ER&L 2012: Leading From the Top, Bottom, & Middle — Owning Your Library Leadership

Can I get a hell yeah?
mmm-hmm!

Speakers: Bonnie Tijerina, Karen G. Schneider, & Char Booth
Facilitator: Jill Emery

There are many different kinds of leadership. Everyone here has the potential to be a leader. They asked for words that mean leadership for the attendees, and some highlights from the wordle are vision, communication, decisive, innovative, confident, and inspiring.

What is your word for leadership?

CB: Clarity is most important to me in this field and others.

BT: Integrity — it’s hard to go with your true beliefs when they go against other pressures.

KGS: Changed word after hearing other responses. Optimism, because if you don’t believe you’re going to succeed, who else would. Also, faith. Hope to be able to talk about case studies, because she has four from libraryland in mind.

BT: Visionary is interesting. Sometimes you have to be a leader by going in a direction and having faith that it’s going to work out, not by knowing that it will.

What are your reactions to the words we chose, and what stands out?

KGS: Patience and impatience are missing. You need a balance of both to lead.

CB: Impressed by how many words were in reference to other people, like inspiring and motivating.

BT: Most exciting are communication and listening.

CB: Curious if these were generated by example or anti-example?

Why do you do so much work outside of your day jobs?

BT: When I see a problem that needs a solution, I think all it needs is some work done to make it happen, which is how ER&L got started. Attended an ACRL session about ER librarians in 2005 and saw a need for bigger discussion.

CB: What libraries do is critical. We have a calling.

KGS: Most significant work was in the late 90s on internet filtering issues. It was a natural extension of my calling that didn’t end when I walked out the door of my library at the end of the day. It’s part of the fabric of who I am as a librarian and a person.

Where do you think leadership is needed in librarianship today?

KGS: Everywhere. Many people are leaders at levels that are not well recognized. They’re not the shiny bloggers or people getting gold stars for things. People are doing equally important things at the local level.

CB: No matter where you work or what you do, it’s critical to step up and do the things that need to be done. What are you going to do about it?

KGS: And cultivating leadership with the people you work with.

BT: I’ve seen some examples of informal meetups of groups at ER&L that needed to get together. I see leadership happening all over the place.

How do you motivate or inspire others?

CB: Make people not scared of their own enthusiasm. Let it feed what you do.

BT: I leave Char’s presentations feeling inspired, and I try to think about what it is that she does. Think about why we are librarians and what we’re doing? We have a calling. Get at the core of why we are here, and that motivates people. You can get caught up in the spreadsheets and the things that don’t work, but continue to be mindful of why you are here.

KGS: You constantly have to remind people of their own excellence and capabilities, and thank them for their work. Communication is key. It’s not enough to have good ideas if you can’t do that. EJ Josey is one library leader that comes to mind, and in the 1960s was crucial for the desegregation of the state library associations. Marvin Skilkin (unabashed librarian), as a young library director, found out that publishers were doing price fixing. His testimony at hearings lead to the steep discounts that libraries still receive for print publications.

BT: When I was working on ER&L, I was two years out of library school. Told two leaders at Georgia Tech about it, and one was excited and supportive. The second leader thought she was crazy for trying to do it. However, having been motivated by the two different types of leaders, she thinks the more critical person was more of a motivator. Maybe challenging people to think through ideas is a good reality check for a leader.

CB: Does anyone else have issues with the word leadership? There’s an arrogance in there. There’s a chance of the followers not acting because the leader will do it.

BT: Char & Karen were uncomfortable with being invited to speak on a leadership panel. We need to own that. We need to be comfortable as librarians to think of ourselves as leaders when we’re doing leadership.

KGS: You can’t be wishy-washy. You have to claim it?

BT: Does anyone in the audience have questions, or see a need for leaders in the field?

A: What would you call leadership if you didn’t call it leadership?

CB: I have this image of leadership as a paternalistic figurehead. What does it mean to you? Maybe we should just try to model it.

KGS: Leadership from behind and leadership from the front — we have to balance both.

BT: Adjust our definition of leadership.

KGS: I have a public persona that is not really me, and that makes me uncomfortable. The one behind the scenes is the one with the leadership qualities, not necessarily the one everyone sees.

A: Embrace your inner leadership. I see it as starting from the bottom. What is your favorite curse word?

BT: I can’t say that.

CB: Hell & damn.

KGS: I was in the air force — everything I have is not safe for work.

A: One thing I don’t see in all the words is popular.

KGS: Words related to inspire and inspiration lead to the popular thing.

A: Keep focused on the user. Don’t worry about the job title they give you. Don’t worry about faculty/non-faculty.

BT: Motivate by reminding our selves why we’re.

CB: In the day-to-day, people can get dragged down. We need to yank them up.

KGS: Optimism is a discipline.

CB: We learn these behaviors by modeling our influencers. Thanks, Mom.

BT: Leadership is intentional.

A: Be realistic about limits. Librarians have a tendency to take on too much.

BT: I’ve heard that.

KGS: Picking and choosing your battles is important. Aging has taught me my limits. We have to pace ourselves for the long haul. No is not the same as not now.

A: Why aren’t we seeing more of this in our profession? I’m in my 27th year of librarianship. I love the optimism, but I’m so tired. Is it something about our profession? I use the words mentor or supportive colleague more than leader.

A: The Library Society of the World on FriendFeed was having a discussion of why we don’t talk more about our failures.

KGS: I have failed, but I don’t like to.

[Stopped taking notes to get in line to respond that leadership and management should not always be the same thing — we need to restructure our decision making roles in libraries to recognize leadership outside of management roles.]

peer-to-peer sharing — the legal kind

I’ve been watching with interest to see what comes out of the TERMS: Techniques for Electronic Resources Management, for obvious reasons. Jill Emery and Graham Stone envision this to be a concise listing of the six major stages of electronic resources management, as well as a place to share tips and workflows relating to each. As they publish each section, I’ve marveled at how concise and clear they are. If you do anything with electronic resources management, you need to be following this thing.

Evaluation of resources has been a subject near and dear to my heart for many years, and increasingly so as we’ve needed to justify why we continue to pay for one resource when we would like to purchase another equally desired resource. And in relation to that, visualization of data and telling data stories are also professional interests of mine.

renewal decision report
renewal decision report example

When the section on annual review was published last month, it included an appendix that is an example of usage and cost  data for a resource delivered as both flat numbers and a graph. While this is still a rather technical presentation, it included several elements I had not considered before: cost as a percentage of the budget line, cost per student, use per student, and a mean use for each year. I decided this method of delivering statistical information about our electronic resources might be more useful to our subject specialists than my straight-up number approach. So, I’ve now incorporated it into the annual review checklist that I send out to the subject specialists in advance of renewal deadlines.

I’m not going to lie — this isn’t a fast report to create from scratch. However, it has made a few folks take a hard look at some resources and the patterns of their use, and as far as I’m concerned, that makes it work my time and effort. Repeat use will be much faster, since I’ll just need to add one year’s worth of data.