By Jennifer Hubert Swan – Guest Contributor
“When I think of leadership, I always think of the people who “give it all away.” What exactly do I mean by that? I mean leaders who spend out their expertise, connections and time on a daily basis to help others meet their goals. By doing so, these types of leaders create a network of grateful, happy colleagues and employees who not only give their support back to those folks, but many times also go on to give a leg up to someone else.
I think of the library managers who encouraged and gave free rein to the excited twenty-something librarian I was who often had more ideas than time or energy to carry them out. I remember the journal editors who took a chance on me when I was a new reviewer and taught me how to be a better writer through skillful and diplomatic constructive criticism, and who continue to help me hone and improve my writing. I think of my very first book selection committee chair who gently advised me that my critique would make a bigger splash if I saved it for the books I really loved, instead of commenting on well, every book. (She went on to be one of my closest friends and dearest mentors and is also a contributor to this blog!) There are all the writers I have come to know who have generously donated their time to speak to both my middle school students and my adult students, and my current boss, who ends almost every conversation with these seven words: “Let me know how I can help.” Finally, there are the countless colleagues and friends who sent a connection, invitation or opportunity my way just because they could and they wanted to, with no expectation of reward other than my grateful thanks and maybe a glass of red at our favorite local wine bar.
Growing up as an only child, I understand all too well the temptation to shout “Mine!” when others want to play with our toys or repurpose our ideas. But holding information hostage, marking boundaries and labeling ideas or concepts as “yours” doesn’t strengthen your position in this sharing profession. It only serves to isolate you in this now global community of information professionals. To flourish and grow, we need to bring up, share out and move ahead by giving it all away.
Obviously, this is not a new idea. You can call it mentorship or paying it forward. But I still like to refer to it as giving it all away. Because ironically the more we give away, the stronger we grow as librarians, colleagues and human beings. What advice, connection, encouragement or support can you give away today?”
(This blog post was inspired in part by the NYT Magazine article, “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?”http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/magazine/is-giving-the-secret-to-getting-ahead.html?pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me and the chapter “Are You My Mentor?” from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg)
Jennifer Hubert Swan is the Library Department Chair and has been the Middle School Librarian at Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School since 2000. She loves teaching middle school because she still reads like a twelve year old girl. She is a proud Wayne State library school alum, where she had the dubious pleasure of attending classes with Kevin King and repeatedly being mistaken for his mouthy sibling. Jennifer has reviewed young adult books for Booklist, VOYA and TimeOut New York Kids, and currently reviews for Kirkus and has written reviews of YA novels for the New York Times. She has served on several ALA/YALSA award committees and maintains a popular book review website for teens called Reading Rants that has been online since 1998. In addition, she also does her best to indoctrinate new librarians into the cult of YA literature through the graduate course she teaches at Pratt Institute. When not reading or writing, Jennifer enjoys making cute little things out of felt, tweeting about best library practices and subway fashion faux pas, and eating out in New York City’s amazing restaurants.