#libraryleader: Thoughts on Library Leadership

#libraryleader: Thoughts on Library Leadership

I’ve been lucky enough to attend some amazing workshops and conferences of late that had me focusing on what it looks like to be an excellent leader in librarianship; in one case I spent several days focusing very specifically on library management skills and leadership, while in other cases I was treated to a variety of demonstrations of what good library leadership looks like and what it can accomplish. I have been especially inspired in the last few weeks by Sue Considine from the Fayetteville Free Library, Susan Downs from Innisfil Public Library, Kristin Antelman from North Carolina State Libraries, Bessie Sullivan from Haliburton Country libraries, Mary Ann Mavrinac (as always) from University of Rochester libraries, Susan Senese, Director of Information and Instructional Technology at University of Toronto Mississauga, Matt Ratto from the iSchool at the University of Toronto, and Nate Hill from Chattanooga Public Library. It’s been a good few weeks of institutes, workshops and conferences, obviously!

In light of these recent experiences, I’ve decided to capture some observations on the subject in a series of blog posts. I’m working on a list of five qualities that I have come to believe are crucial for good leadership in libraries facing a pressing need to grow and change.

Here’s my list as it stands now:

  1. Honesty
  2. Respect
  3. Confidence
  4. Vision
  5. Salesmanship

I’ve distilled a lot of ideas into these five themes; I’m not sure I’ve picked the right words to capture what I mean to convey, but I’ve done my best. My plan is to write about each of these qualities in detail, explain what I mean by them, and articulate why I think these are the critical qualities in an effective library leader.

I know many people make a distinction between leadership and management. I refuse to make that distinction. I’m not sure why the distinction even exists; it’s as if someone thought there was something distasteful about working with people and helping them accomplish the best work they can that makes it less lofty and important work than the nebulous concept of leadership. I’m not one of those people. I think taking care of a team working toward a common goal is a critical part of being a good leader, so I won’t divide my list by what I consider to be a false division.

I know others have different perspectives on this subject, and mine are still forming and shifting. I’ve invited my colleague Lauren DiMonte to join me in writing about the top five qualities in a library leader from her perspective as a current library school student. We’ll post our thoughts on our respective blogs and on Twitter using the hashtag #libraryleader. You’re more than welcome to join us; I hope I can learn your thoughts and perspectives too!