Interview of the Month: Eleanor Lange on Library Management

I’ve decided that as part of my blog I will interview a librarian every month on a different topic. This month my lovely interveiwee (and my boss this summer) is Head of the Fennell Music Library at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Eleanor Lange. First, a little about Eleanor.

Eleanor began her work as the Head of the Fennell Music Library in March of 2011. She grew up in Knoxville, TN and graduated from Maryville College in 2000 with a BM in Vocal Performance. She studied voice, performed, and worked in Atlanta, GA (woohoo Georgia!) for five years before deciding to go back to school. Eleanor received her Masters in Library Science with a Music Librarianship Specialization in 2009 from Indiana University. After finishing her degree, she worked for the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University as the Band Librarian before joining the staff at the Fennell Music Library.

The focus of my interview with Eleanor was library management. As my own library manager, Eleanor runs the music library with fairness, common sense, and an open ear to the opinions of her colleagues and employees. All this and more has led me to respect her as a manager and wonder what her secret to success is. As someone who will be managing an employee very soon, I thought it would be a good idea to pick the brain of an expert manager while I had the chance …

MG: So what made you decide to become a librarian?

EL: Well, I was a performer and performers don’t make much money and I knew I needed to make a living. I also wanted to do something I was passionate about, and I had worked in a music library in graduate school and really felt at home there.  For a while in Atlanta I talked to a science librarian about what she did and, while being a science librarian isn’t exactly like being a music librarian, I learned a lot from her and developed a sense that that’s what I wanted to do.

MG: Could you tell me a little more about your background in management specifically?

EL: Sure. I was the band library assistant at Indiana University and managed two to three student workers. Then in the Variations Program (also at Indiana University), I managed two student workers as well.

MG: What would you say are the qualities of a good manager?

EL: A good manager needs to be open-minded and needs to listen to what everyone has to say when making decisions. Good communication is key as well. Sometimes you have to be stern, which is difficult, especially if there are age differences between you and those you manage—for example, I managed someone who was much older and had been here for a long time. You need to learn how to talk with a person respectfully if something needs to be changed.

MG: Well, you mentioned some of them, but what are the biggest challenges you face as a library manager?

EL: Being young and having older people as employees. Also, you might want to be everybody’s friend, but sometimes you can’t be. Sometimes you have to do things that make you not everybody’s favorite person, but your company needs that to happen. You have to learn to say no. You always want to say “Sure!” in customer service, but you can’t always do that.

MG: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment as a manager?

EL: Hmm… I guess learning to be a manager in this situation. I’m a manager in the library and in lots of other places—I work with faculty, conductors. I have to earn their respect and work with lots of different personalities. Also, I’d say teaching the interns each year is a big accomplishment.

MG: Have you ever had a really great manager? How did that person inspire you?

EL: Well, I really look up to Sandra [the Head of Interlochen’s Academic Library and Eleanor’s coworker]. She’s taught me a lot about how to convey things as a manager. She wasn’t my manager, but she was my advisor for my sound recording cataloging internship. She taught me how to teach, how to be a mentor–she was my mentor.

MG: If you could give any other advice–management related or not–to a new librarian, what would it be?

EL: Keep your mind open. Keep it open to new technology, keep it open when working with administration or managing employees. Listen to what others have to say and keep in mind that you’re the new person. My predecessor here at the music library wasn’t well-liked by everyone so I was under lots of pressure to do a better job than he did. I learned to listen to what my colleagues had to say and be a team player. Also, make sure you don’t back down all the time–speak your mind when you have an opinion about a decision. Sandra and I always communicate, so we always know each other’s opinion about decisions and that’s really important.

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