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close this bookInternational Reader in the Management of Library, Information and Archive Services (UNESCO, 1987, 684 p.)
close this folder1. Management, information and development
close this folder1.3 Management and the information service
View the documentOrganization: in general and in principle
View the documentManagement Training and Background
View the documentOn library management (I)
View the documentOn library management (II)
View the documentThe library manager

The library manager


Libraries need management because they are organizations. Like other organizations libraries have certain goals to fulfil in society and they have people to enable them to accomplish those goals. To neglect the knowledge of management would be tantamount to rejecting the management theories and practices being applied in other organizations which are striving to meet the changing needs of society and to improve their performance.

Libraries are not dead or inanimate things. They are organic; the' evolve and they exist for a purpose. Because service to society is the purpose of libraries, because libraries employ people who have to be managed to provide that service, not in any manner but with design and commitment, the knowledge of management becomes a must. As libraries grow continually in size and complexity, human relations, staff consultation and participation will be a sure means of securing a more contented and co-operative staff (Jones 1971). Lack of motivation which is one of the most serious problems of management in industry is evident in libraries (Simon 1976). A look at the work of a library manager reveals that he handles responsibilities similar to those of other managers hence the need for the knowledge of management.


The use of the terminology 'manager' in library administration implies that a chief librarian of a public library system, a national library system or a university library system should see his role as comparable to that of a company chief executive. Just as a company chief executive has people and other resources to manage and goals and objectives to be realized, so has a library manager. Libraries employ people who use other resources available to fulfil certain purposes. A library manager, therefore, consciously or unconsciously always wrestles with the problem of how best the resources of his library should be utilized to accomplish its mission.

The work of a manager is to set aims and objectives, organize, communicate, motivate and to develop people (Drucker 1968). These are not the only functions but it is true that a manager's main responsibilities have something to do with the organization and human aspects of management.

Setting Aims and Objectives

Any organization which is well managed will have defined aims or goals towards which all its activities and the energies of its personnel are directed. A library manager has therefore an obligation to spell out the aims of his library in relation to the aspirations or the role of the parent body in society. For a public library system, its aims must be derived from the long-term state goals particularly in education, information and culture. Its aims could be formulated as follows:

(i) to support formal education, that is, providing for the needs of those pursuing primary and secondary education

(ii) to contribute to non-formal education, that is, providing for literacy programmes, vocational training and professional education

(iii) to encourage reading for knowledge and information

(iv) to cultivate reading habits and to sustain literacy in society, etc.

The aims of a university library, a college library, a school library or a special library, should be defined on the basis of what the library must do to further the work of the organization to which it is a part. The prime goals of a university library, for instance, are to contribute to the teaching role of a university, to support learning and research activities, and to stimulate creativity and intellectual development among staff and students.

It is however not enough to define the aims of a library. The aims should be known by all the staff so that they may relate their work and devote their time to the fulfilment of those aims. Secondly, the manager must involve senior staff in setting the objectives or targets of their own departments in the light of stated aims of the entire library. The objectives of a department such as the lending department arise directly from the aims. Objectives are the basis of the day to day operations of a department and a measure of its performance.

At this juncture it is important to distinguish between "aims" and "objectives". We would define "aims" or "goals" as statements about the purpose or the mission of an organization or statements which spell out the business an organization is engaged in. "Objectives" spring from "aims" and they are the targets and tasks of an organization or its part; they are, to an extent a measure of an organization's effectiveness in the fulfilment of its aims.

For example, some of the objectives of the acquisition department of a library whose aim is to support formal education would be to acquire W books for primary level and X books for secondary level; to acquire Y books for adult literacy and Z books for vocational education. The task of the cataloguing department would be to catalogue a certain number of books within a short time and to produce catalogues useful to readers. The objectives of the lending department would be to provide reading material to the user groups of the library; to maintain efficient catalogues and stocks; to prepare statistics of usage regularly; to educate readers on the use of the library, etc.

Allowing participation of staff in setting objectives of their departments is accepting the principle of management by integration and self-control (McGregor 1960) where staff are given a chance to decide what to accomplish, by what method and within what time, in pursuit of the organizational goals. The benefits are that such staff will be more committed to the mission of the library because they will seek to achieve the objectives they have themselves set. They will also be more willing to commit and to guide their juniors to the realization of overall aims. The reverse would happen if the aims and objectives were conceived and set at the top and imposed on the departments. It is, of course, not possible to involve them in everything. The important thing is to allow a fair latitude of departmental participation. Quite often the morale of good staff is eroded where setting aims and determining policies are the preserve of the top management. If staff have little say in their work and if they have no room for initiative, they will go to work only to fill in the day.


This involves analysing activities, classifying tasks and dividing those tasks into manageable jobs which can be allocated to people. The exercise leads to the establishment of an organization structure which facilitates division of responsibilities into departments and coordination of their activities. Organizing means fitting, people into the right places, that is ensuring that they are in jobs which they can do well and which satisfy them. It also means cultivating and sustaining the initiative and the co-operation of all the people in the organization.

When establishing a structure necessary for co-ordinating and integrating the responsibilities of various departments, it should be understood that such a structure must facilitate good communication, delegation of authority and definition of group and individual autonomy over certain responsibilities.

We can see one danger however, in organizing. It results in division of labour which may cause intergroup competition where each department or section tries to excel over the other thus defeating the unity of purpose of an organization. Although the work of a manager as a coordinator may deter the conflict, the suggestions mentioned below are worth bearing in mind.

(i) The performance of departments should he measured and rewarded on the basis of their contribution to the total effort rather than their individual effectiveness.

(ii) Interaction and frequent communication should be promoted between groups.

(iii) There should be frequent rotation of staff among departments to stimulate mutual understanding.

(iv) Any win-lose situation should be avoided and emphasis always placed on pooling resources to mazimize organizational effectiveness (Schein 1959).


The essence of communication is to foster understanding anti harmony among the people in an organization (Katz and Khan 1966). It is necessary to establish and maintain proper communication to facilitate effective exchange and transmission of information. Ideally formal communication should take place at three levels - down the hierarchy, up the hierarchy and horizontally between people on equal status.

Information flowing down the hierarchy will come from the manager to his subordinates and their juniors and it could be about new policies, directives, or routine matters. Upward communication emanates from subordinates. They could talk to their superiors about themselves, their work or seek clarification and guidance about certain directives or policies. Horizontal communication among peers is mutual exchange and sharing of information about their experiences and common problems at work. It is obvious that a fault in communication in any side can easily cause misunderstanding, friction and discontent among people and will no doubt, ruin co-operation. An example of such a situation is given below.

The chief librarian of a certain library system once disregarded the right channel of communication. He sent a letter of transfer to a library assistant in a branch, without informing the branch librarian. When the library assistant received the letter he showed it to the branch librarian who expressed great surprise because he was completely unaware of the transfer. Because the transfer was with immediate effect, the library assistant told the branch librarian that he was going to move to another branch the following day. The branch librarian replied that he could not release him until he had clarified the matter with the chief librarian. It was a serious matter because the person being transferred was an assistant to the branch librarian anti the only trained library assistant in that branch. The assistant said he could not wait. He disobeyed the branch librarian and left the branch immediately. When the branch librarian spoke to the chief librarian, there was a battle of words and total disagreement. It took months for the branch librarian to reconcile with the chief librarian and the library assistant.

Certainly the chit-f librarian was the cause of the problem which was really avoidable. His instructions were communicated in the wrong way. He should have first informed the branch librarian that he was considering transferring his assistant to another branch for certain reasons. He- should then have sent the assistant's letter of transfer through the branch librarian thus making vertical communication complete and effective

Motivating anti developing people for effectiveness

The theory of motivation and the strategies of staff development have been discussed in Studies in management with reference to libraries (Wambugu 1982). Motivation and staff development are important and obligatory functions of a manager. Whether a manager adopts McGregor's theory X that the average human kiting dislikes and avoids work and has to be coerced anti directed,, or theory V that the average human being does not inherently dislike work and exercises self-direction and self-control, a manager is duty-bound to motivate and develop staff for organizational effectiveness. An organization without motivated people and without the right capabilities cannot be effective and cannot hope to fulfil its goals in society.

What is effectiveness? We know that effectiveness has been associated with statements like - 'the organization produces high quality goods, 'it makes very good profit' or if it is a service organization people would say - 'the employees are pleasant, the service is very efficient', etc.

Effectiveness is the extent to which a manager achieves the output requirements of his position. Managerial effectiveness should be defined in terms of output rather shall input, that is, by what a manager achieves rather than by what he does (Reddin 1973). It is quite possible for a manager to work efficiently and still remain ineffective. An effective organization is the one which fulfils its purposes in society adequately and continues to meet the changing needs of that society as best as possible.

The way a library manager deals with the vital resource of human beings will, in a large measure, determine the effectiveness or the ineffectiveness of his library. Favourable attitudes and motivation to work are related to effectiveness. High producing managers do the following:

(i) They exercise control through group participation and decisions are made by groups.

(ii) They strive to satisfy the major motives of people.

(iii) They strive to create favourable attitudes.

(iv) Their subordinates are highly motivated and their activities well coordinated by proper linking of overlapping work; groups.

(v) They maintain a group pattern of working as opposed to man-to-man pattern.

(vi) They encourage communication in all sides.

(vii) They serve the interests of the employees as well as those of the organization (Likert 1971).

Because an organization could be fulfilling multiple goals hence the dilemma in judging effectiveness and because an organization may exist within an unpredictable environment, its effectiveness should be measured by its capacity to survive, adapt, maintain itself and grow (Shein 1959) An organization's capacity to grow lies mainly in its employees' ability to sense changes, and to scope with those changes by improving its services or products.

Are libraries and other public organizations coping? Is the human side of these organizations being managed to meet the existing and the changing needs of their communities effectively ?


Drucker, Peter F., The practive of management. London: Plan, 1968, P 410

Jones, K. H. Management theory and the public library (in) Library Association Record 73 (1) January 1971

Katz, D. and Kahn, R. L. The Social Psychology of Organizations. N Y Wiley, 1906, P. 223.

Likert, R. The Principles of supporting Relationships (in) Pugh, D S ed Organization theory Harmondsworth Penguin, 1971

MacGregor, D. The human side of enterprise N. Y. MacGraw-Hill, 1960.

Reddin, William J. Managerial effectiveness N Y McGraw-HilI, 1970, P 3

Shcein, Edgar H. Organizational Psychology 2nd ed New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1970, P. 118

Simon, B. V. The need for administrative know-how in libraries (in) Shimmon, R ed. A reader in library management London: Bingley, 1976, P. 29.

Wambugu, Charles K. Studies m management with reference to libraries Nairobi Karfa, 1982