“All that politicking and making nice with people sounds horrible.”
“I didn’t become a librarian to spend all day working on spreadsheets.”
“Oh, I never want to be management.”
“I could never do your job.”
“I never want a job like yours.”
“Don’t forget where you came from.”
“Are you sure you want that job?”
“Do you even like the work you do?”
We have an attitude problem as a profession. Read those comments I typed above. I’ve heard each and every one of them in the past six weeks. I’ll also grant that I’ve gotten a lot of congratulations — lots of “you rock!” and “I’m so happy for you” and “congratulations, I know you’ve worked hard for this” — but almost all of them were from people who care about me personally or have worked with me on an individual level. The above have almost all come from people in our profession who look at “management” and wrinkle their noses.
So let me offer my answers.
“All that politicking and making nice with people sounds horrible.” Actually, it sounds like what needs to be done in order to make sure that you have the support you need to do your work. Every time I smile and shake hands with an administrator, help out with a problem in another office, or provide information that someone outside the libraries needs, I add a piece of goodwill to the relationship. And someday you’ll need me to leverage that goodwill to ensure that a project inside the library succeeds. So it’s not horrible. It’s necessary. Also, being nice and helpful? Has its own rewards related to being the kind of person I want to be.
“I didn’t become a librarian to spend all day working on spreadsheets.” You know what? I did. I love data. I love information. I love manipulating it and studying it and making it tell me what I need to know. Excel and I are buddies. And if someone didn’t spend all day swimming in Excel, you wouldn’t have good, accurate, and fair information analysis available in your library. Don’t knock it. I like it, and you need me to like it, and the fact that I like it doesn’t make me somehow less of a librarian than you are.
“Oh, I never want to be management.” Well, I do. And I am. And you’re lucky someone is and does, because this ship doesn’t sail itself. Need someone to make a decision when two colleagues can’t agree? That’s management. Need someone to allocate funding fairly? That’s management. Need someone to advocate for the library? Management. Need someone to make hiring decisions? Management. Someone has to do it.
“I could never do your job.” In most cases, yeah, you could, you just don’t want to.
“I never want a job like yours.” Okay, that sounds more true. But do you have to say it in that tone? Because as I mentioned, I wanted this job, so talking about it like it’s made up of vinegar and mold is really, y’know, offensive.
“Don’t forget where you came from.” *headdesk* Do you think my personality is that malleable that I’ll somehow put on the Great Mantle Of (Not Paid As Well As You Think I Am) Leadership and suddenly forget that I was once a librarian? Or that I somehow no longer have a boss, or report to anyone, or care about the impact of my actions on anyone but myself? Who does that? And why do you think I’m one of those people?
“Are you sure you want that job?” …yes? I spent a lot of time and effort on the job application, I worked hard to present myself well in the phone and (two-day) in-person interview, I negotiated my salary, and after all of that, I wouldn’t have signed the contract if I didn’t. Really. I knew what I was getting into, and I thought long and hard about it. I want to succeed, and I wasn’t going to take the job if I didn’t think I could do it — and certainly not if I didn’t want to do it.
“Do you even like the work you do?” Again, and again, and again, YES.
I like knowing that every action in my day is in support of the work of the libraries. I like knowing that my decisions matter. I like knowing that I’m helping people. I like knowing that my time is useful and spent on valuable tasks. I like organizing. I like planning. I like developing strategies and watching them play out. I like making friends and cultivating relationships. I like thinking about complex problems. I like interacting with people with wildly different skill sets and interests.
I get to do all those things as Director of Libraries. So, yes. I like my job. I’m glad I have it.
And I’m truly sorry that so many people have had bad managers, mean bosses, and foolhardy leadership, but really: We have to get over it. We have a bad, bad attitude, as a profession, about management, and we need managers. Your boss will retire — and who will step into that role? You’d better hope it’s not one of the people who’s spent their career belittling managers. And if it’s one of the people who’s been consistently denigrated for wanting to be in a management role, I’ll bet my funky Fluevog heels that you’ll be relieved when you realize they’re a better person than you’ve given them credit for.