If Your Library Was a Small Business, Would It Still Be Open? Part 2

In my last column we explored how entrepreneurial characteristics can augment librarian skills. Once again, using’s article 25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs, we continue with points #8 to 25.

8. Project a positive business image. Unfortunately we still see that old “us and them” mentality in law firms: lawyers — and everyone else. Help diminish that by always projecting a positive business image. With a Masters degree (or commensurate experience), you too are a professional, but short of wearing your resume as a visible badge, use demeanour (confident and positive), speech (thoughtful, considered and forthright) and relationships (extensive and professional) to reinforce that positive business image.

9. Get to know your customers. Librarians have a tendency to believe that they know best when it comes to their clientele’s need. But a library’s future is tied to the future plans of the firm. In order to plan effectively we need to align ourselves with the strategic direction of the firm and the only way to do that is to get out and talk to our customers: What are the firm’s goals and objectives? What areas are getting the biggest push? Where is the majority of effort going? Only when a library manager gets a clear idea of those targets can the library safely set its own strategic plan.

10. Level the playing field with technology. Show your clients that you understand their problems and challenges by bringing new technology to their attention with the view to helping them work more effectively and efficiently. Their success is your success.

11. Build a top-notch business team. One thing I have always believed in is hiring the best possible people. It can be a little intimidating to hire someone who brings a strong skill set to the table, but I believe surrounding yourself with excellence raises the level of the whole team. We can all learn from one other and if a particularly good Competitive Intelligence or Legislation Librarian can bring their expertise to your team, scoop them up. Coach, mentor, and motivate those around you to do whatever it takes for full potentials to be reached.

12. Become known as an expert. Be confident in yourself. Librarians, typically, do not seek the limelight but many of our skills are of great value ‘on the outside’. If a project is starting, be it marketing, competitive / business intelligence, knowledge / records management, business research, a reorganization of workflow, a book / major paper being prepared, wouldn’t it be nice to be called to the table at the beginning of the initiative? To have your expertise recognised and acknowledged. I love it when a senior partner says to a student or associate, have you talked to the library staff about the research? Who could ask for a better endorsement?

13. Create a competitive advantage. Today we race against Google, and stumble before the concept of “good enough”. More and more, people are content with answers that come from throwing a few terms into a search engine and not looking beyond the first page of responses. It might be standing up against a tidal wave, but our value lies in our ability to research thoroughly and efficiently. And when we teach what we know, instead of stripping ourselves of power and mystique, we enhance our standing as true brokers of information.

14. Invest in yourself. Courses, conferences, webinars, virtual conferences, TED talks, subscriptions to print and electronic resources all ensure you not only keep your skills up, but develop new ones. Excellence does not rest, it means always looking to the future, to how you can enhance your skills. What’s next for you? Competitive Intelligence? Join SCIP and start working on your skills. Managing an information centre/library? Take some management courses, develop your HR skills. Start preparing for the next step in your career. And of course, if you are responsible for a team of people, it goes without saying that you need to invest in your team. In this day of continued fiscal restraint we need to become more demanding in this area. If we manage budgets of $500.000 is it too much to ask for 1% of that for some Professional Development?

15. Be accessible. Literally speaking, an open office door is being accessible. Promptly answering messages, leaving your office to be visible at meetings, events and in the halls keeps you in the forefront of your client’s mind. Social events are a must, as long as the business image is maintained. Even being friendly on a long elevator ride can show your accessibility. Being open-minded, progressive, and willing to change demonstrates your commitment to the firm.

16. Build a rock-solid reputation. There are a number of factors that go into establishing an unblemished reputation, but the foundation, in my mind, comes from the quality of the work produced. First and foremost it has to be excellent, without it you cannot build anything else.

17. Sell benefits.  Do not depend upon someone else to sing your praises (unless you have a quid pro quo agreement). Do not shy from communicating to others the skills and knowledge you can bring to a problem or question. Don’t undersell, but on the other side, never promise more than you can deliver.

18. Get involved. Don’t wait for the invitation to participate, offer your services, knowledge and skills.

19. Grab attention. Be creative and offer solutions that are interesting and innovative. Be willing to explore new and interesting opportunities.

20. Master the art of negotiations. It is pretty much understood that working with vendors means negotiating is a skill that most librarians need to possess, but it is also invaluable when working with others in your organization, especially if you are achieving success and you are pulled into an increasing variety of projects, with more demands being placed on your time. You need to be able to negotiate deadlines, and depth level of the work to be provided.
21. Design your workspace for success. Does your office say that you are accessible? Can a visitor easily sit down and not feel that they have walked into the aftermath of a tornado? Showing your personality and your personal life through the décor in your office is not a bad thing, but walking into your living room might be too much.

22. Get and stay organized. Quite simply, if your workspace is not efficient it will slow you down. Take a few moments to look at your workspace and organize it so that what you need to have close at hand, is, and that which should have been filed, has been. Just as you should dress for the job you want, make sure your office appears like you would like it to function.

23. Take time off. Librarians have a good work ethic, and need to be reminded that taking time off to re-energize and regenerate are good things too. Besides, how can they miss you if you won’t go away.

24. Limit the number of hats you wear. This point can speak to several levels, especially once success strikes and you become known as an expert. You simply can’t be everything to everyone. In a small library you will need to be comfortable with saying , ‘No, you can’t take on yet another role or project’. Even with negotiating time lines, some things will just be too much. If your library is larger empower your staff, don’t micromanage, be there as coach.

25. Follow-up constantly. Show that you are interested and a true part of the team by checking if the project/research/initiative you were involved in is finished. Do they need more from you? Was your participation useful, successful or could you learn from it? Use past success to build on future opportunities. Knowing where your successes lie gives you the information you need to” Sell Benefits”. If results were not ideal, don’t ignore them, learn from them. If it was your mistake, own it and learn from it.

Don’t be fooled into thinking because these points are numbered, they stand on their own. Think of them instead as points on a circle, creating a well rounded (yah, I went there) employee, valued and valuable. Your success is directly linked to the success of your endeavours, and no one succeeds by standing still.

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