Advice from a Texan Yankee in McGill’s Library Court

By Justin Soles

Guys, we’ve got 80% of Dr. Cook’s advice! That’s like an A- or something! Check in at the end of the week for the final instalment of the Advice from a Texan Yankee in McGill’s Library Court series.

4. Care About Your People

Although it’s somewhat clichéd, a library is more than a static collection of books: it is also a collection of people, including librarians, cataloging technicians, shelvers, webmasters, desk staff and possibly library volunteers. Although this group may sometimes act like a dysfunctional family, Dr. Cook pointed out that your people skills are just as (if not more) important to the smooth functioning of a library, archive or information center as your technical and managerial skills.

In terms of the ‘soft-skills’ worth developing, Dr. Cook suggested focusing on effectively listening to your staff and users. She also recommended getting out of your office to regularly meet your staff and users in their “homes” since neither of these groups will actively seek you out until a crisis has developed.

However, the most important soft-skill that Dr. Cook feels that librarians must have can be the most difficult to maintain: caring genuinely about your staff and showing them that you do care about them as people. As anyone who’s taken Information Agency Management (GLIS 620) learns, factors like union rules/collective agreements, arguments and grudges over promotions, budget/staff cuts, flextime benefits and holiday/vacation schedules can affect library staff and lead to a toxic work environment. Regardless of the day-to-day struggles and problems, Dr. Cook pointed out that at the end of the day “…you really do have to care about your people…you just can’t fake this stuff.”

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