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Up or Out: Smarter Ways to Get Library Employees Back on Track

Perhaps the most difficult task for a library supervisor or manager is dealing with employee behavioral problems in a respectful, legal, and timely fashion. Maybe it’s a new employee still in the probationary period that is not living up to their great resume and interview. Maybe the person is a good employee who has slipped into sloppy habits, such as arriving late and gossiping at service desks.


Maybe the problem behaviors are difficult to pin down, such as a tone of voice or nonverbal behaviors in a meeting. Or maybe a longtime employee’s bad behaviors were disregarded by a series of previous supervisors and can no longer be ignored.

The good news is that there are time-tested systems for anticipating problems, keeping employees on track, and handling difficult conversations. Documentation, precise communication, and setting agreements with deadlines and consequences are key to successful outcomes, including, if necessary, a parting of ways.


Learn how to reduce the drama for both employees and supervisors and address specific issues before they become serious.



  • Hire for emotional maturity and the right skill sets.
  • Ensure workplace and individual job expectations are communicated and understood.
  • Make feedback concrete and specific.
  • Plan and practice for employee meetings to ensure feedback is unambiguous, with deadlines and consequences.
  • Focus on the future instead of on past mistakes.


Up or Out: Smarter Ways to Get Library Employees Back on Track


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  • Jamie LaRue is a former public library administrator and academic librarian with over 30 years’ direct experience handling personnel issues, including those involving frontline staff, branch managers, and administrators. He has consulted regarding library planning, change management and has presented on broader management and leadership concerns. Currently, Jamie is the Director at the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, and the Freedom to Read Foundation.


    Pat Wagner is a consultant and trainer with 40 years’ experience with library management issues. She has worked with libraries in 48 states, from one-room rural storefronts to some of the largest urban academic and public libraries in North America, and is a frequent speaker at staff days and regional and national library conferences. Pat specializes in communication, supervision, project management, internal and external customer service, and conflict resolution.

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