Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When is a branch manager NOT a branch manager?

When they are in fact, if not in name, the Director of the Library.

Here's the situation, companions!

I applied for a job in a small, semi-rural community, pop. appx 11,000, library 20 years old, 5,000 sqft, 6 employees (I learned all this at the interview). The ad was for a 'Branch Manager', so I was interested in learning how many branches the library system had. The answer: only one. ???

It turns out that the library is part of a 16 county Regional System. For reference purposes each library is referred to as 'a branch' of the Regional System, even though they are autonomous, independent entities. Thus, each 'Branch Manager' is actually "THE DIRECTOR" of the library, the one in charge, responsible for the whole enchilada, answerable only to the City Manager (in this case). No department head is called a 'director' but a 'manager' the problem lies in semantics. To me a branch manager is under a director, and thus is in a 'mentoring' situation where they can hone their management skills without bearing the brunt of full responsibility. Here, the Branch Manager IS the director, responsible for staff, budget, grants, everything.

To top it off, when I hesitated, and let them know of my hesitation, I was immediately offered a salary boost of almost 9,000 per year (from 34,000 to 40 - 45,000, depending on if they could find the money in the budget).

Add one more item: it turns out that there is a 'problem employee' on staff. One of the interview questions was "how would you handle it if you heard a staff member being rude to a patron?" I was later informed that this was not a hypothetical question, but a repeated problem, and that this staff had been written up with Personnel Action Forms (aka, PAF) several times by the City Manager since the departure of the previous 'Branch Manager'. As the incoming boss, I would be first, before anything else, be expected to 'handle' this problem.

(notice the proliferation of quotation marks above? I have a lot of red flags waving in hurricane force winds about this position).

Those who have been following the travels of "The Director" knows the situation that started me on my unemployment quest. This situation sounds eerily similar to that situation, circumstances I do not want to face again. I'd rather face an invasion of Daleks than go back into a heavily political, rebelliously staffed library once again. The Master could not contrive such a diabolical scenario!

I want to tell them 'no' right off, but they keep coming back with other offers. The latest: they will help find me affordable housing, as they do not want me moving to a smaller area nearby, even though the rent is cheaper. I wouldn't assimilate as easily into the town life.

My chief companion (wife) cannot help me out here either, as (as she points out) she has no point of reference for a library in peril situation. She is anxious for me to get a job (and out of the house, methinks) as soon as possible.

Pros:
good location, only six hours from where I am now (275 miles).
good pay (if they make good on second offer)
they want me
it's a JOB.

cons:
six hours from home (family would not be moving as we are in a fantastically good school!)
problem employee (where there's one, are there more?)
in charge!
higher rent than I'd like
did they lie to me,
how much more are they NOT telling me because they want me.
public vs college/university setting.

I need to let them know by this Friday if I am interested. So far, I have been honest with them, telling them I have conflicting emotions and thoughts on the position.

"The Director"

3 comments:

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Wow, I have been following your adventure, and that is quite the enchilada. I would be worried as well about the stuff they may not be telling you. And maybe it is my inexperience in administration, but is why that one employee still employed? Were it me, he or she would be out the door by now. I take it local politics and entrenching make it hard to fire them?

I do think you could handle being in charge just fine, but do you want to be in charge there, of all places?

I am rooting for you, so I hope in the end you find what works best for you, and the family.

Best, and keep on blogging.

Dale said...

Your blog post came up from a Google Alert I have for branch libraries. So, I haven't read your earlier entries. However, I'm a library manager (my title is director, but there are two levels of directors above me and two levels below me, before you get to the branches) and I've thought a lot about library jobs.

Based only on this one post, I think I would speak with the person making the offer and ask, essentially, "who can define success in this job?" (I assume it's the city manager). Ask that person, if you can, to define, in some way, what it would look like for you to succeed in this job. Let the person know that you want to be sure that the job is the right fit for you AND for the city. Any time you manage, there will be employees who need more supervision than others. There will be employees who aren't in the right job. And there will be great employees as well. (Also, more than once, I've found that a "problem employee" was just a poorly managed employee.) Sounds as though it could be a good opportunity for you. Could be.

Kewl Librarian 2 said...

I know there are problems and you won't really know everything till you are actually there. However, the fact that they told you about problem employee and have already written them suggests that they don't want the situation to go, they do want someone who can manage it, as that's what managers do. At least you've been forwarned.

And, having accepted a job only to find I wasn't wanted there, well be wanted goes a long way. And, right now, they do. Take a positive attitude with you and just kind of roll with it.

Looking forward to hearing how it goes.