How to Win Friends… Not

Over the past couple of weeks I have once again been accused of being negative in these blogs and disparaging of librarians.

I prefer to think of myself as a critical friend.

Indeed, my credentials border on stellar in advocating for this profession over 40 years so I don’t think that I am simply negative. I just wish that the library world would stop giving me so much fodder for a weekly blog. There seem to be no shortage of peculiarities. Yes, there are great positive stories – you can read about them in many other places, along with the testimonials and “glad tidings”.

But sometimes we also need to stop and think a bit…

Greg Lucas

Greg Lucas – Good choice? Bad choice? The choice.

After a long hiatus the Governor of California appointed a new State Librarian. Seems like the poor man is not a professional librarian, the first commentary by the state’s librarians. This of course was an outrage. Not too much praise about him being an advocate, a journalist, friend of the governor, well connected…

A few senior librarians suggested several provocative and rather perverse questions that “the leadership” (the state association executive board) needed to put to him: what did he know about x, y and z? where did he find out? what was he going to do to improve the lot of California’s poor libraries? And, yes, a few were much more thoughtful in recommending forming partnerships and working together.

One even wanted proof that he had a library card and used a library. This in denial of the fact that the strongest supporters of libraries tend to be people who never use them…

The state executive board issued a thoughtful statement of welcome. In contrast, the same day their executive director was quoted in the LA Times as saying it was an outrage that he was not a librarian (she is now pursuing “new opportunities”).

Some respected library leaders objected that they were not personally consulted about the statement (well, that would have taken a few years to get all of the words right, and what did you elect these people for anyway?).

There is even pressure that he should get an MLIS degree while state librarian and apparently one school has suggested that they would work with him. Really? Really? Do I want my primary state advocate wasting his time taking LIS courses on nights and weekends? To what end? I would rather take an hour or two and inform him of the issues and the benefits that could accrue to residents with his support and let him have the time to do the work for which he was hired.

Work Together To Make It Work

He has the job. Get over it. Make it work.

Couldn’t we follow the simple rules of influence?

Welcome him and support him.

Get to know him and inform him, simply and respectfully.

Offer our expertise. Connect with his deepest values and beliefs.

Build a network of colleagues for him. Ensure that he knows the best and the brightest of the other state librarians.

Identify our unique value proposition and unique contribution.

Offer our support yet again.

He may not be a librarian but bleating will not make it so, and will destroy any possibility of good will and support.

Just shoot me in the foot again.


About Ken Haycock

Ken Haycock is currently Research Professor of Management and Organization at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, where he coordinates graduate programs in Library and Information Management.


5 Responses to How to Win Friends… Not

  1. Wendy Newman April 15, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Good sound advice, and it works in any jurisdiction. When the appointment is a done deal, engage the new person smartly and generously, and make the best of a significant opportunity for influence.

  2. Jeff Barber April 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    Indeed! I would have to perhaps go a step further than Wendy (and perhaps further than your intent) and suggest that it isn’t even a matter of making the best of it because he already has the job. Library skills are not what’s important in this job (in any jurisdiction, as Wendy notes) — a well-placed advocate is always a good thing.

  3. Camila Alire April 15, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Ken…..I had to laugh at comments level against you “being negative and disparaging librarians” etc. I also was amused by your being a “critical friend.” People who know you WELL would expect no more than what you are doing now……exposing the 3-ton elephant in the room or the 800lb. gorilla sitting in the chair! Good for you!

    I enjoy your blog postings….don’t necessarily agree with you all the time, but you are provocative, true to yourself and our profession, and “tell it like you see it.” For me, those are admirable traits!

    As for the appointing of the new state librarian…..”it is what it is”…..folks need to get over it….and figure out how to work with him for the good of all libraries in California.. AND, it is not like they didn’t try to find a qualified library leader for the position……some are just wiser than others and knew better than to pursue it (my 2-cents on that gorilla in the chair!)

    Keep it up…..give ’em hell….and I will still continue reading you.

  4. Laurie Bonnici April 15, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Too much inbreeding makes for genetic mutants. An outside perspective offers rich fertilization to strengthen the species. This appointment should be beneficial bringing new ideas, opportunities, and wealth to the libraries of California.

    For a profession that touts diversity, it certainly does not put its money where its mouth is.

    To make it more interesting, maybe we should ask the Governor why he didn’t appoint a librarian. Or does someone fear the response?

  5. Deborah Doyle April 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    The California Library Association board of directors, comprised of a diverse group of library industry professionals, voted unanimously to welcome Greg Lucas to our community

    We expected that the Governor’s surprising appointment would generate robust conversation among our colleagues and CLA members — and it has. We stand by our decision and have received much positive feedback.

    Mere hours after the news of his appointment, Mr. Lucas started reaching out to library leaders and to the CA State Library staff. He has made phone calls, attended meetings, collected information and made some suggestions–even before his official duties have started.

    He is clearly passionate, committed and wants to strengthen California’s libraries. CLA’s elected leadership plans to work with him and give him some of tools he needs to achieve that goal — a goal all in our library community should share.

    Deborah Doyle
    CLA President