February 17, 2018

Lois Langer Thompson | Movers & Shakers 2004


Project Management Done Here


How do you simultaneously renovate a grocery store into a state-of-the-art resource library, supervise the daily operations of five libraries, lead a team in reimagining reference service, and plan your wedding? Ask Lois Langer, coordinating librarian of Hennepin County Library. Her answer: ‘Project management–you can do anything, professional and personal, when you project manage.’

Langer refined this skill when the Urban Libraries Council named her one of 19 Fellows in its 2003 Executive Leadership Institute. As part of ‘Transforming Information and Reference Service for the 21st Century,’ her project for the institute, begun in April 2003, she trained the entire information staff in live web reference, making them all equally responsible for answering questions in person, by phone, or online. Langer also initiated a discussion about how basic reference philosophy, strategies, and collection management might change because of new developments in information science and publishing.

By December 2003, Langer had half the reference librarians participating in web reference. Colleague Elizabeth Feinberg credits the speed of transition to Langer’s ‘innate sense of when it is time to end discussion and when it is time to take action.’

Langer has found the building renovation even more challenging. The project was put on hold when the original contractor went out of business, and when it resumed, the design had to be modified to enable wireless Internet access. No wonder Langer says the basic rule for managing a building project is ‘both you and the design have to be flexible.’

Despite her full schedule, Langer still finds time for book talks and promotes library services at local organizations’ meetings. ‘Every meeting is a chance to promote your vision,’ she says.

By the time you read this, Lois Langer will be Lois Langer Thompson and will have one less project to manage. She hopes that will leave ample time for her husband and her new passion, fishing. After all, what’s project management if not a tool to make room for all your priorities?




Current Position: Coordinating Librarian, Hennepin County Library, and Principal Librarian, Eden Prairie Library, MN
Degree: M.A., University of Denver, 1985
Hobby: This past summer learned to fish and ‘can’t get enough of it’