I’m attending a course on “Managing Libraries” (it’s the 2nd day of the course as I post this), organised by the National Library Board Institute. Like all courses, if I go with an open mind, I find there are always things to learn.

The course jogged my memory of useful learning points I’ve learnt through the last 2 years in managing two libraries (concurrently). I was able to add another 10 additional points to my list of “Things I’ve learnt over the years in managing and leading a team” (this is still Work-in-progress. Who knows, I might publish a book later).

Anyway, during the discussions, it occurred to me that I should share some books that I’ve found really useful to me. The following books (by no means exhaustive) have helped me cope with the pressures of managing a library, and working with (and for) people in general:

(In no particular order)

  1. Becoming a manager: How new managers master the challenges of leadership/ Linda A. hill
  2. Managing at the speed of change: How resilient managers succeed and prosper where others fail/ Daryl R. Conner
  3. The age of unreason/ Charles Handy
  4. Not bosses but leaders: How to lead the way to success/ John Adair
  5. The power of losing control: Finding strength, meaning, & happiness in an out-of-control world/ Joe Caruso
  6. Don’t sweat the small stuff…: Simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life/ Richard Carlson
  7. Ten ancient scrolls of success/ Og Mandino
  8. Citizen Soldiers/ Stephen E. Ambrose
  9. Panzer commander: The memoirs of Colonel Hans/ Hans Von Luck
  10. Deepness in the sky/ Vernor Vinge

I repeat–the list is by no means exhaustive, as I tried to keep to only 10 titles. It occurred to me that I read perhaps 3 or 4 main types of books where managing and leadership is concerned.

The first type has to do with what I call “Management & Leadership: Practice & Ideas” (items 1 to 4). Item 3 has lots of ideas on what it means to “manage” for the future (it’s written in the 80s and still as relevant as ever). I would consider item 4 a must-read for all managers.
The second type has to do with “Motivation and Inspiration” (items 5 to 7). I highly recommend item 5, because it really helped me reframe what “control” really meant. I also highly recommend item 6 & 7 because they helped me to reframe and were very inspiring. They don’t espouse loud or flashy concepts. I’ve found that they suggest simple and quiet truths about how I can live my life as a better person (before I can even consider being a better manager).
The third type (item 8 & 9) would be about “Life-and-death Do-Or-Die Leadership-Under-Fire” kind of books. Ok, lest you think I treat staff as mere soldiers to command in the Library Battlefield, I must explain that I recommend those books not for the War aspect but for the parts about Leadership, Unity and “Courage under fire”–war is where you really separate the “leaders” from the “managers”. I find them relevant for another more subtle reason: the management and organisational theories that we find so familiar today have been directly or indirectly influenced by those survivors of WWII–the grunts and officers who went on to build Corporate America, Britain, Japan etc.
The last type (item 10)—ok, this would really be strange. A science fiction book considered as relevant reading? Ok, Sci-Fi may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But to me, Sci-Fi is about social change, ideas and human relationships. It just happens to be in a science setting. I get my creative juices flowing by reading Sci-Fi, plus it’s a good way to relax.