Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

Who shapes culture for the future?


One of last year’s LOEX sessions ended with a Q&A that centered on librarians judging their directors harshly and how directors aren’t being very transparent or inspiring of the line librarians reporting to them. That conversation has stayed with me, and I’ve spent a lot of energy and time over the last year pondering  the roles and responsibilities of library directors, Deans, and other high level administrators. I’ve also been looking at a lot of Administrative changes in the past year — a new job (new Unit Head, and anew structure which includes a Library Dean/UL), the Director at my former place of work announcing her retirement, a colleague being raised up in her place, and now an imminent transitioning of my current unit head, — leadership in all its flavors has been on my mind a lot.

If you ice that cupcake cake with the knowing that I’ve been reading strategic plans to analyze for SWOTS identified therein (for my Marketing class…) and filter all that through the byzantine maze that is my inner workings, you find me asking one question:  How does/how should organizational culture fit into the responsibilities and visi0ns of high level administrators?

I’m sure it does fit, but I’m not sure I’m seeing how it is being positively and actively shaped from on high. I’m also left wondering if my own sense of what a healthy, dynamic, vibrant, organizational culture looks like might be very different that the optimal culture as seen from the Administration offices.

That LOEX session urged more transparency and charitable viewing of what directors do, so it’s in that vein that I am posing this question — do you see your Dean, Director, Unit Head, University Librarian, as having a role in creating, developing, changing or sustaining organizational culture? In what ways? Do you see them taking on active roles in shaping it? If so, how? If you are an administrator, how do you deal with this? Help me see it!


2 thoughts on “Who shapes culture for the future?

  1. Rudy, I finally had a chance to look back at my notes from LOEX 2008, and it was the Friday morning keynote/plenary session by Laurel Ofstein, entitled “Creative Collaboration: Setting the Course for the Future of Library Instruction” where those comments from the audience were made.

    Thanks for this post! It’s very thought-provoking, and a reminder of why I’m often glad I’m in a 12-person library now, instead of many degrees of supervision away from “the administration.”

  2. I’m really spoiled, I guess, that like Catherine I’m in a library small enough that we don’t have administrators, directors or (shudder) supervisors. The people I work with are professionals. They certainly don’t need any heads since they each come equipped with their own noggins.

    Organizational culture can’t be ordained from above. If it’s an unhappy culture, an administrator (if you have to have one) should help the group diagnose what’s going wrong and try to create conditions that make good things happen. But – why wait for an administrator to do that? Counting on an administrator to fix problems means the problems run pretty deep (as in either having structures that make professional people powerless or having a history of choosing to be helpless in hopes someone else will do the hard work).

    Or the administrator and/or the power structure IS the problem. Nothin’ a little insurrection won’t fix :o)

    One of the problems with our profession is that leadership is equated with supervision. If you supervise, you get to move up. The more you supervise, the more you are qualified to be in charge. People should be recognized as leaders because they’re making neat things happen even if they aren’t making other people make things happen.

    Okay, now I’m babbling…. but I think we make our lives hard sometimes by having hierarchies that we don’t need.

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