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Managing Your Library Viewpoints

Opinion pieces for practising librarians

Viewpoints are opinion pieces written for practising librarians about an interesting or contentious issue. Also included with the viewpoints are further articles on the same subject that might be of interest.

School Libraries

Several large-scale studies in North America have shown that well-organized and resourced school libraries have made a measurable difference to students’ academic performance (and students also rate the performance of their libraries highly). This article will look at developments in school libraries, drawing from reports in the UK, US and Australia about the situation in their respective countries, as well as research and opinion pieces from Emerald authors.

Libraries in the Republic of Korea

Situated at the far northeast corner of Asia, close to Siberia and opposite the Japanese archipelago, South Korea has known geographical isolation and historical turmoil. And yet it is currently one of the world’s leading economies, the third largest in Asia and 13th in the world; a society where the competitive edge is maintained, at individual, corporate and national level, by knowledge and information.

Focus on Libraries in France

The French library scene is characterized by technological innovation (as witness the médiathèques introduced in the 1980s), collaboration, resource sharing, a strong public sector, and pride in the French heritage. This article will explore some of the key trends, looking in particular at public, university and research libraries.

American libraries – latest developments

This viewpoint provides a snapshot of the best of America's libraries, showing that they combine innovation with customer service, and contribute towards economic well-being. Above all, America's libraries are a powerful demonstration of the best of America's democratic values: providing a service that their users want and which their users, in turn, are prepared to fight for.

Focus on Australian libraries

Australia, despite being a young nation, has a fine heritage – two world wars; the first European settlers making their break from the harsh laws of eighteenth century England; and above all, Australia's indigenous peoples whose history goes back far beyond that of the earliest European inhabitants. Margaret Adolphus investigates recent innovations in Australian libraries and the unique challenges which they face.

Focus on Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt

Destroyed in the third century AD, the Library of Alexandria was one of the great wonders of the ancient world; its destruction one of the great tragedies. The idea of recreating the ancient library goes back over a quarter of a century, and was originally proposed by a professor at Alexandria University, Mostafa El-Abbadi. Finally, sponsored by the Egyptian Government, and supported by UNESCO, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina was completed and officially opened on 16 October 2002.

Celebrating excellence: a profile on German libraries

Berlin celebrated the 100th anniversary of the German Library Conference (Deutscher Bibliothekartag) in June 2011. To mark the occasion, Margaret Adolphus spotlights just a few of the many initiatives and achievements of German libraries/librarians in this viewpoint.

Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata: a viewpoint from South Africa

Dr Buhle Mbambo-Thata is one of the most distinguished librarians in Africa. She is currently the executive director of library services, at the University of South Africa (UNISA), South Africa's premier, distance learning university. In addition to this role, she is also chair of IFLA Division 5, Regional Activities, and a member of the governing board. She talks to Emerald about the nature of the South African community and the information services available to this highly diverse society.

Focus on libraries in Brazil

This article explores how Brazilian libraries go beyond mere information provision to enable social inclusion and tackle the digital divide. It also looks at library education and the essential role of organizations such as CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior), which works with higher education, and Plano Nacional do Livro e Leitura, or the National Plan of Books and Reading, which develops literacy programmes.

Focus on Indian libraries

India takes its libraries very seriously, seeing them as a way of supporting the information revolution and bridging the divide between the information rich and the information poor. If that is not sufficient motivation for superb libraries, India is also emerging as a major influence in the global knowledge economy. Good research and innovation also needs good research libraries, but libraries in India are as diverse as the social structure of which they are a part. In consultation with Anil Kumar, one of India's senior librarians, Margaret Adolphus investigates.

Ellen Ndeshi Namhila: A viewpoint from Namibia

As a child, Ellen Ndeshi Namhila, university librarian of the University of Namibia and chronicler of Namibian history, didn't know what a book was, let alone a library. A turning point came when she discovered a public library near her high school in The Gambia, started borrowing books, and conceived an admiration for the person standing at the other side of the counter. This ignited her distinguished career in librarianship, working first for the Parliament library and rising to become director of library and archives in the Ministry of Education, and eventually seeking new challenges in the world of academia. Here, she shares her inspiring story.

Focus on libraries in China

China has consistently baffled the West, and defies generalization. This is certainly the case with its libraries. World-class institutions and beacons of good practice that compete with anything in the West for resourcefulness and service development exist alongside places with poor collections and card catalogues. In this viewpoint, Margaret Adolphus provides an overview of library developments in China, highlighting good practice and discussing the issues still to be resolved.

Performance management and human resource development

Performance management is about setting clear and measurable objectives for work, and is an important managerial and human resource tool. A well-run performance management system will provide staff with clear objectives for their job, and plenty of opportunities for feedback and discussion with their supervisor. The objectives will be clearly linked with the strategic priorities of the organization. This viewpoint looks in detail at performance management and staff development.

Recruitment and retention in librarianship

Librarianship is a people business. Highly skilled and dedicated professionals are required to service information requirements in a world where the right knowledge at the right time is crucial. And being able to attract customers in an environment where they can easily go elsewhere demands excellent customer service and marketing skills. All this makes it very important that people within a library are well managed, and that library managers become aware of human resource issues. This viewpoint explores some of the main human resource issues which library managers need to be aware of.

The hybrid librarian

In today's rapidly changing information culture, professional boundaries will remain very flexible, and librarians will continue to find themselves in new, unexpected and exciting areas. This article explores a number of hybrid roles, some of which are well established, such as instructional and digital librarianship, and others which are very new, such as those in community development.

Paula Kaufman – an insight into the world of an academic librarian

Paula Kaufman is university librarian and dean of libraries at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the 3rd largest academic library in the USA, composed of a network of 47 individual libraries. She talks to editor, Margaret Adolphus, about the highs and lows of managing a university library.

Planning the library space

This article explores some of the design issues arising from planning space to suit today's customers, together with some advice about where to start from. It also points to sources of information on the practicalities of managing a rebuild or refurbishing project.

Marketing your library to the Net Generation

Because of their new position in a highly competitive marketplace, librarians have had to adopt business practices and pay much more attention to marketing. This article explores the ways in which librarians can, and are, using marketing concepts to make users – particularly those of the Net Generation – aware of their services.

Assessing the value of library services

The change in the information landscape from physical to virtual, an increased concern for cost accountability in public sector institutions, desire to provide what the customers want in a changing market – all these are reasons why libraries need to assess the value they provide and the impact on the organizations which they serve. This viewpoint considers why it is important to measure performance, what should be measured, and methods of assessment.

User studies

User studies is one of the most researched and significant topics in library and information studies, but it also remains one of the most elusive. This viewpoint focuses on some of the main models that appear in the literature, as well as a selection of research studies. It starts by looking at key writers and theorists, before looking at the methods employed by user studies, and finally at some of the findings.


Västerbotten in northern Sweden, which includes both the town of Umeå and also part of Lapland, is home to a highly innovative project: Bibliotek 2007 and its related website, which aims to make libraries, and the pleasure of reading, accessible to all. Editor, Margaret Adolphus discusses the project and also talks to Lars Eriksson, the project manager of Minabibliotek.

Project management for librarians

As libraries undertake more and more projects, they need to become familiar with the tools, techniques and methods of project management. This article looks at the main principles and good practices of project management, both in its general and its more formal methodology, providing examples from libraries.

How to manage a successful corporate library – a guide for managers

It's not enough to manage a collection or service and expect people to use it voluntarily any more. Here, Gwenda Sippings, an independent consultant offering interim management and advice in the areas of knowledge appreciation and information management, proposes some ways in which managers can run libraries to ensure relevance, resource and reward for all concerned.

Managing in a digital age

One of the more exaggerated predictions about the Internet was that it would spell the end of libraries. This has proved unfounded, but there is no doubt that the impact of information and communication technology is one of several factors which make any management job in a library challenging and one requiring flexibility. This article looks at the management skills required of libraries in the digital age.

Resource allocation models

In recent years libraries have been hit hard by a general atmosphere of fiscal retrenchment following public spending cuts. At the same time, we are living in a culture in which more and more information, previously only available in reference libraries, is now freely available on the Internet, leading to the belief that "everything we need is on the Web" at the click of a mouse from our desktop. Librarians clearly need to adapt to a new role.

Digital libraries

Digital libraries, so-called, first emerged in the early- to mid-1990s, paralleling the emergence and explosive growth of the World Wide Web. At the present day we see digital libraries occupying a more central and integrative role, and the last few years have seen enormous growth, with new horizons opened up over a broad range of issues. The field is enormous; this paper provides a brief overview and some pointers to recent work in key areas of digital library research and development.

Library consortia purchasing power

The amount of information available to researchers is increasing exponentially in the digital age. The number of scholars worldwide doubled in the last quarter of the twentieth century, meaning more data and more published research. Libraries have a different, but equally important role, becoming disseminators rather than storehouses of information, and needing to cater for a more diverse, and sometimes larger, student body. Yet neither libraries nor publishers are laughing all the way to the bank: the growth in information has coincided with cuts in funding. Enter the library consortium: a group of libraries who band together to share resources and improve their negotiating stance.

Feminizing management priorities: can we refocus the principal concerns of senior management in libraries?

The improvement of skills and knowledge lie at the base of effective management and, in this context, managers have responsibility to improve the professionalism and life skills of their staff. Professor G.E. Gorman argues that we need to completely reorient the manager's priorities, placing people issues at the top, and other issues in the second tier, without making them any less important.

The vision thing

The call is often heard – we need leadership for this purpose, new leaders for that. Leadership, it seems, is a panacea for many of the ills of modern society. Yet the concept of leadership is not clearly understood, and it is often hard to tell the difference between a manager and a leader – if there is any difference. So, before writers and pundits say that we need more leadership in the information management world, perhaps we should try first of all to agree on the nature of the beast, and then determine whether we can produce the kind of leaders that, collectively, we seem to think we need.

Creating customer loyalty among library users

The complaint has become a mantra – libraries are losing customers to a range of competitors, most of them web based. And what are they doing about it? Some have tackled the problem head-on, others have tinkered around the edges, and still others wring their hands and continue to witter away impotently. What few have done is to try understanding their customers better and to build a closer relationship with them.

Hernias and budget blowouts

The classic management texts present a remarkably neat and tidy picture of the budgeting process in information organizations, it seems that most writers see something like a four-step process as the norm. But, even if we assumed that the four steps were as simple as they appear on paper, how do we plan for increased costs, how do we know what to expect, and where to anticipate budget blow-outs?

Where is Richard Branson when we really need him?

It is interesting to note how little LIS literature has examined leadership. Do librarians and information managers shy away from the thought of missionary leadership? Philip J. Calvert attempts to understand the concept of charismatic leadership.

Team management and psychological profiles

In a work culture that is increasingly based on teams, it is becoming more and more essential to know why some teams work very well and achieve good results, while others fail both on an objective and personal basis... Niels Ole Pors investigates.

Culture, reputation and branding in libraries

Just a couple of years ago the concept of culture entered the scene as a new management approach. We all know when we have visited libraries that we like some more than others. This is often the case even if the libraries are equal in relation to staff numbers, objectives, finance and services. Normally it would be hard to analyse this reaction using only quantitative data. The culture of the library can be part of the answer of how different instituions develop even if they have the same objective conditions. But what do we understand by the term "culture" in a management context?

Can a computer be sincere when it says

While much attention has been paid to service process there is still not a great deal known about service quality in the digital environment. Here, Philip Calvert outlines the service quality assessment tools available in the digital world.

Being politically incorrect: consensus is for the insecure

There is a tendency among management gurus and seasoned practitioners to assume a mono-cultural view of successful management practice. Yet there are other approaches, and anyone who aspires to excellence in management needs to realize this.