What Makes A Good Academic Library Director

I’m sure we all have our own ideas about this topic, and you may have previously followed the research of Peter Hernon, Ronald Powell, and Arthur P. Yolung on the attributes of library directors (a book, several articles in College & Research Libraries and one in Library Journal).

Although it’s just one of several topics discussed in this podcast that features Susan Perry and her work with the Council on Library and Information Resources and the Mellon Foundation, Perry comments on her view of core competencies for academic library directors. Here’s what makes her list of core competencies for library directors:

* understand web page development
* expertise with digital assets management
* ability to work with scholars and students to make the right information accessible
* ability to work well with information technologists (e.g., campus computing)
* ability to mentor others (help them keep up with latest trends)

Clearly the focus is the technology aspects of library leadership, and in the podcast there is a fair amount of talk about scholarly publishing as the issue of the day. I would have liked to hear more about the role of user education for library technology , and how the library director can set the stage for it to be integrated into the curriculum. From my perspective, a critical attribute for library directors (moreso for colleges and small universities than research libraries) is the ability to integrate the library into the curriculum, and that only happens when the director, working collaboratively with library staff and other academic support professionals, is able to connect with faculty and encourage them to integrate library resources into their coursework.

By the way, the podcasts created by EDUCAUSE are among the easiest to take advantage of because you don’t even need to download them. Simply click on the play button on the page and the podcast will begin. Of course, there is also a link to the mp3 file for those that prefer to download the podcast.

3 thoughts on “What Makes A Good Academic Library Director

  1. They may be easy to listen to online, but do they have to make it so hard to download them? The link in iTunes doesn’t work, and it took me several tries to fine one that did work. If you can’t download to listen at your convenience, it’s not a podcast, it’s just streaming audio.

  2. The issue of the library director as instructional leader is one that I’ve taken up before, and I will second your point that this is a neglected area of discussion in library leadership when compared with equally important roles, e.g., serving as a leader for campus discussions of scholarly communication, as a leader for campus discussions of IT management, and as a leader in fund-raising/development/external communications. These latter competencies have received considerable attention (e.g., Dewey & Regenstein, 2003), and are regularly noted among the skills required or preferred for Dean/Director positions, but those related to instructional leadership are less commonly discussed. As I’ve noted in earlier posts, I see the positions recently defined at Purdue and Berkeley as steps in the right direction, but we are still waiting for the seminal work on the role of the library director in promoting the library as instructional center on campus.

    I’ll briefly take issue with your assertion that this is less important at large research libraries than it is at other types of institutions. All institutions of higher education are founded on an instructional mission and all libraries have to make their case for being essential to that mission to remain a vital part of campus life in the 21st century. The director’s ability to make that case in high-level discussions of Writing Across the Curriculum, General Education, or research requirements for doctoral students is critical to the research library’s success.

    And, yes, balancing all those areas does make for one complicated job! :-)

  3. I’ll respond to Jim by saying that I don’t go looking for the podcast anywhere. I just right click on the filename and save it to my desktop. If I want to then put it on my Mp3 player, I can certainly do that. I’m guessing many librarians are not yet making much use of podcasts, and would therefore just want to listen at their work computer. But if the EDUCAUSE recordings need to be in iTunes – and easier to access you should send them that recommendation. I’m sure they’d be glad to make it happen. Now you do have a good point that these EDUCAUSE recordings (maybe they are not podcasts by definition) may be tough to find – without someone like me mentioning it. It is possible to subscribe to an RSS feed for EDUCAUSE Connect – so that you’ll be notified when there are new recordings.

    I’ll respond to Scott by saying – first, thanks for seconding my comment about the important instructional leadership role of faculty. Second, my comment about this being more important at the college/small university level is for the exact point you make that this job, in the research university is usually the responsibility of an AUL, not the director – who usually is busy with other activities. It’s much more on the shoulders of the college library director to lead the effort. However, you make a good point that if they haven’t been making it a priority, research library directors should do so (but between you and me [and anyone who reads this comment of course] – the few ARL directors I know don’t seem to care about this as much as they do scholarly publishing, digitizing more than the next guy, and raising money).

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