Kari Frodesen, a well-known spokeswoman in the Norwegian library community, wrote about the lack of qualified applicants for library leaders on her blog in July. I`ve wanted to comment on it.. better late than never!
No credit crunch or higher (general) unemployment rate has made it easier to get qualified applicants for leading positions in libraries. And it`s not just the smallest libraries that can`t find qualified leaders. Even in Kristiansund, a medium sized city by Norwegian standards, it`s seemingly impossible.
So.. why is it so hard to get good, qualified applicants for these jobs? Well.. first of all, I think it has something to do with librarians themselves. Most librarians, it seems, are drawn to the education because they: 1. love books, 2. think it is a quiet and nice place to work, 3. themselves loved libraries from childhood. Perhaps this is a bit stereotypical, but in many cases true, I think. So if this is true, they are not natural leaders (if there is such a thing..). In other words, they didn`t become librarians so that they could be managers. Many librarians, if not all, are also consumers of many other cultural events, like concerts, museums, galleries and so on. Many will therefore prefer to work and live in or close to a larger city. The small public libraries in rural areas will lose the competition for the best leaders.
Another reason can be that being a library manager in libraries (public libraries especially) is probably one of the least attractive manager positions in the county/municipality. Very little political influence, extremly poor economy and little praise – and no room for further career advances. AND (as far as I know) payed way less than other managing positions. Many good reasons to stay away..
Finally, the law explicitly states that any person in a library manager position must have proper library education. So we cannot recruit just any leader from a business school.
Maybe the solution consists of several initiatives. I agree with Kari Frodesen on many of the things she suggested on her blog. Firstly, I do think that Oslo University College, who educate the vast majority of the librarians in Norway need to start good programs within library management. Like Kari, I believe that there should be a comprehensive commitment to this managers programme (like a full master). It needs to be lifted to a new level.
Secondly, I think that the time has come to change the law regarding library education for managers. The library is changing rapidly, and we need to think more about innovation and entrepreneurship (I know, I know.. the terms are terrible) and less about whether or not the manager knows every cataloging rule. Of course, sometimes one might find good managers that are library educated, but not always. And maybe the library world would be less closed off, more inviting to others, if we sometimes allowed “the strangers” into our midst.
The avarage age of the library managers today gives us reason to despair. Soon they`ll all be retired.. and then what do we do?