This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, March 31, 1999

March 31, 1999 - The Next Generation

I had only been a librarian for a few years, when my boss offered me an amazing opportunity. It shaved some 5 years off the front end of my professional life.

He gave me the job of Assistant Director. It was no small move. I went from managing a department of 20 to overseeing four branches and a host of technical operations. I have never forgotten that act of faith, and his continuing support over the next three years.

Those years were intense, vibrant, exhausting, challenging on every level. But my director was always there for me.

These days, I'm a library director myself.

I've been thinking about all this because of some e-mail passed along to me got from another director, out in the Pacific northwest. One day she realized that in 15 years, every single one of her department managers would be old enough to retire. She started looking at the younger folks in her organization, and realized a couple of disturbing facts.

First, she didn't have that many young librarians. Second, of the ones she did have, she hadn't done much to encourage them to develop managerial expertise.

It could be there are other baby boomers out there who find this as astonishing as I do, but here's the truth. We're in charge!

I bet lots of managers find themselves in the same position I'm in. Although I have surrounded myself with people possessing a rich complement of experience and insight, most of them are roughly my age. I've begun to realize that institutional vibrancy and endurance depends not just on the skills of the boss, but on the boss's ability to pass the torch to a subsequent generation.

I had a director who believed in me. I must now believe in the next generation. Some debts are paid forward.

The first issue is recruitment. What have librarians done to recruit talented young people? Not much. I could say, truthfully, that few people pick librarianship as their first job. For most folks, the first job is an accident, the second is for money, and the third is for love. Most librarians are in their third job. Just maybe we should work harder at pulling promising people into the profession a little sooner.

Librarianship is, continues to be, will be for long into the future, at the cutting edge of all professions. Think about it. Our job is information: the gathering, organization, and delivery of that information to absolutely anybody. How cool, how ultimately democratic, can it get?

The second issue goes right to the core of management. Ultimately, management isn't about projects, it isn't about money, and it isn't about busy annual reports. It's about people. If the people around you have dared more, learned more, and grown on your watch, you're a manager. If they haven't, you're a place holder, a defender of the status quo. You will be replaced.

The question is whether you'll have anything more than a sound pension plan to pass on to those replacements. Whether you're a librarian or not, it's worth thinking about.

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