5 Leadership Tactics for the Modern Library Landscape

5 Leadership Tactics for the Modern Library Landscape

Digital technologies are revolutionizing libraries, bringing change to the leadership roles needed to run these facilities. Because people turn to the Internet for most of their information needs, today’s library leaders must embrace digital strategies and promote online use even as they search for new ways to engage patrons. The following five leadership tactics can be key to success in the modern library landscape.

Modern-day libraries blend the old and the new

Go Digital

Computers and handheld devices are developing new and innovative ways to communicate verbally. In fact, this form of communication is growing at an astonishing pace. The rapid rise of audiobooks, podcasts, speech dictation, and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa serve as evidence of this fact. Some believe that, one day, mass communication may be achieved without the written word. Essentially, the world may become a visual, oral and verbal culture where written texts are replaced with speech and illustrations. Though this may at first sound like a death knell, the realist is that as long as libraries evolve, they’ll continue to be locations that cultivate information no matter the format.

Deanna Marcum, the managing director of the consulting agency Ithaka S+R, discussed the importance of shifting to digital strategies during the 2016 annual conference of the National Federation of Advanced Information Systems. She said, “We are no longer waiting for the digital revolution to happen. It is here.” Instead of adding digital services to a library as an afterthought, management should embrace the technology by implementing digital initiatives throughout the entire organization. In today’s libraries, web services and programs are essential elements.

Adapting to a digital model should include expanding a patron’s options for checking out materials. For instance, many libraries are now partnering with e-book providers like Amazon to offer borrowing of free digital books via smartphones and tablets. As mobile devices become more prominent in people’s everyday lives, such services are becoming increasingly essential. Though these materials are reserved online, they do not negate the need for physical library facilities. In fact, library professionals are now proving invaluable for assisting patrons in navigating vast online collections and finding the resources and training they need to become more adept at navigating the digital world.

Search for the Best Ways to Achieve Customer Engagement

One key element of modern library leadership is learning the needs of library patrons and developing the best ways to meet those needs. In today’s tech-based world, the days of librarians controlling what information and tools their patrons have access to are over. Instead, modern professionals are tasked with meeting people where they are and expanding technical knowledge to guide patrons in the use of abundant new technologies.

Library leaders are program planners for patrons of all ages, guiding community conversations and helping to communicate important, factual information. With Google at every person’s fingertips, librarians no longer need to fill the role of an oracle for simple questions. Though, as author Neil Gaiman said, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” Librarians are still important sources for complex questions and in-depth information gathering. Especially in an era of “fake news,” the librarian’s ability to find and share facts is even more important.

Consider User Experience

When it comes to website use or customer service phone calls, management often considers user experience (UX) first. Is this also the case in a library setting? The answer is often yes, at least in the realm of library design. Today, however, librarians must also consider user experience in virtually every service area. For instance, a librarian may need to hold extended hours so that people can stop by after their own workdays. Or, a library or learning facility may need a simpler layout to ensure that patrons are able to use it effectively and enjoy the time they spend there. Librarians need to put themselves in the proverbial shoes of their customers and design services accordingly.

Since the modern world is a fast-paced one, on-the-go services are vital. This may include the addition of drive-thru return and pick-up, or it may include ensuring that the right technology is in place to allow patrons to reserve materials with their wireless devices. Time-saving features are key elements of any information-based institution. Today’s libraries often feature self-checkout kiosks, coffee shops and meeting rooms.

Expand Analytical Abilities

The librarians of today and tomorrow must know how to leverage data to understand the needs of their patrons. Using data can help librarians understand what patrons need and want and therefore ensure they deliver an engaging user experience.

A firm understanding of analytics enables librarians to remain current with the types of reading materials that are most in demand, the types of technologies that are most useful to patrons, and the types of variables that influence the needs of individual libraries. For example, by analyzing data, a library manager can pinpoint the materials that are specifically sought after in a specific region. Additionally, an information leader can review checkout trends to adjust hours of availability based on the public’s needs.

People navigate the online world in different ways, so offering diversity in this area is also key. This includes understanding that patrons have different levels of technical aptitude. Library managers are tasked with ensuring their facility is set up to serve those who know how to use it as well as those who don’t.

Create an Innovative Culture

In the field of library leadership, it’s important to create an innovative culture, one that infuses modern-day libraries with fresh ideas. Libraries need leaders who are willing to make changes and are able to see the big picture; these are individuals who can take a new idea, form a plan and turn it into a sound library solution. Sustainable innovation will keep libraries relevant.

Tomorrow’s libraries can become the heart of their communities. Successful libraries feature physical and virtual spaces that allow patrons to:

  • Collaborate
  • Create
  • Learn
  • Network

While a good deal of the world’s evolving technology makes virtual communication better, it also promotes isolation. Libraries can enhance virtual communication and discourage isolation by offering access to the technology and space that people need to come together.

The Fundamentals Never Change

Despite changes in technology, libraries are still a place for education, exploration, discovery and reflection. Even if the tools used to achieve these goals change, the fundamental reason for libraries to exist never will. Libraries are about maintaining free access to information. Indeed, in a world of constant change, library management can be a fulfilling and rewarding career. To learn more about pursuing an online library science degree, visit USC Marshall School of Business Master of Management in Library and Information Science Online.