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.

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