May 26, 2022

Doctoral Dissertation: “From Librarian to Proficient Manager: The Journey of Public Library Front-Line Managers”

Here’s a recently published PhD dissertation written by Michele A. Leininger from the University of Pittsburgh that we think will be of interest to some infoDOCKET readers.


From Librarian to Proficient Manager: The Journey of Public Library Front-Line Managers


Michele A. Leininger


This study of the transition of public librarians to front-line managers and how they build proficient knowledge, skills, and behaviors describes the context in which the managers learn, adapt, and grow as well as their internal analyses and syntheses that led to observable and demonstrable actions and serves as a critical foundational step in public library management research that does not currently exist. As a qualitative descriptive case study with embedded subunits, this research was designed to unpack the steps participants took in learning to become managers, as well as how they interacted with colleagues and the organization to become proficient.

The case study involved twenty-one participants from a population of 30 managers at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and was conducted in two phases. In phase one, participants responded to three structured diary entries; in phase two, the researcher conducted two in-depth interviews with ten participants chosen from phase one. Diary entries and interview transcripts were coded using Descriptive Coding as well as Provisional Coding based on two business studies. Hill’s Becoming a Manager and McCall, Lombardo, and Morrison’s Lessons of Experience provided a conceptual framework; the study findings, however, revealed two important differences: managers universally expressed pride, love of job, and service to others and affirmed the community’s role as a motivating factor.

The primary outcome of the study was the profiles created of the ten in-depth interviewees describing their journies from librarian to proficient manager. The narratives and data reveal that gaining knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become a proficient manager is multifaceted and complex. While there were an array of answers as unique as the individuals who participated, there were some similarities: observing and identifying models (former bosses, current supervisors, administrators, or peers), capitalizing on and learning from previous experiences, and actively working to become proficient particularly in areas that are personally difficult. The uniqueness of this study is that it provides one of the first glimpses into the day-to-day nature of the complexity of the public library environment in which managers must learn to operate successfully.

Direct to Full Text (407 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.