Advice from a Texan Yankee in McGill’s Library Court

By Justin Soles

This piece of advice from McGill’s Trenholme Dean of Libraries, Dr. Colleen Cook, is the third of five. Be sure to check out what else Dr. Cook has to share with us fledgling professionals in posts below!

3. Be Prepared to Make Decisions

Dr. Cook reiterated what Prof. Bouthillier said during SIS orientation: regardless of where you work or what you end up doing, you will be expected to make decisions. Although this might sound scary, Dr. Cook provided the following advice regarding decision-making:

  • Not making a decision is the same as making a decision…and the worst-case scenario might be to leave things as they are.
  • If you make a decision and it turns out to be wrong, be prepared to admit that you were wrong and then make it right.
  • No decision is permanent; you can always undo a decision that you made.
  • Regardless of the magnitude of the decision, always strive to avoid “doing harm” to anyone, including your users, your staff and yourself!

Dr. Cook also provided some advice about developing your own decision-making style. In her case, she watched how leaders at Texas A&M made their decisions (both good and bad), and was also challenged by her peers when it came to her own decisions. As a result, Dr. Cook’s decision making style is inclusive: she’ll listen to as many views as possible so her decision will be based on what she has heard tempered against her experience. If it turns out that the decision was wrong, she’ll admit it and then try to undo it.

Although Dr. Cook had the benefit of working with and learning from some great leaders, her advice regarding decisions is best summed up as follows: “There’s no decision in a library that can’t be undone…except maybe the amount of steel in the walls. And even then, you can always add to the [building’s] load-bearing capacity.”

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