Saturday, September 24, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: LIAL

This is the fourth post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

I recently read about Harvard Graduate School of Education's Leadership Institute for Academic Libraries (LIAL), reading about is on the blogs of K. D. Schneider and  John Dupruis. It sounds like an amazing experience, bringing together leaders from across North America for a week for an in-depth conversation about the management of academic libraries.

For a week during the summer, participants gathering in Boston, where they are encouraged to unplug from their computers and dive into in-depth readings and discussion focusing on leadership development in academia and libraries. LIAL creates a safe space for the group to examine both what is happening in their own institutions as well as wider trends that effect all of them From Schneider and Dupruis's descriptions it seems that a lot of introspection and excitement is generated during the week.

Reading their posts, what I come away with most in the notion that leadership development is an ongoing process. While most directors and managers of academic libraries are certainly hired for their leadership skills, it is understood the continued development is necessary to be an effective leader. This seems to be a common element of organizational culture for institutions who focus on learning and information sharing. Theories and best practices are always evolving and reacting to outside influences. I think this is an element that draws me to a career in libraries: lifelong learning is not just expected but celebrated.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Look inside the mind of a library circulation worker...

...when things are super slow, I get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle of social media:

When I'm really bored, I make Venn Diagrams:

Thankfully I have enough on my plate that this doesn't happen super often!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Words from McChrystal

This is the third post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

If you are a leader, the people you've counted on will help you out. And if you are a leader the people who count on you need you on your feet.
- Stanley McChrystal

As I mentioned in the last post in this series, I think it is always important to look to leaders who inspired. you. I count Andy Woodworth as a leader in the library community. His many awards and accolades are certainly well deserved. I was not surprised to find posts on his blog about leadership, but my curiosity was piqued when I noticed that he had a Ted Talk by Stanley McChrystal, former Commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While undeniably a leader, I don't always expect to see the intersection of military interests within the sphere of librarianship. However, watching the video and reading Andy's comments, I found that the intersection made perfect sense.

Many of McChrystal's comments struck a cord with me. There were some that were expected, along the lines of never leaving a falling soldier behind and good leaders let you fail without being a failure. But I was really impressed with what McChrystal had to say about being a leader in a rapidly changing time in history. Which makes sense, both the type of warfare that we are engaged in and the makeup of our troops are constantly changing. And, of course, the technology used to communicate is evolving as well.

Andy picked up on this as well, succinctly summarizing the talk as the need of leaders to use our technological innovations to build trust and a consensus of a common purpose. Andy specifically related this to the dialog that librarians are creating with publishers on the best way to lend ebooks in libraries, which is a difficult conversation to have.

But the idea of leveraging technology to build a common goal within an organization or institution is an important lesson in 21st century leadership. Although librarians don't all work together in a physical space, we have tools to allow us to engage in conversations regardless of location and work towards the common goals of efficient information access, effective information literacy instruction and protecting basic freedoms.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Looking to others

This is the second post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

I think it an important source for developing your own leadership philosophy is to look to those who've come before you. I have always been a great fan of In The Library With The Lead Pipe, a collaborative, peer reviewed library blog whose contributors always seem to have their fingers on the pulse of what is happening in library-land. Recently, Eric Frierson had an excellent post on leadership. Frierson wrote about the importance of authentic leadership, and I couldn't agree more. As I mentioned in my first LFTS post, I developed my leadership abilities at summer camp, where our biggest critics were the campers themselves. They were the first ones to detect when a cabin leader was not being themselves, giving that leader a difficult time getting his cabin to fall in line. On the flip side, campers would follow a self-confident leader to the ends of the earth and back.

Frierson also prompts a great discussion on vision. I think having a vision or a mission statement is key for effective library leaders. It's something bigger than the organization that gives it a sense of direction: a point in the distance to mark their compass and point the prow of their ship. As Frierson mentions, the vision must be imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, flexible and focused.

I really appreciated this post, not only for it's discussion on leadership but the fact that its published by leaders in the library community.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: An introduction

This is the first post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

When I saw that Cindy Romain was teaching a course on leadership, I got pretty excited. Cindy was an internationally-recognized Library with Nike "where she was responsible for the strategic global collections for a world-class design community." She is the founder of Romainiacs, a consulting firm that offers companies intelligent research services. And she is the current President of the Special Library Association. If there is any instructor who know a thing or two about leadership, it is certainly going to be her.

We were asked to keep a blog, reflecting on our thoughts about leadership throughout the term. I thought that it would be great to complete this assignment here. It'll be a great opportunity to share with my readers my perspectives of leadership and share what's going on inside the mind of a library student in his final semester of library school. This is my first post, and I hope to keep posing once a week or so throughout the semester.

Campers enjoying Lake Winnipesaukee, Copyrighted by YMCA Camp Belknap
I thought I would share where I have developed my perspective of what it means to be a leader going into this class. It all started at summer camp. I attended YMCA Camp Belknap in New Hampshire for 7 years as a camper, and then 6 years as a staff member. Belknap is a leadership based camp, promoting staff members directly out of the camper ranks. The values that Belknap promoted were apparent in all aspects of camp life, most notably  our motto: 'God First, the Other fellow Second, Myself Last.' While this may seem creepy and cult-ish, I should note that this was the camp motto since it's founding: in 1903. But it should also be examined with a wide angle lens. To us, 'God First' meant putting something larger than yourself first. And the rest of the motto communicated a commitment to promoting the benefit of all and appreciating serving others. Although, to most campers, the motto really only translated to not taking the biggest brownie at desert.

The leadership model that the staff utilized most was Leadership By Example, what we called LBE. We believed exhibiting personal behavior we wanted to see in others was the most effective form of leadership. And it worked very well for us.

Fellow camp alumni and I joke that our years at Belknap was horrible for the resume, but excellent for the interview. Other staff members have gone on to become leaders of education, business and medicine. And while it may not be instinctual for most to see how years at summer camp prepares you for almost anything, it is certainly the truth. I know that I am constantly seeing correlations between lessons learned as a cabin leader ans lessons I am learning in library school. Being able to adapt, the need for creative and the importance of collaboration. I am excited as my career as a librarian develops to see how else I can incorporate my experience from Belknap.