Library Managers Around the World – Leslie Weir

This is a summary of the interview with Ms Leslie Weir, National Librarian and Archivist of Canada.

In February 2022, the IFLA Management & Marketing Section organized a webinar “Oh, The Places You’ll Go: Library Managers around the World”.

The webinar shared interviews with library managers from around the world. Each interview was focused around four themes: unique challenges, recommended skills for emerging managers, skills they are developing, and motivations.

Introduction

Hello, bonjour [French]. I am Leslie Weir, je suis Bibliothécaire et archivist du Canada [French], I am the Librarian and Archivist of Canada at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) which plays the role of both national library and national archives in Canada. I’ve been in the profession for more than 30 years. I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking to you today from the national capital, Ottawa, which is on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. The caretakers of this land in the past, in the present, and in the future. 

What are some of the unique challenges that you face in managing your library? 

At Libraries and Archives Canada, we decided to launch a visioning exercise during COVID. This has been quite an adventure. In June 2020, we launched the initiative to develop our vision for 2030 and we have been working on that vision, mainly remotely over the past 18 months, and we look forward to release the vision this summer. 

At the same time, we reorganized our institution. We have made substantial changes in the way we are structured and we are now implementing those changes. LAC has also recruited a new leadership team because we had a number of retirements of key members of our management team. We have three new members in our leadership team and we are in the midst of recruiting the fourth and final member. We do have quite a bit going on at the same time as we are actually in the midst of building two new facilities. We are building a storage preservation building in Gatineau, Québec that is part of the National Capital Region. And we have a partnership with the Ottawa Public Library, which is the fourth largest public library in Canada, to build a joint facility. We are going to be moving-in with a public library in 2026! It will be great, a national library and public library working together to serve Canadians. 

What skills would you want to encourage emerging managers to develop, to be successful?

I think the most important skill for emerging managers is active listening. You need to really listen to people and you need to hear them. You need to keep on learning. I have to say after 30 years in the profession, I learn something new every single day. And that makes me a better librarian. Network is very important as well. You need to build networks with your colleagues. You need to build networks with partners, stakeholders, and your various users so that you can really connect with them. So that they can support you in doing your job, in your professional development … and, in fact, help you deal with crises when they arise. I would also say that treating everyone with respect is critically important. Everyone deserves respect, and your relationships will be much better. You need to make trust a high priority in terms of … when you work with people. They need to be able to trust you and you need to be able to trust them. These are my suggestions for people to consider when they are developing their skills in management. 

What management skills are you currently developing or learning? 

Well … I came to Libraries Archives Canada in August 2019. I had been working in the university community in an academic library for many years. I came into a new organization that is part of the Federal Government of Canada, and for anyone who has ever worked for a federal government, I am sure they will agree that they are very complex organizations. I’m very busy learning about my organization, Libraries and Archives Canada, learning about the federal government, and finding out how they work so that I can develop my networks. This is critical for me to have some influence in supporting my organization to be successful. I would say it has been actually two years and five months of learning, learning, and learning. That is my biggest learning opportunity that is happening right now. 

What motivates you as a manager? 

I would say working with people is what motivates me. People who use our library, people that I work with, especially those that are part of our library team, people that I work with in other libraries and archives in the GLAM community [Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums] and in the Federal Government. I am keen on working together in teams and building something together, having a common vision. And then actually being able to see the success and see the impact that we have on people in their daily lives. This is what really what excites me. 

Thank you, merci [French], meegwetch [Algonquin]

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