Evans and Alire (2013) define delegation as “the process of creating an order or structure for handling the activities and tasks that the library wishes to accomplish (p.131).” In order to keep the library running like a well-oiled machine, managers must delegate tasks to complete strategic goals. Amanda Piegza (2008), author of the article “Delegation 101: The Basics for Library Managers,” speaks knowledgably about this topic as she has been a manager both in and outside of the library profession and, in 2008, was due to graduate with her MLS degree. As the manager of a public library, I myself delegate tasks daily, and I have learned that there is almost always more work that can be shared with others. The importance of artful delegation is a fundamental management skill.
Piegza (2008) describes fears that managers have about delegating and what good delegation is, citing Evans’s and Ward’s four steps and Genett’s six steps to effective delegation (p.77). These examples of steps to be taken are similar to those described in Chapter 6 of Management Basics where the library’s priority structure is established, the employees’ talents are recognized, resources are analyzed, workspace issues are addressed, tasks are organized and assigned to individuals or teams, and, as work is completed, outcomes are monitored (Evans, 2013, p.136-137).
There are distinct benefits to being a skilled delegator; sharing work with subordinates when possible allows managers to focus on their higher-level management duties (Piegza, 2008, p.77). Piegza discusses the vicious cycle of ineffective delegation wherein the manager believes he has no time for his duties nor time to train others to do them, so he continues to do “delegation-appropriate” tasks himself, thus creating less and less time to achieve his goals (p. 78). In my own managerial experience, I have seen a tendency to adopt the attitude of “I’ll just do it myself,” adding stress and perhaps not achieving the more important big-picture goals.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the article are Piegza’s (2008) list of six tips for delegating:
- Delegate based on a staff member’s job description so your employees will not be working out of class. I have found it helpful to keep copies of all staff job descriptions at hand along with current union contracts to ensure that staff are not working beyond the scope of their job.
- Provide ample time for subordinates to complete tasks. If you err in estimating the timeframe, be willing to adjust deadlines as necessary.
- Train properly. Spend the right amount of time instructing staff in their new task, taking into account the complexity of the task they are learning.
- Think about return on investment; will the amount of training time be less in, say, a month, than the actual time it would take you to do the task yourself?
- Trust your employees to do a good job. Piegza makes a good point when she says that without trust, you have a bigger problem with the employee than merely delegating.
- Avoid micromanaging by letting go of unimportant details (p.78).
It is important for managers at all levels to continue to improve their delegation skills, and to revisit the literature on the topic for review.
Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman.
Piegza, A. (2008), Delegation 101: The Basics for Library Managers. Indiana Libraries, 27(1), 77-79