Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Captaining the Ship

A while back, a library science graduate student said something like, "did I tell you I've decided I don't want to be a library director?" to me. I'm pretty sure my response was, "Nobody in their right mind does." After we both laughed, I followed up with, "I felt the same way when I was new in the field. Goes to show you never know."

I remembered that conversation when I read a piece on The Chronicle of Higher Ed: "Don’t Cry for Me, Academia!" by Kevin J.H. Dettmar. In it, Dettmar speaks eloquently about his path to administration, and about how much he loves being a department chair. I found myself nodding along as I read each paragraph. Like Dettmar, I never envisioned a career that would lead to administration, but here I am.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of headaches involved with being in charge, but there's a lot of good in administration as well. In case you're considering moving to library administration, here are some of my favorite aspects of my job:
  • Having a voice/seat at the table. It's not that people didn't listen to me before this job, but there's something nice about the extra weight people both at my college and in the community give my words because I've got the word "director" in my job title. 
  • Setting the agenda. I've got a lot of strong feelings about the direction academic libraries should pursue, and being in administration gives me a way to follow that path. I'm not a dictator; I do listen. But I'm the one captaining the ship and I get to stear. (Sorry/not sorry about the mixed metaphor of paths and ships.)
  • Helping staff grow. I am still a bit shy of the word "mentor," but it's something I've really grown to love. As the director, I can require professional development and help people work to their strengths. I get to guide people through things they don't think they can do, just like Hamlet the Minipig up there. And that kind of opportunity is worth all the budget headaches in the world.

How about the rest of you? I know a lot of directors/managers/administrators read this blog. What do you like about being an administrator? Please leave a comment.

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