Politics in the Library and Librarians as Politicians


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lecture presented by Fe Angela M. Verzosa at the National Summer Conference sponsored by CaAKAp Librarians' Association on "Revitalizing Librarians Values Towards Transformation," held on May 19-21, 2010 at the University of Saint Louis, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.

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Politics in the Library and Librarians as Politicians

  1. 1. by Fe Angela M. Verzosa Presented at the Summer Conference on “Revitalizing the Librarian’s Values Towards Transformation: Leveling up Librarians Empowerment for Effective Library Management” sponsored by Cagayan And Kalinga Apayao (CaAKAp) Librarians Association Inc., Bulwagang Teodulfo Domingo, University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao, Tuguegarao City, May 19-21, 2010. Politics in the Library and Librarians as Politicians
  2. 2. Focus <ul><li>various political contexts under which libraries operate (citing real examples and stories) </li></ul><ul><li>aspects of the political environment which surrounds and engages libraries and their librarians </li></ul><ul><li>how political climates influence decision-making for libraries </li></ul><ul><li>how librarians might influence the organizational politics of their library environment </li></ul><ul><li>what practices and processes may be effective in dealing with library politics </li></ul><ul><li>Recommendations/advice for future library leaders—those who are about to become exposed--about politics </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Where there are people, there are politics, and as we all know, the internal and external politics of an organization become more and more visible (and unavoidable) as we climb the career ladder. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Scenario 1 FEUDALISM You have two library support staff and 30,000 books. Your lord takes some of the clerical time, and occasionally helps himself to some of the books. In return, your lord provides protection from invasion, and a sack of grain each winter.
  5. 5. Scenario 2 FASCISM You have as yet no library support staff and 30,000 books. The Library Board dictates what you should do, hires the staff for you to supervise, and yet demands that you also do clerical time, and charges you for book losses.
  6. 6. Scenario 3 Pure Communism You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. Your library users help you supervise them, and you with your staff all share the clerical time and book access (also losses).
  7. 7. Scenario 4 Russian Communism You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. The Library Board reallocates all the clerical time, and then determines how you will administer the library without them.
  8. 8. Scenario 5 Martial Law /Dictatorship You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. The Library Board approves everything you submit and watches everything you do, and when things go wrong, they shoot you.
  9. 9. Scenario 6 SINGAPOREAN DEMOCRACY You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. The library administrator fines you for having scrap paper on your desk.
  10. 10. Scenario 7 PURE DEMOCRACY You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. Your library users decide how clerical time will be used, and determines library policy.
  11. 11. Scenario 8 CAPITALISM You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. You open a bookshop and start selling the most popular of the library's books, and use the profits to hire another library assistant through your brother-in-law's employment agency.
  12. 12. Scenario 9 ANARCHY You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. Either you allow the library users to help themselves to the books, or they will try to kill you and take the books anyway
  13. 13. Scenario 10 Bureaucracy You have 2 library support staff and 30,000 books. At first the library administrator regulates what you can do in the library. After that, he closes the library and redistributes the books to other libraries. Then he requires you to fill out forms accounting for the drop in circulation.
  14. 14. Politics <ul><li>“ consists of three main elements: power, organization and values...” </li></ul><ul><li>Max Weber </li></ul><ul><li>German sociologist </li></ul>
  15. 15. Librarians as Politicians <ul><li>Are librarians powerful enough when it comes to getting their ideas accepted against the influence of others? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Changes in the organizational domain Changes in physical facilities Introduction of major automation Introduction of revenue- generating activities
  17. 17. Changes in the organizational domain Changes in relationships with other community entities Internal organizational changes
  18. 18. <ul><li>Values Librarians stand for… </li></ul><ul><li>free access to information </li></ul><ul><li>freedom of expression </li></ul><ul><li>equal treatment </li></ul><ul><li>bridging the digital divide </li></ul><ul><li>life-long learning </li></ul><ul><li>stimulating the imagination and creativity of children and young people </li></ul><ul><li>fostering inter-cultural dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>cultural diversity, supporting the oral tradition and promoting awareness of cultural heritage, etc. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Librarians as Politicians <ul><li>Are they </li></ul><ul><li>effective leaders </li></ul><ul><li>or managers? </li></ul>
  20. 20. &quot;There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial&quot;. Warren Bennis
  21. 21. A leader is &quot;a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal &quot;.
  22. 22. Management <ul><li>“ the exercise of responsibility for the effective use of the human, financial and other resources available to meet an organization’s objectives.” </li></ul>
  23. 23. &quot;Leaders manage and managers lead, but the two activities are not synonymous…. Management functions can potentially provide leadership; leadership activities can contribute to managing. Nevertheless, some managers do not lead, and some leaders do not manage&quot;. Bernard Bass
  24. 24. Leadership and Management <ul><li>“ Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” </li></ul><ul><li>Peter Drucker </li></ul>
  25. 25. Library leadership implies... <ul><ul><li>Librarian seeks to influence members of the parent organization to provide resources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to support expansion plans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to accept the goals of the library as valid and thus deserving of support </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Key Leadership Types Reputational effectiveness Organizational change Leader activity Energizer Professional involvement Dimension Sustainer Politician Retiree
  27. 27. Profile: Politician <ul><li>enjoys a high visibility & therefore reputation </li></ul><ul><li>dynamic only as entrepreneur </li></ul><ul><li>active in professional and community involvement </li></ul><ul><li>slow in introducing changes </li></ul>
  28. 28. Where politics comes in <ul><li>directing the work of subordinates </li></ul><ul><li>integrating subordinates’ goals with library’s goals and objectives </li></ul><ul><li>allocating human resources to tasks </li></ul><ul><li>evaluating subordinate job performance </li></ul><ul><li>resolving conflicts between subordinates </li></ul><ul><li>providing new staff with training </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>attending social functions for contacts </li></ul><ul><li>attending conferences and meetings </li></ul><ul><li>representing the library at formal / social functions </li></ul><ul><li>staying attuned to informal communication networks </li></ul><ul><li>developing contacts with people outside </li></ul>Where politics comes in
  30. 30. <ul><li>planning and implementing changes in the library </li></ul><ul><li>initiating controlled change in the library </li></ul><ul><li>solving problems by instituting needed changes in the library </li></ul>Where politics comes in
  31. 31. <ul><li>distributing budgeted resources </li></ul><ul><li>preventing the loss of human or capital resources </li></ul><ul><li>deciding which programs to provide resources to </li></ul><ul><li>allocating equipment or materials </li></ul><ul><li>obtaining adequate resources to administer library programs and build collections </li></ul>Where politics comes in
  32. 32. How to deal with Library Politics Concentrate on what you have control over. While it may seem as though you do not have much power, chances are you have the power you need to effect change and improve the lives of others and your own. Be your ideal employee. If you value and respect punctuality, be punctual. If you value and respect organizational skills, then work toward improving your skills in this area.
  33. 33. How to deal with Library Politics Don't join the dark side. You may be forced to have contact with people who are skilled at being nasty. They have developed these behaviors over time and have developed them to a high degree. It is proper and just to state that such behavior is unacceptable: quite often these difficult people have never had their behaviors challenged. Whatever you do, don't replicate these actions-you won't be as skillful and doing so will affect you in deep ways.
  34. 34. How to deal with Library Politics Look for signs that you are doing well. You will be rewarded, often in small ways, for your strength in the midst of adversity. These gifts may be a small show of support or an offered opportunity. Accept and relish these gifts graciously as signs that you are proceeding well in often difficult circumstances.
  35. 35. Other views on Library Politics <ul><li>“ We sometimes view politics as a dirty business that is nevertheless necessary in order to accomplish major initiatives like implementing new technology in the library. We wish that, without lobbying or tooting our own horn, the high quality of our staff's work, ideas, and proposals would be recognized and rewarded with the resources and political support they deserve and that are needed to create the library of the future for our users.” </li></ul>
  36. 36. “ The mission of the Library should mirror the mission of the institution and everything we do should further it. Libraries provide support, but also leadership in a number of areas. Conflicts arise in roles and in the competition for limited funding. But when these conflicts arise, one needs to step back and think about what is really in the best interest of the institution. The &quot;big picture&quot; and what is really important can put things in perspective.” Other views on Library Politics
  37. 37. “ We need to take the long view of our work, as difficult as that can be to do sometimes. And there are clearly issues where making a stand and holding to it are important. It all seems to come down to judgments and how they fit into where the organization needs to be and how to most effectively develop the path. But the path is not always a straight line. So timing and reassessment are critical to this process .” Other views on Library Politics
  38. 38. “ Politics is not just about power; politics is about the improvement of people's lives. The core of what we do is to improve the lives of our patrons. Regardless of the personalities, the bureaucracy, and traditions of inefficiency, we are not about ourselves; we are about the services we provide .” Other views on Library Politics
  39. 39. Thank you for listening! You can get in touch with me at my email address – fe.verzosa@dlsu.edu.ph – and at our PAARL @Facebook– http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62984064607&ref=nf