Toughest job in the library
Purpose The purpose of this article attempts to portray the unique and complex role of library middle managers. This important and influential position can be a proving ground for new and old managers as libraries continue to evolve, adjust policies, introduce new services and meet the needs of their users. Circulation managers as influential middle managers are realistically depicted as busy, overwhelmed and isolated, but welcome the opportunity to provide leadership and enhance their professional development. Design/methodology/approach This viewpoint is solely based on the author's varied experiences and personal reflections as a circulation department head providing leadership alongside colleagues in a busy academic library. Findings Department heads as managers of circulation departments are pivotal positions in every library. Circulation heads performing as middle managers are responsible for a full range of administrative, managerial and organizational services. Circulation heads are well positioned as change agents simultaneously directing frontline staff members, policies and services while providing valuable insight to library administration. Yet, circulation managers experiencing constantly evolving responsibilities, are too often found to be caught in the middle negotiating inconsistencies. Successful circulation managers require an eclectic mix of essential skills initiating and deploying change, defining success, dealing with people, actively participating in professional development and providing leadership. Research limitations/implications The study and research of library middle managers in public and academic libraries is practically nonexistent. As libraries increasingly create, adjust and reinvent library services, spaces and visions due to increasing digitization, in response to emerging online environments and new service models – middle managers and circulation librarians are excellent and proven pivots to negotiate and successfully implement this change. Practical implications As a crafted article written by a former head of a circulation department every staff member, student and librarian serving in access/borrowing/circulation departments should consult this article as required reading.Social implications The voices of library middle managers are too often muted, not valued and rarely celebrated. This viewpoint article written in a conversational voice depicts circulation librarians as middle managers that bring value to all libraries and should be heard. Originality/value This paper depicts the opportunities and challenges faced by, as well as the skills and competencies required by librarians serving as circulation departments heads.