Public Library Directors: Perceptions of Their Leadership in Municipal Government by City Managers and Peer Department Heads

Government/Public Sector    Managers/Executives/Administrators

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TITLE Public Library Directors: Perceptions of Their Leadership in Municipal Government by City Managers and Peer Department Heads
RESEARCHER Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne
Graduate School of Liberty and Information Science
Simmons College
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: September 2017

The purpose of this study was to examine the library directors’ leadership role within city government as perceived by peer department heads and city managers.

A total of 210 participants were initially identified from 30 cities from the 183 municipal library jurisdictions in California, and 34 (16% response rate) individuals completed either the Leadership Practices Inventory (N= 11) or a phone interview (N = 23). Completion of the LPIObserver was on the “public library director.”

The most frequently mentioned leadership practice was Enable, following by Model and Encourage, and then Inspire and Challenge. The rank order from city managers and peer department heads were the same, although the frequency scores were generally higher from the latter over the former.

The author concludes:

The study findings reveal that most peer department heads and city managers view the library director as a leader rather than as a manager. Observable behaviors, supported by the Five Practices through the online survey, see the public library director as supportive of others activities, enabling others to act, and acting as a model for leadership behaviors. They are less likely to be observed as creating a compelling vision for the library, working with others to achieve it, and are least likely to challenge the status quo through experimentation or risk taking (p. 52).

To be viewed as leaders by their peers, library directors and those who wish to become directors may want to consider and practice how to demonstrate leadership through their daily activities and interactions in their peer groups. Participants offered views of library leadership that are more traditional, although at least two city managers articulated a more dynamic and modern view of library directors as professionals and what they desired in department head-level performance. The library director needs to know that their peers have such impressions of a library. Awareness of Kouzes and Posner’s theories may provide a way to enhance more traditional views of leadership and management overall, as the terms and interview comments align with Kouzes and Posner’s (2007) theories in spite of the more traditional responses (p. 54).

The LPI can serve as a tool for libraries, library leaders, and others to better understand how observers regard them in terms of leadership. Although not widely used in library research, the LPI seems appropriate for better identifying leadership behaviors, and helping library directors in terms of self-reflection about areas of transformational leadership that can help them improve their own skills (p. 57).