What I Wish I Knew When I Became a Manager

Nearly a year ago, I became a children’s services department head. Of course, I’ve always had a manager, so I thought I knew what I was in for when I became one. And I wasn’t totally off, but there were things I definitely did not know or expect when I started. I knew how to balance a budget, I knew how to design a schedule, but did I know exactly how hard it would be to spend out a budget or how many conflicts can possibly arise in just one week? I definitely did not. 

Read more: What I Wish I Knew When I Became a Manager

When going from a librarian to a department head, I knew my day to day work would increase. I came in knowing I had to delegate, had to prioritize and had to effectively manage my time. But the amount of work at  times seemed, and sometimes still does, crippling. Here and there I would stay after work for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Maybe I would skip my break once a week, here and there. Before I knew it, I was bringing work home with me. One of the things I wish I knew when I became a manager was how important it is for me to build boundaries for myself with work life and home life. If I didn’t do it, no one would do it for me!I’ve learned if something hasn’t gotten done, it will get done. How often do you hear about emergencies because summer reading prizes were ordered a week late?

Before working at my current library, I worked for a large system. So much of our work was centralized and hands-off. Now working in a very small system, that’s just not the case. I was unaware of how much contact I would be doing planning, scheduling, organizing and coordinating with vendors and outside resources. It’s great to have so many people wanting to provide for your community, but it can get overwhelming when you return to work on a Monday and you have 50 emails from the same 10 vendors. One of the things I wish I knew when I became a manager was that it’s okay to say no! While I would love to pack our days with community resources, fun programming and events, it’s just not possible to do 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It’s important to pick the things that will be most meaningful to your community, and to develop a statement that you can use over and over. Please check back in a few months!

As I noted above, I couldn’t even fathom how many things could go wrong in just one week. Someone is out sick, there was a pre-planned day of PTO, and oh, wait the school showed up at the wrong time. I had no idea how much crisis management I would be doing. It’s easy to think you can patch all the holes by yourself, hey you’re the manager, after all. But that’s what leads to burn out. There is no reason to have to do it all by yourself. One of the things I wish I knew when I became a manager was that it is A-OK to ask for help. No matter what your team looks like, librarians, para-professionals, and administration, they’re all there to help. There’s one common goal of wanting the library to succeed. Maybe you’re asking for another department to send an extra pair of hands, or maybe it’s just asking for clarification on a project. No matter what you need, it doesn’t hurt to ask! 

For new managers and experienced managers, what do you wish you knew when you became a manager?

Today’s blog post was written by Sarah Clarke, Children’s Department Head at Great Neck Library on Long Island, NY, on behalf of the Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at sclarke@greatnecklibrary.org

This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies VI. Administrative and Management Skills

One comment

  1. Uma Nori

    Nicely written Sarah!

    As you beautifully outlined becoming a Department Head requires a lot of courage. You will face criticism, failure and many challenging situations. In the face of all that you have to steer the department/ library to success. It definitely is not for the faint hearted.

    Before I became a manager I wish I knew good resources for personnel and project management.

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