessary education, but who "have to" occupy such a post, for some reasons that often are not even made public.
The ability to manage people is a difficult art and responsible work, requiring thorough preparation. For this purpose, many post-secondary institutions have established departments with the task of conducting research and dispensing education in the science of administration and organisation. We also have active institutes and departments devoted to the subject of work organisation and administration, but can we truly assert that we are training managers appropriately, can we pride ourselves on having the right managerial cadres trained to work and manage in various settings and in various professions? In particular, do we train managers and directors for libraries?
One last introductory remark. No worker, even one with no-one to supervise, but with a carefully specified set of tasks and responsibilities, can possibly become a good worker if he is unable to organise his work, and his own personal actions within the establishment, if these actions are not well planned, goal-oriented and economically implemented.
Management and administration
Management is the art of influencing subordinates to act as desired by the managing superior.
From this definition we see that there can be no question of management if a specific individual, the manager, is not assigned at least one worker or a team of workers as subordinates. One cannot be a manager if one does not manage people, that is, if one has no subordinates.
The encyclopaedia definition states (Encyklopedia organizacji i zarzadzania (Encyclopaedia of organisation and administration), Warsaw, 1981, pg. 207): "Manager - superior or individual directing a given team of people, which constitutes a formal organisational unit..."
J. Kurnal (Zarys teorii organizacji i zarzadzania (Outline of the theory of organisation and administration), Warsaw, 1969, pg. 259) asserts: "In the event that the object being guided is a single person or team of people, the guiding individual should be called a manager, whereas when the object being guided is neither a single person nor a team of people, the guiding individual should be viewed as a driver".
Thus the statement that someone "guides" or "steers" (in colloquial Polish) something, does not at all mean that the person in question is a manager. A bus is steered by its driver, while a book-lending outlet with a one-person staff is run by the librarian.
I have often been confronted with the view that one can manage a substance or material resources, such as a book-lending institution. This view is even held by some librarians.
It bears stressing yet again that one cannot be a manager if one is not a superior, that one cannot be a manager if one administers only material resources (resources are objects used to achieve goals: people, materials, tools, machines, energy, etc.).
Thus we see that administration pertains not only to people, but also to material objects, premises, furnishings and materials contained in such premises, including library collections. The encyclopaedic definition of this term runs as follows: "Administration - action based an exercising control over resources" (T. Pszczolowski: Mala encyklopedia prakseologii i teorii organizacji (Short encyclopaedia of the practice and theory of organisation), Wroclaw, 1978, pg. 288).
It must also be stressed that management is possible only within the framework of official relations between a superior and his subordinates. A craftsman delegated by an university's maintenance department to repair, for example, library shelves, is not a subordinate of the school's library director; he is only carrying out specific instructions. This craftsman can become a subordinate of the library director if his post is transferred to the library, and the individual placed under the authority of the director.
There is yet another concept, that of tour guide, that requires precise explanation. A mountain expedition may be led by a guide; the participants are not bound to him by any employment contract or official relationship, but rather by a specific agreement for services to be rendered by the tourism organisation employing the guide. It is characteristic of this sort of situation that the participants subordinate themselves to the guide voluntarily, through an agreement which they can themselves terminate under certain conditions.
Various styles of management are distinguished:
The paternalistic style, consisting in treating subordinates like family members, is essentially a thing of the past (although it can still be encountered in Japan); it obliges the superior to organise not only the place of work, but also the subordinates' outside lives, by making sure that they have places to live, food to eat, etc.
The autocratic style is one whereby the worker has his working method dictated from above, he is not allowed to question or discuss the instructions he receives, their implementation is carefully verified, and all the subordinate's actions are supervised. The autocratic director imposes his point of view on subordinates, requiring that his orders be followed unquestioningly.
The democratic style or integrationist style consists in the manager giving his subordinates a sense of common interest, trying to influence them so as to make them feel co-responsible for the results of the unit's operations.
A manager with a consultative style is one who acts more as an adviser than in any other role with respect to his subordinates.
A manager with a liberal style is one who gives his subordinates a free hand, not interfering in their work unless there is some particular justification for doing so.
It is difficult to indicate which course is best. The superior's actions essentially depend on the circumstances; he sometimes has to be an autocrat, although in the long run it is no doubt better to adopt a democratic style, a democratic-consultative style, or in certain situations, with respect to specific groups of workers, a liberal style. It is important to take into consideration who the subordinates are. In a library they are usually colleagues with similar professional training, who understand well their own tasks and the institution's goals. Therefore libraries should be managed primarily in a liberal fashion, in conjunction with aspects of the democratic (our common professional goal is the promotion of culture) and consultative styles.
A library director is responsible for the overall operation of his institution. The principle of one-person management consists in concentrating in the hands of a single individual full responsibility fo fulfillment of the organisation's tasks, and for the smooth functioning of all its organisational units. It assumes that there exists one superior for each team of workers carrying out common tasks.
The principle of one-person management is closely connected with measures to promote team decision-making; the institution's director works with a specific team to resolve the difficult issues, complicated situations and important problems. He should take into consideration the opinions of experts, professional colleagues and representatives of users or clients. The team should not be encumbered with simple matters, requiring immediate reaction; such matters must be left to the one-person administration of the director. Team decision-making is justified only for matters that are important, complicated and have long-term consequences.
A library director must take into account the opinions and decisions of such teams, and he must be able to co-operate well with them. Under no circumstances is he permitted to make light of team members or their views as specialists.
Trivial matters must not be passed on to the library board, commission or council, or any other statutory consultative body acting within the library. Each library is a state institution, providing services to users as specified in the Libraries Act. Hence the director and librarians must pay attention to the opinions of the library's consultative bodies, modifying their decisions and actions on the basis of these opinions, and ensuring that users are represented on such bodies.
The superior's authority
A superior's power is entirely dependent on the post he occupies. The extent of this power is defined in regulations or in a post description.
A library director's range of powers is usually defined in the library's statuses or by provisions of its operational regulations. In this respect, everything is clearly written down. But it is considerably more difficult to gain authority over one's subordinates. Authority does not spring from rules, decrees, statutes and regulations; authority is a human property that depends on the individual. A manager with authority is one whose instructions are carried out willingly.
Subordinates respect his professional knowledge, experience and personal qualities such as trustworthiness, fairness in the evaluation of workers, concern for the collective's interests, etc.
In a large library, the range of powers of each department director is identical, but one may win high authority among his workers, while another will never achieve such authority. In this case the decisions of the first manager are implemented willingly and without question, while those of the second are doubted, his instructions are discussed and changed, the team of workers he leads finds it very difficult to co-operate and runs into various problems.
A superior's authority can spring from three separate sources:
1. Formal authority is acquired by the superior through the very act of appointment, for instance to the post of library director.
2. Knowledge-based authority is a function of the given individual's education or practical achievements; for example, the director of a bibliography department may impress his colleagues with an ability to process material rapidly and correctly, he may be the author or co-author of several published volumes of a respected bibliography, etc.
3. Personal authority is acquired through the superior's behaviour and personal traits. This form of authority is both the most important and the most difficult to achieve.
On library management (II)
Biblioteka Akademii Medycznej
(Library of the Academy of Medicine)
PRINCIPLES OF MANAGING THE WORK OF SUBORDINATES
Centralisation and decentralisation
These terms, usually associated with organisation on a large scale, also apply to the management of human beings. From the work organisation point of view, centralisation means setting up units based on communality of tasks. This facilitates specialisation, and ensures economy of operations as well as the development of centres of specialisation within the organisation, but at the same time it results in the formation of an unwieldy pyramidal power structure. Managerial decisions are taken mostly at the top of the pyramid, and then distorted as they percolate through lower levels of the hierarchy. Rigid decision-making, not based on consultation, make sit difficult or even impossible to adapt flexibly to special local conditions. Managers of subordinate organisational units are accountable only for precisely carrying out tasks assigned to them. This dampens their initiative and has a negative influence on the work flow.
Decentralisation provides more independence, allowing for adaptation of the organisational unit's internal structure to its character, to local conditions and operational needs. In a decentralised system, the superior determines only broad indications and guidelines, leaving it up to managers of hierarchically lower units to fill in the details of instructions.
It is difficult to imagine the Ministry of Culture and Arts deciding in detail how to allocate financial resources for library purchases to all public libraries, on an equitable basis of some mechanical indicator, such as the population of the service area, and going even further, deciding what the acquisitions should be, which would be typical of a centralised administration. In a decentralised mode of administration, individual community libraries are granted the right to fashion their own acquisition policies, building a library collection that meets user needs (and of late, unfortunately, that does not exceed budgetary limitations).
As part of the same topic, it is important to understand the principle of democratic centralism. It is based on the need to adapt each institution's activities to general planning principles, while leaving individual organisational units with as much independence as possible for the selection of their operational ways and means.
The principle of single-source direction states that each subordinate receives instructions from only one superior, and is accountable for following them only to that superior. It is a violation of this principle when a library director gives instructions to a worker over the head of that worker's direct superior, such as a department or section manager. This can lead to the worker receiving two different sets of directions on the same matter, with the immediate superior not knowing what his subordinate is doing, or what tasks were assigned to him.
Every superior must be aware of the fact that his subordinates have varying qualifications and different character traits. A library director must treat individual department managers differently, and they too must not deal with all their subordinates the same way. The principle of differentiation applies both to evaluation of work completed, and to the manner of giving directions.
The manager who wants to know and decide about everything spends too much time on details, and has too little left over for the most fundamental and important matters. Thus he has to be able to choose the problems that he ought to solve himself. Most of his interventions should be related to his supervisory function, and it is not desirable that intervention appear on his regular agenda, as an activity planned in advance. Intervention should always be used to incite workers to improve, in specific situations, such as following justified complaints by users, entries in the library's book of recommendations and complaints, information from librarians, etc.
Taking economic factors into account
This is very important for directors of autonomous organisational units, and hence for public library directors. Rational economic activity consists in taking economic factors (in a very broad sense - not just financial savings) into consideration when choosing optimal solutions. Economical activity involves, for instance, deciding to purchase expensive equipment only when it is needed and will be fully utilised. It would be uneconomical to decide to buy a machine for copying index cards for a small library that uses only two copies of the catalogue.
Economy of operations can be achieved in direct ways, through economical analysis of present and planned circumstances, and also in indirect ways, for example by appropriately influencing subordinates, by taking advantage of their individual abilities, by paying careful attention to working conditions and staff qualifications.
Striving for progress
Every institution needs progress in its activities. Regular incitement to progress is one of the responsibilities of every manager. Active efforts to achieve progress require adopting the following assumptions:
One of the superior's duties is to create conditions in which new ideas will be generated, in which workers will suggest innovations. Attempts to progress and improve are often manifested by re-organisation efforts. But one must not forget that every re-organisation has some negative influence on the institution's operations ("constant re-organisation is disorganisation" - Tadeusz Kotarbinski). Only after workers become familiar with a new operational system does productivity rise back up to the previous level, and some time is needed for this level to be surpassed.
It can even happen, and not infrequently, that progress runs into worker resistance. Sometimes a great amount of energy must be devoted to overcoming such resistance, either by persuasion, or by introducing innovations gradually, following a period of experimentation and training.
The achievement of organisational and economic progress must always be one of the fundamental goals of every manager. Decisions taken in this regard must be carefully thought out, discussed with workers and implemented consistently.
Listening to subordinates' advice
To be well prepared for his supervisory functions, a library director should be a qualified professional librarian. This does not mean that he has to be the worker who best knows all the aspects and operational details of his profession and his institution, or even that he has to be an outstanding library scientist. Department managers have to know certain details better than the director, and therefore it is sensible in specific situations to hear their opinions and to take advantage of their advice. Managers on hierarchically lower levels should also listen to and take into account the opinions of their subordinates. In matters concerning workers, one should also listen to the views of representatives of political organisations, trade unions and professional associations. It is also necessary to maintain good relations with the advisory bodies associated with the library, such as library boards, commissions or councils, consisting in part or in whole of professional librarians. The wise director values independence of worker opinions, and makes appropriate use of views expressed by the "institution's opposition". Criticism stimulates his reflection, and very often shows him the way to the best solution of a difficult problem.
The correct way to approach subordinates
A superior must not undermine the authority of middle managers in the eyes of their subordinates. Any critical remarks or assessments should be made on a one-none basis, or in the course of a managerial meeting. When pointing out errors, one must never wound the personal dignity of the worker under fire. One may offend a subordinate by explaining things that are obvious to him, by expressing doubts about his ability to deal with a specific matter, by treating him as an inexperienced beginner, etc. Even a new worker, who is in fact inexperienced, should be treated correctly, with all due respect.
One expression of respect for those who work with a library director is careful preparation for meetings of the library management team, and attentively listening to its members' remarks. A director must also be able to write appropriate critical reports about the work of individual organisational units of the library, and about that of the managers of these units.
Three levels of management can be distinguished:
The distinctions among these three levels are not clear-cut; in some libraries they become quite blurred, especially with respect to intermediate management and individuals entrusted with direct supervision of specific workers.
The activity of workers occupying managerial positions consists of the following functions:
Setting operational goals
The range of activities of any institution is determined by some legal document. This may be a statute (e.g. 'Statute of 9 April 1968 on libraries'), an administrative directive or decree of a body of the national government (e.g. 'Directive of the Minister of Higher Education, dated 18 March 1961, in the matter of organisational structure and action guidelines for university libraries...'), a library charter (e.g. a municipal public library charter, certified by the head of the municipality, in accordance with 'Directive No. 103 of the Minister of Culture and Arts, dated 30 November 1973, in the matter of a model charter for municipal public libraries'), or organisational regulations (as issued, for instance, to a university library by the rector).
The library's operational mandate determines its permanent goals (e.g. providing access to learning aids such as textbooks and course notes for students). A particular permanent goal gives rise to specific, interim goals; for instance, the task of organising a library network within an institution of higher education gives rise to the specific goal of organising a small library in a particular institute or for a particular department.
It is the task of the overall superior to move in the direction of fulfilling his institution's basic goals. It is his responsibility to assign partial, intermediate tasks whose total realisation constitutes a basic goal. These tasks are entrusted to workers of particular organisational units, that is, managers on hierarchically lower levels; they, in turn, carry out these tasks personally, or assign them to their own subordinates.
Analysis of the current situation
In order correctly to determine intermediate tasks leading to achievement of the institution's basic goals, the person in charge must first analyse the institution's current and future situation. This situation consists of the means and resources available to the institution, and of the conditions under which the institution must function.
In analysing the means and resources available to a library, its director must determine above all:
In drawing conclusions from this analysis, the director must determine how best to take advantage of the team of librarians, as well as other workers, employed by the institution, and of the library's known collections, while operating under specific conditions and for well-defined users, so as to fulfill the library's tasks as completely as possible.
Determination by the director of the library's way of achieving its goals makes it possible to formulate details of the institution's plan of action, aimed at systematically carrying out the library's tasks. Specific details of the plan of action constitute the basis for drawing up tasks to be entrusted to particular organisational units of the library, as well as the functions of individual librarians and other operational workers.
The document allocating tasks to the various organizational nits, as drawn up by the library director, is binding upon each team of workers for a substantial period of time, until something is reorganized, for example in connection with the institution taking on new tasks, or on the basis of new and more complete experience acquired by the library management, director, council, commission or advisory committee.
The job description, as signed by each worker, is a document containing directives that bind him for a long period, in principle for several years, and often throughout the time he spends working at a specific post in a specific department. The newly hired librarian, assigned for example to the Processing Department, will undergo some introductory training, and will then work on alphabetical processing of the library's acquisitions this will be his basic task. However, each worker, in addition to his permanent regular functions, will receive, from his superior, occasional tasks or short-term instructions, depending on the library's current tasks and functions - for the next day, for a few days or for a week. This is usually allowed for in the job description ("Carrying out such other tasks as may be assigned to him from time to time by the department manager").
As we see from the above, the superior's function consists in planning tasks that his subordinates are to work at, and in determining the regular and occasional goals they are to achieve. In planning tasks and assigning specific functions to subordinates, the superior should apply the principle of the right man for the right job. Therefore he must have a good idea of what work his subordinates are trained for, in which fields they are specialists, and the type of work they like to do.
Acquiring such knowledge is part of the managerial function of analysis of the current situation. When deciding about assignments of workers to public library branches in a large city, it is well also to take into consideration personal relationships among co-workers, the distance from the worker's residence to his place of work, and even a seemingly unjustified desire to change one's place of work.
The library director should never underestimate the importance of informal ties among workers, taking advantage of them to improve the working atmosphere, to raise productivity, to enhance efficiency, and he should also show understanding for any particularly close friendships, drawing appropriate conclusions from such observations. A superior should alawys try to make sure that his subordinates are as satisfied as possible with their work, and he should take into account as much as possible their suggestions and recommendations, whenever there are no strong grounds for rejection.
Work organisation consists of two groups of functions:
The first involves preparing subordinates for their work, so that they can, are able to and want to carry out their assigned tasks. Each worker must be given the tools he needs, and his working conditions must conform to prevailing safety and hygiene regulations. Each work station must be carefully designed and adequately equipped, so as to make it possible for the worker efficiently to carry out his assigned tasks. It is advisable first to test his professional capabilities; it may be necessary to give him additional training, but one must not exaggerate in this respect, for fear of demotivating, boring or even offending the worker.
Each employee must be convinced that his work is meaningful and needed, that without his contribution the institution's goals would not be fully achieved; he must be psychologically prepared and motivated for his assigned functions. At the same time, the worker should be aware of the fact that if he does not make an effort, if he does not work well, if he is negligent or commits some offence, then there will be consequences, for the superior will be obliged to mete out a condign sanction
The superior is responsible for generating a good atmosphere in the institution. He must remember that a good worker cannot be efficient under disorganised conditions, that nobody thrives in disorder and chaos. Workers should be given clear and definite instructions' and they must be treated seriously. The superior has the responsibility of showing understanding for the worker's problems and personal difficulties, and he must also express recognition for the worker's efforts. Neither is he allowed to become too close with his staff; this is necessary for the maintenance of discipline in the institution.
The second group of organisational functions of a superior involves providing material resources and working conditions. In a library, these functions include arranging premises, with appropriate furniture and equipment, and especially acquiring whatever library materials are needed, as the basic raw material for the institution's operations. Providing good working conditions includes paying attention to the hygiene, cleanliness and aesthetics of premises.
These two groups of functions are equally important for good work organisation. The superior must also be able to organise irregular operations, he must be prepared to set up an appropriate procedure for unexpected situations, emergencies, when atypical tasks have to be carried out, etc.
Managerial functions include both organising one's own work and managing the work of subordinates.
In organising the activities of subordinates, the superior directs the institution's entire work flow, he decides to start work, he may decide to introduce changes in obsolete procedures, working methods or organisation of tasks, he directs work in progress and decides to terminate it.
The decision that an institution is to start working is not just a formality; it must be preceded by verification that the staff and materials are ready. Once commenced, work should continue smoothly, without interruption or disturbance, and under conditions conducive to careful execution. Every librarian knows that, for instance, the daily opening of a lending library must be preceded by a number of preparatory actions, that cannot be executed once the users are inside and waiting to be served; once the lending library is open, customers should be served continuously and efficiently.
In the course of the institution's everyday activities, the superior follows the progress of work, by listening to regular reports submitted by managers hierarchically below him. He should not intervene if everything is taking place in accordance with the plan and his expectations; it is his task to supervise the flow of operations, always ready to intervene, but only if the need arises.
Intervention by a library director in the work of the Processing Department, for example, should be limited to cases when he observes an excessive concentration or backlog of work, or when he obtains information suggesting that the department is not functioning smoothly. Unjustified intervention or "interference" in the work of a department is pointless and can be harmful, because it undermines the department manager's authority, and gets in the way of good, systematic completion of tasks. The role of the director is to co-ordinate work among departments, and to promote harmonious operation of the institution as a whole. The director must always be "visible" in the library, the workers must sense his presence, knowing that he pays attention to their work, that he cares about it, and that he is ready to intervene.
A good superior should not look as if he is overworked. His actions should be well organised, and he should be able to intervene, to explain or to give advice at any time.
It can happen that the work of an institution departs from the established plan because of some disturbance. In such cases the superior must take appropriate action to eliminate the disturbance, by deciding to change or re-organise something. For instance, a library director may decide that a worker dealing with acquisition processing should do duty temporarily in a reading room, in order to take up slack caused by another worker being absent for health reasons.
When deciding to stop the day's work, the superior is responsible, among other things, for making sure that the premises and collections are adequately protected. It is also very important that the library's work be organised in such a way as not to cause, as a result of library closing, unnecessary problems for readers. For instance, any library materials they are currently using in the reading room must not be sent back to storage, lent out or even temporarily made accessible to another reader; conditions must be such that each reader can continue his work on the next day with no problems or loss of time.
Library closing must also be accompanied by a number of regular activities (switching off the 1-ights, keeping the keys safe, etc.). It is the director's responsibility to hand down corresponding decisions and instructions, and then to make sure that workers carry out their assigned tasks in accordance with these instructions.
Every superior must supervise continuously, both on a regular and on a spot-check basis. Regular supervision by a library director includes checking the list of those present every day; this will show him to what extent the various work stations are staffed, and whether it is necessary, for example, to reinforce one part of the organisation, to avoid difficulties in the form of "bottle-necks", etc. A library director also analyses regularly the employment records, reports from library branches and other such documents, as informational input for his decisions.
Spot-checks usually involve personally verifying the institution's state of operations. The library director carries out his supervisory functions during visits to individual work stations.
One of the most important forms of regular supervision in a library is stock-taking, or comparing the actual collection with listings in inventory registers or other documents. In small libraries full stock-taking is carried out at times set out in the regulations; in large ones, partial stock-taking constitutes a significant aspect of "collection control".
The results of stock-taking are very valuable for the director, giving him a good sense of the state of the library's collections, and allowing him to draw conclusions and form opinions about the work of individual departments, satellite libraries or branches.
The supervisory functions of a library director are different from those of managers of departments, sections, branches or satellite libraries. A high priority in the director's plan of work is allocated to regular supervision, through analysis of documents, reports, complaints and suggestions he receives. Any spot-checks by the director should be the result of conclusions he draws from such analysis.
Managers of organisational units are obliged to control and supervise work in progress, while at the same time personally carrying out the responsibilities flowing from their range of activities, and from the work plan of their department or section. The supervision they do is connected with the responsibility of reacting to signs of negligent work, but also of making an appropriate assessment, when they observe that one of their subordinates is particularly diligent and effective in his work. Naturally, they should also react to remarks by readers and users of the institution.
When carrying out supervisory functions, it must not be forgotten that some workers are offended by having their work checked. The most appropriate reaction to this sort of attitude is for the superior to state that the reason for the supervision is not lack of trust, but rather the great importance of the subordinate's work, a desire to become more familiar with his range of activities, recognition for his professional abilities, and the superior's own thirst for knowledge. There are also workers who like to be observed, and to hear the positive results of their work talked about; praise and recognition stimulate them to work even better.
Supervision is the superior's most important function. It is meaningful only if the results are carefully analysed, and if conclusions drawn lead to improving the institution's work.
Contents - Previous - Next