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People Come and Go

Nancy and BJ had some fifty years of accumulated experience at the library between the two of them, so their retirements over the summer have had a huge impact.   In general, I believe in the old saw about no one being irreplaceable -- nonetheless, when you have people who have been in senior positions for a long time (Nancy was deputy director; BJ, associate director for planning and assessment), they carry experience and organizational history that really can't be duplicated. 

I've heard it said that the most important things an executive does is hire and fire people.  I'm still not sure that I agree with that completely, but certainly for the last six months, those personnel issues have occupied the major portion of my attention.  It's not just key people leaving, of course; the daunting thing is the prospect of bringing in new people, and watching the new relationships form.

Given my own early mentoring by people like Bob Braude and Judy Messerle, I've always believed that getting the right person is more important than hiring for a particular skill set.  Of course, that's the kind of blanket statement that is subject to a thousand nuances in any particular situation, but, in general it is still true that as we've gone through many interviews over the past two years, of candidates for various positions in the library, I'm always more concerned with how this person will fit, and what they will bring to the relationship mix, than I am with the particular skill set.  If somebody is going to be here five years, they're going to learn a whole new skill set anyway -- so are they the kind of person who learns things quickly, who is highly adaptable, who is comfortable with ambiguity and eager to try some new things?  Do they have a perspective or a way of looking at things that is different from what we've got in the library now?  We need people who will be able to get along and engage effectively with a wide variety of personality types, but we also want people who bring divergent opinions and ways of looking at the opportunities before us.   "Fit" doesn't necessarily mean finding somebody that everybody is comfortable with -- sometimes what we need is a little shaking up, and the right person, with different ideas and ways of approaching problems, can be just the thing. 

I'm optimistic.   The people who have been working on our search committees have been doing an excellent job, and we've been seeing some good candidates (one of the hard things is turning down someone who has many of the qualities that we're looking for, but who, for one reason or another, doesn't meet that elusive "fit").  Over the next several months, we'll be bringing in a number of new people, and, inevitably, that'll mean significant changes in work relationships.  I think we're well prepared for it, but probably everybody is a little nervous.  I think that's a sensible attitude.

Comments

massyandra

I completely agree with the ideas of this article!!! Old people are not certainly unnecessary!!! There are so many old people full of life and energy that even a very few number of youth can compare with them in saps!!! One of such I met last year in Cyprus Four Seasons!!! She was a woman of 75, still working as a professor in medicine in one of the hospitals in California!!! As she told us she was a great indisputable authority (maybe she was exaggerating), but we could only be envious of her energy and a very good appearance!!! Thus, I can only add that some old people can be still a very good model in everything for the young ones!!!

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