Catching On: Management Training in Depository Libraries

Article excerpt

In July, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that he would retire from his position at the end of the current baseball season. Although the season didn't end until October and spring training doesn't start until February of next year, there was immediate buzz and much speculation about who would be the next skipper of the storied franchise. It is never too early to start looking for a good manager.

Before settling on interim manager Mike Quade to take the full-time job, many names were suggested to be the team's next leader. Two of the top candidates were Bob Brenly, who led the Arizona Diamondbacks to a World Series title in 2001, and Joe Girardi, who took the Yankees to a World Series championship last year Brenly is currently a well-respected analyst for the Cubs' on-air broadcasting team, while Girardi played with the Cubs from 1989-92 and again from 2000-2002. But apart from their obvious managerial success, it's not their connections to the Cubs that have their names among the frontrunners--it's the fact that when they were active players, they both were catchers. Catchers are viewed as the lynchpins of the baseball diamond. From their unique vantage point behind the plate, they are able to size up everything that happens on the field: where everyone on the team is positioned, what's going on in each of the dugouts, where the umpires are situated, what the baseline coaches are up to, and whether there's activity in the bullpens. They also call the games, signaling the pitcher what pitches to throw to whom. Based on how the game plays out, they adjust, readjust, and recommend adjustments. An astute catcher will suggest fine-tuning that allows the other specialized position players to perform like a well-oiled machine. They can keep an eye on the fans as well. They see and do it all.

Catchers themselves are specialists, too; their position is considered the most difficult and grueling to play Often they are converted to play other positions. Because of their inherent versatility and their required relationship with everyone else on the team, it's no surprise that there's a preponderance of catchers-turned-managers in Major League Baseball (MLB). In the first eighty years of the twentieth century, 21.6 percent of MLB managers once were catchers. (1) Three of the five new managers hired in 2008 had previously played that position. Of the four teams left standing in the 2009 postseason, three were managed by former catchers. Forty percent of current MLB managers were career catchers. As Nalbantian and Guzzo note, it can't be by accident that such a disproportionate number of MLB managers were catchers. There appears to be something in that job that provides broader perspective by linking the individual more fully to the organization. (2)

What does this have to do with libraries? As in baseball, libraries are always looking for good managers. The broad skill set and range of experience needed by administrators are often cultivated by holding a variety of positions at a number of different institutions, most often on a track that primarily focuses on either public services, technical services, collections, or sometimes IT work, the separate areas of operation that inform many libraries. But, also like baseball, there might be a single area of library expertise that lets practitioners see and do it all. A "catcher's background" would prepare a librarian to take on the challenges of managing at the senior level before actually reaching it. Such a background would transcend divisions and offer potential for a different kind of leadership.

Numerous libraries of all types and sizes--currently, nearly 1250--participate in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), a network coordinated by the United States Government Printing Office (GPO). (3) Depository libraries select and receive a range of content in an array of subject areas in both hard and electronic formats at no cost in exchange for making the information freely available to library users, including the general public. …