Defining Library Leadership

leaderUnless you’ve been living under your desk for the last couple of years, then all the talk related to the shrinking pool of library administrators is not new to you.  I don’t know about you, but I feel inundated with journal articles, listserv posts, and blogs telling me about how few leaders there are in the profession – about how library administrators are retiring at a faster pace than they can be replace at and that no one actually wants to be an administrator or a leader.

So, I’ve been thinking about this.  This is all personal opinion, which I’m quite good at distributing liberally, but hear me out.  Being an administrator and being a leader are two completely different things.  A library can have one administrator and many leaders.  In fact, systems that fit that description seem to thrive, if the leaders’ skills are well directed.

Librarians don’t want to be administrators because it appears to them that being an administrator looks like a lot of pushing and pulling.  Pulling people to new ideas, pushing people to reconsider their budgets, pulling people to adopt new customer service techniques, pushing people to not do things the ‘old’ way.

But in library school, for instance, you hear a good deal of talk about why the library world needs more administrators.  Why it really would benefit people to consider administration roles as a future career.  Here’s an idea…why don’t we explore what it means to be a LEADER first?

Being a leader can be very easy if it builds on a persons strengths.  You can lead quietly, you can lead loudly, but dang it, just lead.  Blogging is leading.  (Heh Heh…like that pat on my own back?)  Being an early technology adopter is leading.  Going to conference and sharing what you learned is leading.  Being on a committee for your state association is leading.  Fearlessly trying new library trends is leading.  Being creative, trying new things, stepping up to the plate when needed – those are all leader qualities.  And those leader qualities eliminate a good deal of the push and pull that administrators struggle with on a day-to-day basis.

But then that changes the task of the administrator.  You can no longer be in constant control.  You can no longer be power hungry.  Leadership becomes about shaping goals, providing vision, timing events, adding structure to the creative and professional output of all those leaders that are being enabled.

I guess my point is that maybe as a profession we need to redefine what leadership means and how people can demonstrate leadership.  We need to clarify that you don’t have to carry a traditional leadership role to guide the profession and your individual library.  I think once more library professionals feel comfortable with being leaders, then we’re going to have a lot more administrators.

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2 responses to “Defining Library Leadership

  1. Is training considered to be leading? If yes, I’m not sure if I want to lead. I just had to teach Drupal blogging to a group of unhappy library staff and it wasn’t a good experience. Maybe I do just want to hide under my desk…

    Your points are truly well taken. My sister in law just sent me a very good quote and here it is…

  2. …”he who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk.”

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