Career Strategies for Librarians
Leading from Non-Supervisory Positions
(an excerpt from Jump Start Your Career in Library & Information Science)
by Priscilla Shontz

“Observe those who supervise you,” encouraged Judy Albert. “See what works and what doesn't.
Consider how particular styles or methods of decision-making affect your work. Examine your own
capabilities as a leader -- is a supervisory position right for you? Not everyone is cut out to be a
manager, and there is nothing worse than for someone who isn't, to aspire to that level, often for the
wrong reasons (money comes to mind), and not realize his/her shortcomings.”

Bob Schatz added, “Develop and maintain respect for other people, no matter what their position. Good
leaders respect those who report to them, and to whom they report. Pay attention to those attributes that
you respect most in the people to whom you report. Believe in yourself, and in your ability to be fair to
others. Realize that great leaders are in it for the people they lead, not for themselves.”

“Learn by example," urged Alison Hopkins. "I learned by watching others, learning from what I agreed
with and what I thought could have been handled better. I would run through situations in my mind,
decide what I would have done, and watch another person -- I then added to my knowledge base. This
was especially useful when learning how to handle customer situations. I would try to handle them
myself, then call a supervisor, and see how they resolved the situation.”

“How you define supervisory skills is the key," Laura Sill reflected. "Supervisory skills run the spectrum
from communication, organizational, personnel management, planning, leadership, etc. I think even
when you are not in a supervisory role, you can work on developing skills that would assist you in a
supervisory position. For example, you can show leadership on projects, committees, within your work
group, etc. You can work on your relationships with your colleagues as a way to develop personnel
management skills (i.e., interpersonal skills).”

Gerald Clark said, “You can demonstrate leadership even when not in a supervisory position.
Leadership includes being proactive rather than reactive. Leadership means having all your ‘staff work’
done before presenting something to your supervisor (for review, for approval, etc.); this includes
keeping up with advances in your field. Leadership means bringing your supervisor solutions, not
problems. These are things I learned from 20 years' work in the USDA-Forest Service, before I became a

“Observe and model others that you feel are good leaders,” advised Susan Davis. “Demonstrate
competence and interest in the assignment that you have. Become involved with committees, task
forces, student organizations etc. Volunteer for an assignment and then do a great job with it! And learn
to listen.”

About the Author:

Priscilla K. Shontz is a web designer and freelance writer and has worked in university, community
college, medical and public libraries.  She is author of Jump Start Your Career in Library & Information
Science and is a past president of the ALA New Members Round Table.  

Article submitted Mar 2002

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