Purpose: this paper aims to examine and then discuss the positive and negative influences of library manager styles on the engagement of vietnamese university library staff in continuing education (ce) activities to improve their work performance. Design/methodology/approach: based on the relevant literature, a preliminary contextual model of factors affecting ce for university library practitioners in vietnam was developed. Using the model as a framework to guide the data gathering, 17 focus group interviews were held with operational staff and ten individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with library managers at ten public university libraries across vietnam. Findings: three main managerial styles were identified, i.E. Directive, decisive and formalistic styles, each of which affected academic library staff ce in different ways. These styles were reflected in the ways the managers operated their libraries and assessed their staff, as well as in the ways they dealt with and coordinated ce activities. Research limitations/implications: this research focused only on public university library staff and managers in vietnam. Originality/value: the paper demonstrates that different managerial styles influence the engagement of vietnamese university library staff in ce activities in different ways, and recommendations are provided to help academic library managers, regardless of their location, establish strategies to support the development of their staff through participation in ce activities. Emerald group publishing limited.