Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Turnarounds

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Turnarounds

Article excerpt

The term "turnaround" is often applied to a company, which has been on the downgrade in performance, whether it's products, services or profits. Time after time you see articles in the business section of the newspaper about how some company has hired a "turnaround expert" to restore the company to good health. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. In many cases the so-called expert just messes things up further and the company fails in one way or another.

There are, of course, public libraries that have lost their way. For a number of reasons, perhaps, they no longer serve users effectively. Use falls off, staff morale sinks, in some cases financial support is reduced.

Of course, public libraries never go bankrupt and, in case after case, we see libraries which go on year after year, sometimes decade after decade, in a sort of doldrums. Use by the public is minimal, and the tax money spent usually not much - is essentially wasted. But the institution lives on.

But then, sometimes, recognition sets in and the trustees, or whoever sets policy, decide that a library turnaround is necessary. This can happen in well-supported libraries as well as those with low per capita support. They hire, often, a new director, probably from the outside, to shake up the place.

Boy, is this ever a risky decision, even if necessary. The task of turning an institution around is not just a matter of "kicking butt." As a matter of fact, that method seldom, if ever, works.

I read a newspaper article recently that quoted a number of turnaround experts from the private sector who impressed me with their common sense. Here are some quotes:

"In the case of a troubled company, management experts said, turnarounds typically share three key traits: the ability to identify talent, develop a good strategy and find a leader who can forge a supporting cast. …

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