Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Case Study No. 1699: "The Machiavellian Librarian"

[FREE PDF] The Machiavellian Librarian: Winning Allies Combating Budget Cuts and influencing
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The Machiavellian Librarian: Winning Allies Combating Budget Cuts and influencing Stakeholders by Melissa K. Aho [PDF]

"Publisher: Chandos Publishing; 1 edition (May 14, 2014)

Editorial Reviews About the Author Melissa K. Aho works at the Bio-Medical Library at the University of Minnesota, and is pursuing a PhD in International Development at the University of Southern Mississippi, USA.

Erika Bennett is Instruction Services Team Supervisor at Capella University. She has written book chapters, conference papers, and articles on information literacy and assessment. Erika holds an MLIS and an MS in Educational Psychology. "
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The Machiavellian Librarian: Winning Allies, Combating Budget Cuts, and influencing Stakeholders
by Melissa K. Aho (Editor), Erika Bennet (Editor)

Series: Chandos Information Professional Series
Paperback: 340 pages
Publisher: Chandos Publishing; 1 edition (May 14, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1843347555
ISBN-13: 978-1843347552

Do librarians 'rock the boat'? Do they challenge those around them to win influence and advantage? Why is it that librarians are little found on the 'influence' grid of personality assessment tests? The Machiavellian Librarian offers real life examples of librarians who use their knowledge and skill to project influence, and turn the tide in their, and their library's, favor. Authors offer first hand and clear examples to help librarians learn to use their influence effectively, for the betterment of their library and their career. Opening chapters cover visualizing data, as well as networking and strategic alignment. Following chapters discuss influence without authority-making fierce allies, communicating results in accessible language and user-centered planning. Closing chapters address using accreditation and regulation reporting to better position the library, as well as political positioning and outcome assessment.

* Throws the spotlight on librarian's professional and personality traits, many of which are deleterious to the long-term viability of library funding
* Shows how best to boost the value proposition of libraries, through enhanced influence
* Includes how-to chapters on influencing others in the organization



Although I recognize this book is unworthy to be given to Yourself, yet I trust that out of kindness you will accept it, taking account of the fact that there is no greater gift I can present to you than the opportunity to understand, after a few hours reading, everything I have learned over the course of so many years, and have undergone so many discomforts and dangers to discover.
- Machiavelli, 1995, p. 5

Those words by civil servant Niccolo Machiavelli are at the beginning of the most famous political works in Western history, The Prince, written in 1513 in Florence, Italy (Machiavelli, 1995, p. 5). While the book that you are currently holding in your hands did not come from dangers or discomforts (well, not too many, at least), it is filled with ideas and suggestions that Machiavellian librarians have learned over the course of their professional years.

Five hundred years ago, aka 1513, started out to be a very bad year for Machiavelli, as months earlier he had been wrongly found guilty, along with some of his acquaintances, of plotting against the new Medici government of Florence. So at the age of 44, Machiavelli spent his jail time being tortured, fined, and writing letters to powerful friends like Giuliano Medici, whose brother had just been elected Pope Leo X. Pope Leo would soon release Machiavelli and others in jail so that they could join in the public festivities which were underway to celebrate the new pope (Machiavelli, 1995, p. xii).

Born in 1469 to Bartolomea de' Nelli and Bernardo Machiavelli, Niccolo was truly a product of the Renaissance culture going on around him (Viroli, 2000). His father was a poor lawyer who could not join the legal guild due to his family's debits, but he wanted his son to have a good education in the humanities (Machiavelli, 1995, p. xiii; Viroli, 2000). But Niccolo, due to his family, was destined always to be the civil servant and never the politician. Machiavelli first appears in the public records in 1498 as a second chancellor of the Florentine republic and later that year he was elected to the position of secretary of the Ten of War committee (Machiavelli, 1995, p. xiii). Other high-ranking positions soon followed, such as organizing the Florentine militia, and later he would travel to France, Austria, and all over Italy on diplomatic missions (Machiavelli, 1995, p. xiv). By 1501 he had married Marietta Corsini and with her had six children (Skinner, 2000).

While considered the ideal book for anyone going into politics, written to convey the art of influence and leadership for a young prince just coming into power, The Prince was penned by Machiavelli as a plea for a job. Talk about a cover letter! The Prince, writes Skinner, has two themes: war and arms, and that "in addition to having a sound army, a prince who aims to scale the heights of glory must cultivate the right qualities of princely leadership" (2000, p. 38). Virtue and goodness are apparently not characteristics we need in princes, Machiavelli tells readers. What is needed is deception, cruelty, unfaithfulness, and whatever it takes to be a successful prince and stay in power and to keep the principality safe and secure (Rubery, 2009). After writing The Prince in jail, Machiavelli did not get back his diplomatic and civil service career; that part of his life was over. Instead, he changed his focus and increasingly became "a man of letters" (Skinner, 2000, p. 55) and soon other works - fiction and nonfiction - followed, including The Discourses, The Art of War, and The History of Florence. However, The Prince, which was not published until after his death in 1527, would be his claim to immorality.

What does a 500-year-old Italian book on war, arms, and cruelty have to teach modern-day librarians? Librarianship may seem much more in tuned to Servant Leadership than Machiavellianism. Librarians are typically called to their profession by principles of public benevolence: tolerance, equality, and civic empowerment. We root the arguments for our continued existence in lofty principles and touching patron anecdotes. When we do use data, it is often rife with caveats: "Well, there is a correlation here with student success, but you know that the only true measure of causation is a longitudinal focus group... " We bury the lead headline behind pages of interjected pre-analysis.

Why read this book? In sum total, librarians need to boost their abilities to influence decision-makers, or else face professional extinction. Machiavelli wrestled with dualities through his writing: private life vs. public life, Christianity vs. paganism, individual knowledge vs. common pursuits (Donskis, 2011). Librarians live in a similarly dichotomous world. On one hand, we are seen as fuddy-duddy relics of a print-based world. In reality, we are recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency for our digital information prowess (Central Intelligence Agency, 2007). On the one hand, we avoid using our professional terms like "metadata," "Boolean," "databases," or "fields," but on the other hand, our students of all backgrounds and preparation levels get hired as data-entry professionals in the entry information economy, and an understanding of Boolean logic could boost their efficiency with every search box they ever face. Fictional police and crime shows talk about databases with glee, glamour, and awe, as an all-powerful research tool that only the most crafty hackers on their team can wrangle. They don't search "Google Terrorist;" they consult a crime database. Yet these hacker-turned-criminal-investigators are never former librarians. Librarians in fiction still dwell in caves of paper books. How do we shift impressions of what we do? How do we craft a message with greater impact? How do we show stakeholders the import and value of our information skills? Each author in this book has offered practical examples and insights into the professional dilemma of bringing visibility to our value.

At the surface, the misanthropic stereotype of Machiavellianism seems like an ill fit, professionally. However, librarians who deeply read Machiavelli's work may be surprised at certain synergies. While Machiavellianism in the pejorative sense means deceit, manipulation, cynicism, and ruthlessness, his works were much more complex, motivationally. He never actually stated, "The end justifies the means." In fact, deep reading reveals certain shared values with the library profession. For one, he wanted a value-neutral evaluation approach. In his view, politicians should have values and ethics independent from other value sets, such as religion, and reject the biasing influences of utopian fantasies. In essence, he believed in approaching information pragmatically, according to need or function. Secondly, a review of The Discourses reveals that personal gains are not the end goal for Machiavelli. They are simply a vehicle for civil prosperity. His goal was not the whims of the Prince, but civic virtue, preserving civilization from disruption. He sought a place where rules were followed and civility ultimately reigned. Librarians can appreciate this mindset. Sometimes, in the interest of fairness and the common good, individual patrons cannot get what they want.

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