Saturday, August 15, 2009

Library Leadership

I had the good fortune of attending Library Leadership Massachusetts in July at Wheaton College. The four-day institute was sponsored by the MBLC and the MA Regional Library Systems, and led by Becky Schreiber and John Shannon of Schreiber Shannon Associates.

In addition to meeting some truly inspiring librarians and making great new contacts, the content of the program provided a whole lot to think about. There is way too much for one blog post, but I thought I’d just note a few of my “aha!” moments.

The microdot of control. This concept was in the book Leadership Simple by Steve and Jill Morris, which I read before attending, and then also discussed in one of our sessions. The graphic representation of this idea is a tiny little dot representing the little bit of the world we that we can each control. Outside of that is a larger circle, that which we can influence. Beyond this circle is a whole lot that we can’t control at all whatsoever. I'm sure this is a no-brainer to others, but really put things in perspective for me.

Jump right in.
One mentor said that men will reach for high-level positions without worrying about whether or not they already know how to do the job, while women think we need to learn how to do a job before applying for it. I don’t know if the gender-based generalization is accurate, but this is completely true for me. I have changed the focus of my job search based on this. No, I don’t know exactly how to do these jobs, but the only way I will learn is to try, right? That probably seems obvious to a lot of people, but it wasn’t obvious to me.

Library culture can learn from corporate culture. There are certain things about library culture that have bothered me for a long time, but that I wasn’t able to articulate. One mentor spoke about her experiences working in a corporation, and how she struggles in a public library setting because the culture is so different. At a company decisions are made because they are the right decision for the company, because it will bring them closer to their goals. In a library, all too often decisions are made based on personalities and feelings, and don’t make organizational sense. And for similar reasons, work expectations are often low. She pointed out that work is supposed to be WORK. Yes, absolutely! This really hit the nail on the head.

It’s ok to like change. I’ve always felt a little guilty because I love change. Even bad change is energizing in a way because it spurs me to action. Most people apparently hate change, and I have always wondered why I feel so differently. One day at the Institute we compared Enneagram results and broke into groups based on personality types. I found myself in a room full of lots of people who felt the same way I do about change – I am not alone! I felt so validated! (We were 7’s, in case you are wondering.)

Accept feedback without defending yourself. I am terrible at receiving critical feedback, and once something negative is said, I spend the rest of the time formulating my response rather than listening and thinking about what the person is saying. During one session of the Institute, we had to receive feedback and could not respond. It was extremely frustrating, but incredibly helpful. I really want to remember this.

There is so much more I could say about this experience, and I may revisit some of the topics, but for now I just have a quick piece of advice: make the time to attend one of these Institutes. If you are in Massachusetts, NELLS is next year and the same Institute I attended is happening again in 2011. Other states have similar programs as well. Do it for yourself or for your career or for your library, but by all means do it!


Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree about the culture of libraries as a workplace. I've been working in one for just shy of a year now, and it's nothing like what I've experienced in academia, retail, other non-profits, etc. Based on those experiences, I'd say we're over staffed because it never seems like there's enough work to do, but no one wants to say that. My coworkers' notion of "busy" is still slow to me, and they complain non-stop about minor issues. In any other job setting they'd be considered slackers. No one is supposed to do more than the bare minimum and it's really starting to get to me.

I wanted to pursue an MLS, but now I'm thinking of ways I can use my skills, existing education, and drive in a different setting.

3goodrats said...

Wow, do you work where I used to work? :) I totally agree about the low standards and overstaffing!