Core Dialogue with Directors Interest Group

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About this Group

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Purpose: Provides a venue for directing questions and concerns towards current and retired directors for open discussion. Possible topics could include leadership, library school education, major issues facing directors, preparing for an administrative role, positives and negatives of directing a library, and the thought processes of directors in day-to-day operations. The goal is to provide a group where directors and the curious alike can equally gain from the back and forth discussions, and educate people in the roles and experiences of directors.

This group is part of Core's Leadership and Management Section.

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  • 1.  Advice for a Brand New Director

    Posted Oct 30, 2020 08:07 AM
    Dear fine Core colleagues,

    My name is Kellie Barbato, and after being laid off from an Access Services Librarian role in May, I have found myself in my first library director role at the Columbia, SC campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University. I am hoping that all you "seasoned" directors might think back to when you were first a director, and answer this: what do you know now that you wish you knew then?

    Thanks a lot!

    Kellie Barbato
    Director, Lineberger Library
    Lenoir-Rhyne University

  • 2.  RE: Advice for a Brand New Director

    Posted Oct 31, 2020 12:14 PM
    Hello Kellie,

    I'm happy to offer a few tips based on my early experiences. I would say  emotional intelligence and empathy are very important, but  conversely it is important to be smart about the emotions you show. You walk a fine line where you want to be real with people, you want to allow yourself to be vulnerable sometimes as that helps to form relationships and trust, but you have to consider whether showing certain emotions are constructive or not.  I think the real dividing line is in restraining negative emotions directed towards people. If  a colleague angers you, it's usually better not to show the emotion in that; whereas if you're frustrated with administration, that can be a decent bonding point as they probably are as well.

    Your leadership style is going to vary from other people. It's okay to not feel comfortable doing something others do. Be real and true to yourself. No one wants an inauthentic leader.  Many people will say you  should be interested in your colleague's families and personal lives. If you and they are comfortable with that, great! If you are not comfortable with that, then don't. I don't think you should ever stay 100% 'professional' in the relationships and totally avoid that, but you don't have to seek it out or indulge in it if you aren't comfortable with it.

    Last one! Do not ask people for input on things that you likely can't control or where you likely won't follow the group consensus. Very much do include people on decisions and get their opinions, but if something came down and you know that most likely you're going to have to do X because administration wants it, tell people that. If you ask them for input and then turn around and have to do something mandated anyway, they're going to be less interested in providing input on other things.

    Daniel Wilson
    Director of Library & Learning Services
    American InterContinental University

  • 3.  RE: Advice for a Brand New Director

    Posted Nov 02, 2020 07:39 AM

    Hello Kellie,


    Congratulations on your new position.  You might find something useful in the two articles I wrote for Public Libraries magazine.  Links are below.


    ·  Go For It! Advice From Library Directors Public Libraries May/June 2019

    ·  May I Ask You a Question? Lessons Learned from Interviewing Public Library Leaders – Public Libraries Nov/Dec. 2015


    Good luck and have fun!


    Douglas Crane - Director
    Palm Beach County Library System

    3650 Summit Blvd. West Palm Beach FL 33406

    561-233-2600 -

    Our Mission: "To Connect Communities, Inspire Thought and Enrich Lives"

    Our Vision: "Opening Minds to a World of Unlimited Possibilities "


    Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing. Some e-mail may contain library information which is confidential pursuant to Florida Statute 257.261 and exempt from disclosure under the public records law 119.01.

  • 4.  RE: Advice for a Brand New Director

    Posted Nov 03, 2020 05:07 AM
    Congratulations, Kellie! I'm still a fairly new director myself, but a couple things stand out quickly:
    1. Spend the first 6 months learning your new environment and building relationships (internal and external). No matter how many ideas you have or how many changes need to be implemented, be patient and wait. People can't trust the process until they trust the leader. That means you need to be very aware of how you're coming across to others in the little, day-to-day things.
    2. Communicate constantly. You basically can't overcommunicate, especially during times of uncertainty or change. Explain everything you're doing and that's happening. Be discreet when you need to, but as transparent as you can possibly be. Engage staff in the decision-making process when you can, so they can "own" some part of it and be more invested. But seriously, communicate, communicate, communicate - in writing, verbally, nonverbally, to everyone, all the time. Some days you'll feel like all you do is relay information, package it for the right audiences and answer "why" all day!

    Try Michael D. Watkins' book The First 90 DaysGreat strategies for getting off on the right foot!

    Julie Phillips
    Library Director
    Botetourt County Libraries