Tag Archives: library leadership

Let me bare my librarian soul…

Part of the Emerging Leaders project meetings involved the following exercise:

Pair up with someone in the room you don’t know. You each have one minute to tell your life story. First, I’d like you tell your life story from the perspective of a victim.
I’ll let you know when one minute for each of you has passed.
Great.
Now that you’ve shared, tell your life story from the perspective of being a hero.
Great.
Now tell your life story but relay it only from the perspective of the life lessons you’ve learned.

I thought it was going to be a really stupid exercise. I was really, really, really resentful that I was being forced to share my life story with someone I didn’t know at all. I did my best to share but edit gently.

Luckily, I had a really cool partner.

And you know what? I’m thinking of that experience today, and I’m not resentful. I really enjoyed it, and I really learned a lot about myself and my perspective of myself from that exercise.

It was really hard to be the victim. I kept trying to leap to the most positive things that happened, but that wasn’t really allowed. “Yeah, that sucked big time but later on something great happened!” I guess I’m a more positive person than I really thought.

Secondly, I was a bit embarassed to try and be the hero. But I couldn’t tell the story without making it funny. I think that’s true of librarians – we have a hard time making ourselves and our institutions into heroes.

And the life lessons…I hmmmed, and hawed and muttered something about learning to be patient. And now that I’ve had three or four days to think, I’ve realized how many life lessons I’ve really gained. And how I don’t appreciate or refer to those life lessons nearly enough. Wow…crazy…it’s like having an amazing personal resource center and never bothering to use it…

So, I went from resentfully baring my soul to really learning a lot. That six minute exercise is still making me think, days after the fact.

Something to ponder…

(p.s. I tried to find clipart a naked dude wearing a barrel.  No dice.  It got kinda kinky!  Yikes!)

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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.

Even Bosses Should Say Thank You

Today I held a lunchtime wedding shower for one of my employees.  It was my way of saying thanks to someone who works hard and demonstrates immense work ethic and concern for her work.

I think that too often, the detail-mindedness of librarians can become our downfall.  We are so busy seeing what is “not right” and what needs to be fixed that we don’t see what is right and don’t say thank you to people who do well.  More often than not, when you ask a librarian about how things are going at work, you get a negative response or a litany of the things going wrong.  I do it myself, so I know.  But I make a special effort to tell my employees “thank you” every day and tell them a thing or two that I was happy with.  I find that when the time comes for me to tell them they did something not-quite-right, they respond more quickly and try harder.

Doesn’t that all seem obvious?  It seems like a “Well, DUH!” sort of thing, but it must not be, because not a lot of bosses do that.  I know mine doesn’t and it’s why I try to be mindful of it.

Before I step off my digital soapbox today, I want to share one more thing.  When I was a high school vice principal, someone gave me a list of things entitled “Twenty Things I Learned from Being A Principal”.  One of the things was: If someone asks you if you are busy, respond by saying, “Yes, but I have time for you”.

That single statement has been an incredibly powerful tool in my managerial toolbox and I use it often.  You have more time than you think and the people around you will appreciate you stopping for them for just a few moments.  Try it.