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Basic Medical Library Management: Administration

Mission Statements and Business Plans

A mission statement quickly and concisely identifies the role of the one-person library, connects it to the mission of the parent organization, and describes briefly what the library does.

"The Introduction to Strategic Planning" developed by the Small Business Administration demonstrates how to develop a strategic plan as well as a mission statement.

The following are some well thought out mission statements which you can use as examples for your library:


Time Management

In a busy one person library it is important to make appropriate use of time. The following resources offer guidelines on how to manage your time effectively:

Politics in the Organization

Politics affect all organizations no matter how large or small. Learning to fit into an organization will help job performance. Donna Scheeder's article "The Art of Practicing Good Politics" is no longer available on the SLA web site where it first appeared. However, this list of tips was extracted from her article before it was removed. These tips will help you learn how to work within an organization.

  • Build Relationships. All good relationships are built on trust. Don't wait until you need support to introduce yourself. Network wherever you can: in the hallway, on the elevator, even outside your workplace. Seek out newcomers to the organization and introduce yourself and your services to them. Let people get to know you.
  • Build Your Favor Bank. Support the positions of others, especially when it doesn't cost you anything to do so. Offer assistance pro-actively to others. Build an image of yourself as someone who can be depended on.
  • Know Your Power Chart. Identify the players and lines of positive and negative power within your organization. This power chart may change from issue to issue and in many cases, may not reflect the official organizational chart.
  • Build Alliances/Partnerships. Based on your power chart and your relationships build alliances with the other players in your organization. This will improve your ability to influence outcomes. Ask, "How can we each get what we want" and strategize together.
  • Understand & Use the Process. Get a picture of how decisions are usually made and what processes are used. Whether it is a committee or a single individual who makes the decision, do what you need to do to get your message through.
  • Do Your Homework. Find out what the issues/objections will be. Talk to those on your power chart. Be flexible and make changes if needed. Give credit to those who come up with a better solution. It is sometimes better to reformulate or even withdraw your proposal before it gets to the table for a decision if one party will be significantly disadvantaged by its acceptance.
  • Get Feedback from everyone, making sure to draw out those who are quiet. Use gossip to access underground power circles to assess your position.
  • Don't Waste Time Undermining Enemies when you can spend it building stronger alliances. Politics should not be a zero-sum game whereby someone's gain comes at the expense of someone else. If you must vent your anger, do it in private. Always maintain your integrity and honesty.
  • Take Advantage of Confusion and Urgency. Fill the Void Left by Others. Donna recounted how her office was able to develop expertise in budgeting for electronic resources even though another unit was technically responsible for this portfolio. As a result, not only is the knowledge leader on this topic located within her shop, but her office is effectively protected in the budget for this kind of resource.
  • Use Consensus and Compromise. Practice creeping incrementalism rather than pushing projects through relentlessly. When negotiating, keep your long-term goals in mind and ask, "Does it take you forward?" If it affects your allies adversely, work with them to sell them on it.
  • Don't be a Bomb Thrower. Don't raise serious issues or considerations at the time when decisions are being made. You will be perceived as a saboteur and your reputation could be seriously damaged. These kinds of concerns should be addressed as part of your homework and brought up as early as possible in the process.
  • Be a Team Player. Once a decision is made, support it. Respect the political process and justify others' trust in you as a member of the team.
  • Give More Credit to Your Allies & Supporters Than You Give to Yourself. Politics should never ultimately be about ego. As Teddy Roosevelt said, "The most practical kind of politics is decency".

Decision Making

MLA's Survival Kit offers tips on making decisions within the organization.

Papers on Decision Making:

Library Committees

Library committees can play an important part in decision making as well. The library committee is usually a small, multidisciplinary group that acts as a liaison between the library its users and the administration. Its purpose is to assist the librarian in planning and implementing library policies. The committee could be involved in collection development and marketing of the library. The librarian should be sure to make a written agenda and justifications available to committee members before meetings.


The administration of an institution may or may not allow the librarian to take a significant role in the budget process. However, no one understands the library's operation as well as the librarian and no one else can more accurately predict its future financial needs. The librarian must be prepared to present and justify the library's budget.

Line Item Budgets are the most common and easiest to prepare. These budgets show expenses broken down by major categories.

Some expenditures to take note of when preparing your budget:

  • salaries and fringe benefits
  • journal subscriptions
  • books
  • supplies
  • cost of purchased services
  • equipment

Also, be sure to consult:

  • previous budgets and expense reports
  • library statistics

Budget Planning Resources:

  • Additional Resources

Staffing the Library

If you are a one person library with limited funds consider the possibility of a volunteer program.

Using Volunteer Staff in the Medical Library by Sandra Wicker and Pointers for Using Volunteers Effectively by Barbara Boruff are two great articles which will help you to utilize volunteer staff more effectively. These articles will also teach good general personnel management skills.

Whether using volunteers or paid staff be sure to:

  • Give a through orientation to the library and its services.
  • Teach basic library skills.
  • Emphasize the importance of customer service and the mission of the library.
  • Provide feedback, knowledge and encouragement.
  • Regular staff meetings whether formal or informal provide opportunities for staff to discuss concerns, new services to be added, and areas for improvement.

Customer Service

Librarians must provide excellent customer service. The librarians attitude toward the library is the most important factor in establishing good public relations. The librarian's attitude is conveyed in everything s/he does. For example, the librarian who is truly interested in providing effective library services will take an active role in his or her institution and get to know the staff. The librarian will also look for opportunities to assist library users and will foster a service minded attitude in the library staff. The librarian who wished to promote use of the library will also facilitate a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere in the library. An enthusiastic librarian will even furnish coffee and the daily paper to draw people into the library. All of these things create an atmosphere of good will toward the library and lead to increased use of the library and its services. (Ruth Ann Arany, Administration of the Health Science Library, Basic Library Management, Midwest Health Science Network)

What is Customer Service? a workshop held by the Implementation Leadership Group at MIT explores the concept of customer service and how customer service applies to libraries.

The Reference Interview

  • Statement of request
  • Clarification of unclear terms
  • Scope of subject
  • Amount of material needed
  • Type of material needed
  • Level of material needed
  • Time period of material
  • When the information is needed

Marketing and Justifying the Library

These articles emphasize the importance of marketing:


Librarians must justify the existence of the library by keeping well documented and accurate statistics.

Possible statistics to track:

  • Requests for information
  • Number of visitors
  • Circulation statistics (books borrowed per week/day and periodical usage)
  • Inventory of journals and books on a yearly cycle - compilation of comparative loss statistics
  • Analyze use of electronic subscriptions.

Newsletters and Web Sites

Consider sending out a regular newsletter from the library be it in paper form, web based or a monthly email to the whole company noting new services the library offers, new books or journals or web sites that would be of interest.

Web usability tips are offered by the MLA.
The Value of Web-Based Library Services at Cedars-Sinai Health System. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1999 Jul;87(3):256-60. This article discusses lessons learned when providing web based services.

If you would like to build an electronic newsletter, check out web sites to get ideas of what other institutions are doing. Although the following are large institutions, you can harness ideas from their sites and put together a smaller scale newsletter of your own.

Library Clip Art:

Clip Art will help you liven up your publications and web pages. Take a look at some of these clip art sites to get ideas of how to spruce up your documents.


If you are a hospital librarian you should ensure that your library meets JCAHO standards as JCAHO is the major accrediting agency for hospitals.

JCAHO evaluates and accredits nearly 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. An independent, not-for-profit organization, JCAHO is the nation's predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Since 1951, JCAHO has developed state-of-the-art, professionally based standards and evaluated the compliance of health care organizations against these benchmarks.

Acquiring Grants and Funding

Funding Resources: A list of resources and links for funding opportunities. Consider applying for grants to increase the resources of your library.

Library Supply Companies