Book Reviews

M. Leslie Madden, Laura Carscaddon, Denita Hampton, and Brenna Helmstutler. Now You’re a Manager: Quick and Practical Strategies for New Mid-Level Managers in Academic Libraries. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries. 2017. 94p. Paper, $28.00 (ISBN 978-0-8389-8787-2).

What do you get when four mid-level managers from an academic library begin to evaluate what they have learned from being in this important role? Most likely you would get a book much like the one authored by these four managers from the Georgia State University Library. Written to fill a gap in both the literature and available professional development courses on management in academic libraries, this book provides advice to those mid-level managers who may be filling a leadership role for the first time. This includes both leaders of teams as well as departments. The authors draw upon their own experiences, discussions held between them, and the literature they explored in an effort to learn to be a better, more effective manager. The reader of this book should keep in mind that it acts as an introduction to a range of concepts associated with being a manager. It is meant more as a tool for those who may have less experience as well as those who may want to rethink their current practice.

Book cover for Now You’re a Manager: Quick and Practical Strategies for New Mid-Level Managers in Academic Libraries

The book is broken up into ten chapters. The authors indicate that the book can be used by an individual or as part of a discussion and that the chapters can be read in any order a person chooses. Chapters cover a range of topics associated with the work of being a manager. Some of the chapters deal with operational management issues like conducting effective meetings, building departments and teams, and dealing with policies and bureaucracy. Personnel management is covered in chapters on dealing with problem employees, managing a diverse department, providing professional development and training, mentoring and coaching, and managing change. A chapter on managing between library administration and employees and a chapter on managing as a team provides some exposure to organizational management. These two chapters, along with the two on change and bureaucracy, provide insight on the fact that management happens in the context of the organization and culture you are in.

All of the chapters are relatively short. They do not go into any heavy theory. Each chapter cites a few sources from which it has drawn some supportive quotes or ideas. The reader will find some quotes not cited. The lack of any citation notation within the chapter does make this problematic. With the cited works, the authors also provide suggested readings, although the items cited and the suggested readings sometimes overlap, giving the same titles. At the end of each chapter, the authors give exercises, samples, and worksheets that the reader can use. The exercises include some questions to be answered and help to apply the content covered in the chapter. Readers will have to figure out how they can check their responses to the exercises since no answers are given.

There are many who might benefit from this book. Although it targets current managers, readers currently not in management roles and wanting to think about some of the challenges associated with the work will find this a good overview. Someone being supervised can also use it to provide feedback to his or her own manager. The library’s human resources staff may also find that this is a good tool for providing training to new library managers. It is a relatively easy read and is not filled with lots of management jargon or theory. Being more on the practical side, the exercises provided at the end of the chapters allow readers to think about how they might approach the tailored problems based on what has been covered in the chapters. The exercises also give readers opportunity to discuss their solutions with their own supervisors to compare how a seasoned leader might approach the problem. This makes the book a good mentoring tool that a senior leader might use to help develop a new manager.

There is a whole industry that provides information on being a manager. Within this book, the reader will find much discussion about familiar management topics. Other than the fact that the authors themselves are librarians, one might wonder just how much of the book is really about academic libraries. The exercises are library focused. Some of the literature cited and some of the suggested readings come from the library literature. At times the authors do frame some of the chapter discussions as taking place in a library. That is about where its association with academic libraries end. That said, if we go back to the title, which indicates that it is a book of quick and practical strategies, then readers will find that that is exactly what they get.—Mark E. Shelton, College of the Holy Cross

Copyright Mark E. Shelton

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