The wider institution
The majority of RLUK members are libraries within universities, and so the role of Library Director sits within a wider institutional context. Getting to know that context (especially if you are coming to the job from another institution) is vital. Although all universities look superficially similar from the outside, there is a dazzling variety of structures, reporting lines, ‘corporate’ verses ‘collegiate’ management styles, etc, etc. Understanding how these work for your institution, how decisions are made, and where the power lies is essential.
The advice is to identify key stakeholders within the institution, to understand their priorities, and to determine where you need their engagement. During the first few months there is a window of opportunity in which you can say “I’m new, can we meet…?”. One tactic is to ask people what they would like you to do if anything were possible. It’s a useful barometer not only on peoples’ wildest dreams and biggest frustrations (including the ones they think aren’t resolvable) and useful ideas you can use, but also a way of seeing how wide or narrow people’s horizons are.
In addition to these general conversations, specific issues can be used to initiate wider conversations with senior members of the university – a conversation on budget can lead to discussions of strategic priorities. And in all of these discussions it is key to understand the wider strategy context and ambitions of the institution and place the library in relation to these – explain how you and the library can support the institution’s strategic priorities.
It is important to be at the table where decisions that might affect the library are made. Use these conversations to identify the right committees to be on. And if these are committees where the library has traditionally not been represented before, use your honeymoon period as a new Director to push for you to be included in the meetings.
Finally, a piece of advice is to get to know your Finance Director – really well!