Part two – So you want to be a Director of Library and Archives? Reflections from the first twelve months.

So where do I begin? A thank you seems like a good starting place. Thank you to everyone who gave me really positive comments on my previous post. Especially on how you could relate to the challenges that I reflected on in the first four months of my new role at that time, and how it allowed you to feel like you are not alone in this. Some of you mentioned that it was brave of me to openly say that I don’t have all the answers and how it would make others feel about me. My response on that is no body really has all the answers and if we, as leaders, can not admit that, we will not be able to listen, understand, and appreciate the comments and feedback we receive from our users and our staff fully.

So what has changed in the past eight months. I would say quite a lot. Most importantly, something clicked with me during the end of my sixth month in this role. I am not sure if I can explain this very well but it is a lot to do with confidence that comes with doing things. In summary, I felt more at home, more comfortable dealing with certain things, trusting my team more to get on with their work, and more importantly, not worrying about small things, both financially and logistically. I also moved away from a lot of operational discussion and ensured that my team does that on their own. All of this has allowed me to take a step back from detailed operational management, to empower the leadership team more, and to feel more at home. I have also built further credibility (at least across professional services and most academic departments), have had a chance to do more things at least once (annual insurance returns, year end, etc), and have involved myself in institutional agenda items (York Unlimited, WP activities, etc). This boosts one’s internal confidence, especially when you start feeling that processes and procedures are not entirely alien now. The same also applies for financial processes and applications, and year end has been really useful in this regard. I have asked lots (and I do mean lots) of questions from our management accountant and finance assistant (if you are not used to how accounts are done, this is highly recommended), and have understood and dealt with a few HR related issues (including local processes on performance management, absence, retirement, grievance, and severance). This has been a tremendous learning opportunity, one that I have really appreciated.

Another thing that has developed strongly for me during the past eight months is a wider appreciation of the University of York. I remember saying in my interview that University of York is a great place already, and with the right approach, passion, ambition and people, it can be an absolutely fantastic place. During the first fourth months, I was so busy trying to understand everything around me that I lost sight of the bigger picture. I now feel more connected with that. I can see sheer passion and ambition across the institution, in our staff, and in our students. I can see that all of us want to make York the most wonderful University it can be. I have met some amazing people during this journey, some being our wonderful alumni, some philanthropic donors, some friends of the University, and some who reflect this passion from within the institution. I feel part of the University with a strong sense of belonging and a strong faith in its future.

So are there any other things I can do better? Absolutely, otherwise I won’t be human. I need to improve in the way I communicate with the wider staff. I want to do this as much as possible, but I also find this a challenge. I am aiming towards a wider engagement with staff rather than one-way communication, but this requires a significant amount of effort, persistence and support. A lesson learnt here (especially after speaking with other new directors) is to use your marketing and communications team more effectively (which we don’t have here at York in the Library and Archives). I am working with my admin team on this in the future.

The second area where I can do more on is not ignore business as usual in the midst of strategy development. Strategies, by their very nature, are forward looking, and on reflection, it is easy to miss out on what already works really well (basically the current strengths) on the ground. I have learnt this through feedback from some of my colleagues and thus it feels like something in communication has worked well as staff have told me this without too much hesitation.

Other than that, I wish I have more time in the day. I am keen on developing a decent enough work-life balance as well, so I am committed to not doing work over the weekends at all, and not too late in the evenings. Also I have gone through a whole year and have enjoyed every moment of it, that is something definitely worth celebrating!

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