Friday, April 16, 2004

A highly frustrating thing for me is the knowledge that people think working in a rural library is a simple thing. I've seen situations where a library board has hired "a warm body," without taking into consideration the skills, abilities and personal attributes that are actually required to be the director of a library. Sometimes, this strategy of merely hiring whoever is available works for the library; many times it does not. This can be disastrous if the library is participating in any kind of consortial or cooperative relationship, as the group is only as strong as its weakest link.

Library directors have similar responsibilities regardless of the size of their community: strategic planning; development/implementation of policies and/or procedures; marketing and communications; supervision of staff and/or volunteers. In addition to these responsibilities, many rural library directors are also required to take care of most of the day-to-day functions of the library: circulation, programming, collection development, reference service, computer troubleshooting, and so on.

At the very least, rural library boards should be looking for a person with the following attributes: good communication skills; demonstrated problem-solving ability; proficiency with technology and computers, and; a willingness to learn. If possible, they should look for someone with a proven ability to think critically and make appropriate decisions.

The latest (April 2004) issue of Library Worklife contains an article describing a new initiative, called the Continuum of Library Education. This new project of the Western Council of State Libraries is being designed to address the training and professional development needs of rural library directors. The major components of the project include 1) core competencies, 2) education and training opportunities, and 3) a process for certification. None of this is really new or earth-shaking, but the interesting part is the fact that project will be developed by library agencies in 21 states, ensuring some consistency across state lines. I'm eager to see what they come up with.

The article is available at http://www.ala-apa.org/newsletter/vol1no4/certification.html

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