Library Managers around the World – Dr. Jianzhong Wu

This is a summary of the interview with  Dr. Jianzhong Wu , Director of University of Macau Library, Macao, China.

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

Thank you very much for your invitation. It is an honor to take part in this program. It is an excellent idea to use Dr. Seuss’s book title Oh, the Places You’ll Go to show the journey of libraries of the world, as well as the challenges and joys of the librarians.

I am Jianzhong Wu, the University Librarian of the University of Macau. The University of Macau is the largest comprehensive public university in Macao and has the largest library building in the region. Before I joined the University in 2018, I was director of the Shanghai library which is the second largest library in China. As a university librarian, I am now in charge of the library, the archives, and the history hall. I am also working on a new project for the University Art Museum that will open in October 2022.

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

Like all other academic libraries in the world, my library faces the challenge of transformation. It is not an easy task for me. As a long-term public librarian, I had no experience working in a university library, and more than this, before I took this position, the UM Library’s major tasks had been book circulation and online search. Although the library has a modern building and is equipped with modern IT facilities, the services had been traditional. So the first thing first is transformation. I have spent a great deal of effort to change the library from book-centered to people-centered and stay engaged with the development of the university. In the past four years, we have done five major things. First, we have developed information literacy programs to replace the traditional library use workshops. We have set up a working group of information literacy with members from different sections and compiled the textbook (which was successfully published by Springer in 2020). Instead of having workshops in the library, we go to the faculties and ask professors to combine the IL (information literacy) courses into their curriculum. After about two years’ practice, the Information literacy courses and workshops have been well received by our students. In 2021, the library provided about 100 information literacy programs. Second, we have developed research services. We compile research reports and evaluation reports and provide consulting services for the faculties and institutions. We have also established a patent information service for the university. Third, we have developed BOYA cultural programs, BOYA means liberal arts in Chinese, combining all the lectures, exhibitions, and “new book release” activities. The library plans to publish a book of selected BOYA lectures by the end of 2022. Fourth, to cope with the transformation, we updated the library management system. The new system is a Cloud-based ALMA system. The new system started in mid-2020 and has been working well since then. And the fifth, we have established a Scholars Page platform that includes all the research profiles of the university’s teaching and research staff. I am glad to see that the functions of the library are constantly being extended to more areas of the university.

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

There are a lot of useful skills. Here I mention two: creativity and mobilization. You need to know what you are going to do in the coming, say, at least five years. Your strategic plan should be creative, farsighted, and acceptable to all. And you should let your staff know that the whole landscape is going to change, and that transformation is a must. When you have a good plan, you also need to mobilize people to take action. The problem is that most libraries are public institutions. Public institutions often lack incentives. Authority and financial rewards do not work. So organizational culture and core values are important for improving professionalism. Finally, you must lead by example demonstrating your own willingness to mobilize and be creative.

What management skills are you currently developing or learning?

Collective leadership is important. Before I took this position, there had been no leadership team in the library. Director decides everything. Now we have a leadership team and a regular meeting system. All the important decisions are put on the table and made by the leadership team, not one person. I am sure by doing this, we have avoided many inappropriate decisions in the past. Also, flexibility is important. The European administrative system has a strong influence on public institutions in Macao, and it is difficult to build new services on an old structure. But I believe that we can change the culture even though we cannot change the system. So, we look for some feasible changes. For instance, we start to develop cross-sectoral groups. Many newly established groups including information literacy, patent, and archives are cross-sectoral, and they are proven effective because these innovative services need people with diverse backgrounds. For example, cataloging, reference, and IT services.

What motivates you as a manager? 

This is a very good question. In China, we have a saying that poverty gives rise to the desire for change. When I started my library career in the 1980s, the libraries in China were very traditional and poor. I have witnessed and experienced the change and evolution from a traditional library to a modern one. Now after 40 years of reform and opening up, the Chinese libraries have developed rapidly, many libraries become modern and some even become world-class, for instance, the Shanghai Library where I worked as director for 16 years. But in general, the quality of the library services in China still needs to be improved. Many grass-roots libraries in remote areas are still poor and small, and the funds for purchasing books are low. The library modernization in China is still a long way to go. This motivates me to work harder. I have dedicated my life to the library and love the profession very much. I think even after retirement, I can still do something, for instance, writing, teaching, and serving as a consultant, for this beloved cause.

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