Adventures of a Super(visor) Librarian: Delegating Isn’t Easy










A big part of managing staff is delegating work and it takes way more time and energy than I ever thought possible! Delegating has always been difficult for me for several reasons.

1) I feel guilty. It’s more  of a confidence issue, I think. This feeling of guilt has definitely subsided in the years since I became a manager, but that thought of “who am I to tell them what to do” still lingers. I’m working on getting over it!

2) Delegating requires planning and being organized. In my mind, I am super organized and all of programming is planned way in advance. In reality, I sometimes forget I’ve planned a program until an hour before (JK…sort of….) This is also something I have been working to improve.

3) I’m a perfectionist. I think this is both good and bad, depending on the situation.

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So how does a disorganized, anal-retentive manager with a guilt-complex delegate work to her staff? Well, I’m definitely a work-in-progress, but here are a few things I have learned in the past 10 years of doing this job and some things I’m planning for the future:

  • Figure out what you are willing to let others do. There are so many little tasks that I was used to doing myself out of habit, but there just isn’t time to do everything. This is difficult for me, especially because I know that everything my staff does is ultimately a reflection on me. I definitely have some control issues. But here is where the next thing comes in….
  • Communication. Yup, there it is again. I have to remind myself that if I do not communicate effectively with my staff, then how can they possibly know what I want them to do and how I want them to do it? Putting in the time to explain things the first time saves a lot of time and aggravation later for everyone. And I’ve definitely learned this one the hard way!
  • Try to assign those “little” tasks to your staff to do on a weekly or monthly basis. Especially things like Volunteer stats, computer use stats, going through books and removing NEW stickers at the beginning of every month, making extra copies of literature at the desk, etc. Give each staff member certain jobs that only they are responsible for every week or month and everyone has their “fair share” if possible. This way you don’t have to keep delegating these things. Then when there is downtime, the staff will have their own work to do without having to ask.
  • Set up a staff command center. OK, so this is one of my more recent ideas and it’s not quite finished, but I have tried to set up an area behind the Children’s Room desk with a clipboard for each of my staff so that I can leave them messages about projects I need their help with. This way it’s clear to whom I am assigning the job if I am not there to personally hand it to them. The center also contains the staff bulletin board and the staff folders.
  • Find out what your staff is interested in and what skills they have to offer. I’m lucky because my staff likes to be busy and likes to feel like they are contributing. Whenever possible, I try to give them tasks that appeal their strengths and hold their interest. If they
  • Just because someone likes to do something, doesn’t necessarily means they should be doing it. Again, that “who am I” guilt creeps in. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. And while I want my staff to enjoy their work, I also can’t let everyone do whatever they want. It just doesn’t work. It’s my job to evaluate my staff, the work that needs to be done, and who I think should do it. And that can be hard to explain to someone who really likes to do certain things, but maybe would be better suited doing something else. Again, good communication can come in handy here!
  • Re-evaluate what the staff has been doing and make changes if needed.  Sometimes things just aren’t working. This is especially hard if you as the manager doesn’t think it’s working, but the employee doesn’t. It can be frustrating, but if there is time to sit down and go over how you would prefer a task to be done with your staff, that is preferable to simply reassigning the task to someone else. But sometimes there isn’t a choice. Warning: some people do not respond well to abrupt changes to their job! have ideas, I try to work with them.
  • Delegating work means you are part of a team. Ultimately I know that I am only able to accomplish my programming goals and the goals of my library when everyone helps out and shares the workload. It’s not rocket science, but it’s more involved than you’d think, especially when you have a small, close-knit staff. It’s not easy for me sometimes, but as long as I keep the big goals in mind, it’s manageable. (no pun intended)

To be honest, this list changed drastically as I wrote this post. And I think it created more issues in my mind than I had originally thought of! I didn’t even write about half of them! I can’t say I always handle things as well as I should, but I try to learn from my mistakes and try something else. Please comment if you have any other library delegating tips or management topics to discuss!


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