The First Year: 5 strategies for a successful public library directorship by Jamie LaRue

Over the past several years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching several new public library directors. For a variety of reasons, many directors are stepping into the role for the first time. Often, particularly in smaller or more rural libraries, they haven’t even had a lot of supervisory experience.

I tell new directors that the two big advantages of confidential access to someone who has walked in your shoes is that (a) you can ask the questions you might feel embarrassed to ask your board or staff, and (b) you have the advantage of someone else’s mistakes. To be clear, everybody makes mistakes. It may be the most powerful learning tool we have. But I’ve thought about my mistakes, and I can help you identify the old ones, and with luck, make new ones. There’s no good reason to make the same ones!

I believe that there are five key constituencies the public library director must satisfy: your boss (usually a board), your staff (both direct reports and the larger culture of the organization), your communityyour profession, and–the most overlooked of the five–yourself. If you put a relationship management strategy together, you are far less likely to be surprised by events, and far more likely to succeed.

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