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Tips for New Library Supervisors

Kellie Barbato

Director of Lineberger Memorial Library

Lenoir-Rhyne University

The Core New Members Interest Group will be publishing a series of posts, “Tips for New Librarians” featuring advice and interviews geared towards early career librarians. Please enjoy the third in our four part series!

Are you a librarian who is new to supervising others or are looking to step into a leadership role sometime in your career? If so, there are many resources out there to assist you in learning how to be a good leader for a library team, whether it is as a department head, the director of a small library, or a dean of a large university library system. In this blog post I’ll share some tips and resources to help individuals in any of these categories and more.

As someone who is committed to being a good leader in any context, I have accumulated many resources on leadership over my 5 years as a leader in libraries, 5 years as a leader in other professions, my masters program in leadership,  and many other leadership opportunities throughout my career.Even if you have been a leader before, it is worth taking the time to refresh your knowledge on the topic as research on leadership continues to evolve. This leads to my first of three tips:

1. Develop your leadership skills and commit to lifelong learning by…

…reading, listening, and researching. If you are not interested in growing as a professional and as a human being, a leadership role may not be for you. The primary role of a leader is to empower their team members to learn, grow, and do the best work they can in the most ideal circumstances possible. A leader who doesn’t commit to their own growth is doing a disservice to its people. Continued learning and growth should lead to more reflective practice and a higher level of self-awareness, both of which are essential to being a good leader and creating the best work atmosphere possible.

More and more content about leadership is being created than ever before. It seems like almost every recognizable CEO has published a book or has a podcast on leadership. Many of these resources are well-researched and quite helpful to both new and seasoned leaders. Here are a few to check out:


  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.  – Brené Brown
  • Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace – Christine Porath
  • Radical Candor: How to Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Scott


  • The Global Leadership Podcast by the Global Leadership Network
  • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • The John Maxwell Leadership Podcast by John Maxwell
  • Coaching for Leaders by Dave Stachowiak

Other resources

  • Harvard Business Review – The journal, podcasts, “Management Tip of the Day” email
  • Ask-A-Manager blog by Alison Green (
  • Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment (fka Strengthsfinder)
  • Mentoring programs – many different programs are available through various library organizations, such as the College Library Directors Mentoring Program through ACRL
  • Therapy (Really. Everyone needs a therapist at some point in their lives, if not throughout. I’m a throughout person, myself.)

2. Support your team…

…by caring about them as human beings. If you are already a leader, this is essential. If you are not the type of person who embraces people and their messiness, a leadership role may not be for you. The people on your team have lives and relationships outside of work, just like you do. It is a myth that people can “leave their personal lives at the door” when coming to work; leaders need to create a safe space for their people to embrace their humanness. Ask your team members what their goals are both inside and outside the library, then do whatever you can to support those goals.

…by getting their input. Embrace the process of collaborative decision-making. Ask for your employees’ opinions on decisions you need to make even if you cannot do exactly what they would like when all is said and done. People have a deep need to feel heard and have their opinions valued, especially in the workplace. Also, you will hear ideas you never would have thought of on your own!

3. Establish a healthy culture in your library…

…by setting and keeping boundaries around work/life balance. Don’t send emails to your employees after working hours, especially if they are hourly employees, and make sure they know they do not have to answer emails received when they are not at work. A gentle reminder: email is a form of asynchronous communication.

…by taking time off and encouraging your employees to, as well. Be sure your employees can use their allotted time off; if you need to, go above and beyond to make sure your employees use their vacation time. Assure them that while they are incredibly important to the library’s operation, you can get by without them while they take a break. Everyone deserves regular breaks from work. Not utilizing PTO leads to employee burnout and turnover.

Recently, I interviewed a colleague who began her first library management position in August of 2021. Elizabeth Fairall serves as the Law Library Manager for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Palm Beach County in south Florida. Many thanks to her for taking the time to answer my questions!

KB: What have your first 8 months as a library manager been like?

EF:  Busy. I manage four employees across three locations. Shortly after I started, one of my employees accepted a promotion at a different organization. We were recently able to fill this vacancy, but it was a hectic couple of months covering the open position. 

KB:  Knowing you were stepping into your first library management position, did you do anything specific to prepare? If so, what?

EF:  I asked people who were already managers for recommended books to read or podcasts to listen to. Then I started learning as much as I could. 

KB:  What have you learned so far in your time as a manager that you wish you’d known prior to starting the role?

EF: Familiarize yourself with the HR policies first. Keep a copy of them at home since you might need to address a time-sensitive situation outside of normal working hours. 

KB:  Any advice for those about to begin their first management positions or who might be considering moving into library management?


1.  Read the AskAManager blog: 

2.  Listen to the Boss Better Now podcast: 

3.  Read the Fundamentals of Library Supervision: