By James LaRue, Guest Contributor
Last night I had dinner with with two local librarians in rural Pennsylvania. One young man had grown up in the area, and recently got his degree. Then, he was fortunate enough to find a job in his home town library.
Rural Pennsylvania has been hit hard, first by the departure of big oil, then by the recession.
But this librarian’s enthusiasm not only for his job, but for the possibility of the library leading his community on to a Renaissance was so infectious that an older gentleman came over to say how much he had enjoyed eavesdropping.
I drew two lessons from this encounter. First, the key to this local transformation is the idea of partnerships. The library is reaching out to the chamber of commerce, to the arts community, to young professionals. It turns out that they all share some common goals and thus the beginning of a common agenda. Together, they will get more done.
Second, never underestimate the power of raw enthusiasm. People respond to optimism, to hope, to the vision of a world in which things are getting better.
Leadership often begins with nothing more than a belief that something should be done, and that it can be.
James LaRue as been the director of the Douglas County Libraries, headquartered in Castle Rock, CO, since 1990. He is the author of The New Inquisition: Understanding and Managing Intellectual Freedom Challenges, and wrote a weekly newspaper column for over 25 years. He was the Colorado Librarian of the Year in 1998, the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce’s 2003 Business Person of the Year, and in 2007 won the Julie J. Boucher (boo-SHAY) Award for Intellectual Freedom. Jamie is a frequent keynote speaker for library associations. He has been a featured presenter for regional workshops, facilitator and presenter for staff days, a last-minute panelist, and a moderator and master of ceremonies for everything from debates to awards dinners. Lately, he has also been running hiring processes for non-profit and municipal CEOs. He particularly enjoys facilitating highly focused planning sessions for organizations that want to know what they do right, and what they need to do next.