This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions
by Caitlin Moen, Head Editor, INALJ Louisiana
Transitioning to Management: Q&A with Anna Jensen
Caitlin: What has been the greatest challenge for you in moving into a management role?
Anna: Moving into a library with employees who are older and more established than I am. Luckily for me I feel like the staff at my new library really appreciates having me here because they had been understaffed for quite some time. However it’s still challenging to find a balance when you are managing people who are 20-30 years your senior and have been with the library system for much much longer. I have to be careful to make sure I am respectful of the fact that they know the library’s needs and challenges much better then I do and show that I really appreciate their input, but without giving up my position of authority. It’s also difficult to get across to the patrons that I am the person in charge when they expect that my coworkers who are older and have been here longer would be the manager. I hear comments like that all the time expressing surprise that one of them was not promoted and saying that it’s not right. Patrons don’t understand the difference in position requirements between being a library associate and being a librarian so I don’t let me bother me. Also my employees are in generally really good about conveying my authority to patrons (mostly because it means they get to shift the blame for not waiving fines off of themselves, but that’s okay).
Caitlin: What is your favorite thing about your new management position?
Anna: It’s nice to not feel like someone is looking over my shoulder all the time for a change. I like having the freedom and flexibility to set my own tasks and decide the priorities of what needs to be done. Being the manager really gives me a sense of ownership and responsibility in the library that I haven’t really had in other lower level positions. That’s a really nice feeling to have when a patron compliments the library or expresses appreciation for the help they received.
Caitlin: What experience in school or work has been most helpful for you in your transition?
Anna: I have had management positions before but not on the scale of managing a whole branch, so those experiences were obviously very helpful. I have been a team lead on two temporary projects previously where I had to manage people who were older and more experienced then me and where I had to interact with clients and respond to their demands which is very helpful in dealing with patrons. During my masters program one of the required classes was “Management in Information Agencies” and I do sometimes refer back to my experience with group projects to figure out how to motivate people and deal with the group dynamics of the work place, but I would say that school has not been as important/helpful as real world experience. Also, my employer requires all new managers to take “Basic Supervision” courses. They are pretty boring sometimes and I don’t look forward to going to them, but they are still very helpful. A lot of it is common sense, but it’s still helpful to hear again especially since it’s specifically packaged to be helpful to the situation I am in as a new manager. I would highly recommend taking advantage of any resources and training your employer might provide.
Caitlin: What advice can you give to librarians considering moving into supervisory roles?
Anna: Trust yourself that you will be able to adapt. There are a lot of responsibilities that I have now that I really hate doing. I am a conflict-avoidant person in general, and I hate talking on the phone. However when I come into work and put on my manager persona, it’s much easier to do the things that have caused me anxiety in the past. I think fake it until you make it is the best advice I could give… but at the same time don’t be afraid to ask for help. I called my supervisor at least several times a week for the first month or two. Nobody is going to expect you to know everything about a new library system and they would rather you ask questions then make things up as you go along.
Anna Jensen is originally from Columbia, Missouri and resides now in Gretna, Louisiana. She holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an M.L.I.S. from University of Missouri – Columbia. She has been working in libraries for 6 years. Anna worked her way up from Cataloging Technician to Cataloging Team Lead with her previous employer, then moved to her current position as a Branch Manager at a public library in Louisiana.