Archives For innovation

hand presenting a lit sparkler with title "Library Lost & Found: Choosing Leadership"

Last month, I visited the Rural Libraries Conference in Alberta, Canada to speak about choosing library leadership. The conference is held every year in Grande Prairie, Alberta, which is the biggest city from Edmonton to Alaska, and the attendees are amazing librarians and library trustees from public and school libraries across northwest Alberta.

The focus of the conference this year was leadership, especially the kind of leadership that you can engage in from any position.

Leadership without hierarchy is particularly important for smaller libraries. A library staff of three may not have much of an official hierarchy – but you better believe each of those library employees can be a leader for positive changes.

At the conference, I shared the story of when I chose library leadership, along with five ways that anyone can choose library leadership in any position. This is a condensed version of the keynote address I shared.


True confession: I did not originally choose library leadership.

My library was rearranging services and my position was going to be eliminated. Because libraries are made up of benevolent, human oriented people, instead of laying me off, they looked for another position within the library for me. The only catch: it was a position supervising other people.

I said “Yes” to that position because I liked getting a paycheck, but I was nervous about supervising for the first time. I found very quickly that I would need to learn a lot in order to be a good supervisor. That was when I made the conscious choice to become a leader.

I believe leadership is a choice you make. You choose to go to work every day and create the best experience possible for everyone who walks in the library doors. You choose to go out in your community and advocate for your library. You choose to help people around you change their lives for the better, through the library and beyond.

I want to share few ways about how you can choose leadership and be a transformative power for good. Each of these is a practice that you can embrace from any position in the library – whether you just started yesterday, or you’ve been a trustee for a decade.

Say Yes!

The very first thing you can do to embrace library leadership is so simple: you can say yes.

This means saying yes to a request for help, or saying yes to an idea for a project, or saying, “Yes!!! Way to go team!” It means answering a call for volunteers with a yes. It means saying yes, I am a library leader.

Saying yes has a greater impact than simply agreeing to help out your colleague. Saying yes creates a culture of positivity in your workplace.

I’m a big believer in the power of positivity. I think that the language that we use with each other in our libraries can have an even greater impact than the actual actions that we take.

This practice sounds simple, but simple things can be the hardest. Is there something at your library that you’re saying “No” to lately? Is there any element of it that you can comfortably change to a yes?

Connect to Your Community

The second way to practice leadership is to connect deeply with your community. Of course, libraries are all about community. I’m especially talking about ways to talk about library resources outside the doors of the library.

This isn’t about a marketing campaign or getting on social media – although those are great.  This is about being a personal ambassador for the library just by participating in the community.

Heather Lowe from the Dallas Public Library has a great way of thinking about her role in the community. She says, “Being a public librarian, you are a librarian 24 hours a day. When you go to the coffeeshop, you’re still the face of the library.”

That’s such a great way to think about being a library ambassador in your regular life as a citizen in your community. Just by mentioning what you do in your library, whether you’re a trustee or a library employee, you’re reminding the people you encounter that the library exists and is a vibrant part of your community.

You can connect to your community by joining clubs, volunteering, or simply attending community events – just keep representing the library while you do it.

Is there a community organization that you could join? Is there a way you could build relationships with more people in your town?

Start Something New

Once you’ve connected with your community, you might hear about unmet needs that your library can help with. That’s when you start something new.

I don’t mean that you have to reinvent the library, or radically change things (but if you do, awesome!). This might mean making new improvements to existing programs and services,

Leadership is all about change. If our libraries were completely static and unchanging, we wouldn’t need leaders to help guide us.

Is there a project or idea that’s been in the back of your mind? What could you do to get it going soon?

Be a Mentor

The next library leadership practice that you can embrace is being a mentor. Many of us don’t feel quite ready to be a mentor. Personally, whenever I hear mentoring program, I think, “Great! How can I sign up to be a mentee?”

The truth is, everyone is ready to be a mentor to someone else.

Mentoring is really about encouragement and storytelling. You don’t need to be an expert to be a mentor. All you have to do is give moral support, and share stories about your own successes and failures.

If you’ve had a mentor, you know how important it can be to your career development – not to mention your self confidence.

You can make a huge impact by mentoring one group in particular: library pages. Lots of librarians got their start as a page or shelver. How many of those people do you think envisioned a lifelong career in libraries when they first started their jobs? How many do you think got support and encouragement from a more experienced employee?

Libraries are most effective when their employees reflect the diversity of their communities. You can help make the profession more diverse by hiring and mentoring library employees from diverse backgrounds.

You can start being a mentor by giving support and encouragement to other people especially people newer or more junior than you. If you’re on a board, you can take new board members under your wing. If you’re a long-time staff person, you can give advice to people figuring out what they want to do with their careers. It all starts with being supportive, encouraging, and willing to share.

Is there someone at your library who needs a little encouragement or direction? Can you talk with pages about their careers?

Share What You Do

Mentorship starts with sharing, but library leadership also means sharing more widely.

Libraries of all types are facing transformational possibilities – new ways of delivering collections, changing information needs, and of course – striving to doing more to serve communities while facing the reality of a budget.

Sharing what you do with the wider community of libraries engages you in leadership in the profession.

I want to encourage each of you to find a way to share your own story with a wider audience. Just as with mentoring, you don’t have to be an expert or have all the answers. You just need to be willing to share. Someone else might be going through the same issues. Your story might be about your own personal journey in libraries, or about something cool going on with your library.

Sharing what you do is like mentorship on a wider scale. Your efforts can spark ideas in libraries across the world.

There are many ways you can share what you’re doing. You can write journal articles or blog posts. You can put together posters or speak at conferences. Or, you can connect and share with a wider library community on social media. 

What awesome things are happening in your corner of the library world? What venue could you find to share them in?


These are five practices that anyone can use to choose library leadership, and making that choice is good for your community, for your library, and for you.

We know that our day to day efforts in libraries make our communities a better place. By taking on a leadership role, you can amplify that good in your community. Leadership can lead to new and better services for the people you serve.

Our communities need more voices coming from places like the library – voices that will advocate for service people in need, voices that will talk about investing back in the community, and voices that have a unique view on what’s going on in people’s lives.

Leadership is good for your library.

Your advocacy can bring in more funding for your library. Your efforts as a leader – including mentoring and sharing – will result in good things for your colleagues.

By demonstrating the possibilities for enacting positive changes, your leadership will have a ripple effect through your library.

Most of all, lead for you.

Leadership opens up career possibilities. For me, embracing lead to more and greater career changes than I ever thought possible. This was in both subtle and direct ways – for instance, during the interview for my most recent job one of the interview questions was, “What’s your approach to leadership?” But the subtle ways included connections I made with people, or projects that I saw through to the finish line.

Finally, leadership feels good. Embracing leadership gives you a sense of self-determination, of influencing your own destiny. Once you choose leadership, you can choose your own direction.

During the dark gloomy winter months in the Midwest, I often need to seek out a dose of inspiration to keep my innovative juices bubbling. No website has served me better than TED to provide a much needed spark. The talks given by the experts featured in the hundreds of TED videos have not only acted as a catalyst to make me a better innovator, but have also become powerful tools in my mission to inspire innovation. A recent online article on Inc. listed nine TED Talks leaders can use to kickstart creativity that has become a valuable resource when I am stuck in a rut. Two of the videos on the list are ones I regularly use when presenting on innovation and leadership!

Bookmark this list to use for the times you need a kickstart.

 

9780143003267Even though now it’s So Yesterday…the novel, So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (2004) speaks to the “Cool Hunter” in me and explains the world in a way that I understand.

 

“At the top of the pyramid there are the Innovators…When you meet them, most innovators don’t look that cool…There’s always something off about them…Except…there’s always one thing that stands out on an Innovator. Something New. Next level down the pyramid are the Trendsetterrs. They watch carefully for innovations, always ready to jump on board. Below them are the Early Adopters they always have the latest anything. Further down we have the Consumers. The people who have to see a product everywhere before saying “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” Last are the Laggards, I kind of like them. Proud of their mullets … They resist all change…and soldier on.”

 

Innovation–is the new buzzword, it’s eveywhere and we know what that means.  It’s not necessarily that new anymore.  It also means since everyone’s on board, now might be the time to try something New.  It seems like you are either doing it or not–supporting it or discouraging it. Here are a few different articles from Forbes and Bussiness2Community that show how and where Innovation is struggling and how and where libraries and librarians can and are picking up the slack.

How are you leading your team as an Innovator?  Where are you lagging behind? The base of the pyramid is its widest part think of ways you can focus your energies and rise to the top.

The pile of leadership books that I want to read is growing. I recently added four to the list that I hope will help me grow as a leader.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Bilding Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest by Denise Lee Yohn

A Curious Mind: A Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

All of them have something to do with innovation. This is a trait that leaders often fail to improve. When you foster and encourage innovation within your team, you not only contribute to organizational health but you also keep your mission moving forward. This is why I am constantly trying to seek out the best ways to exercise the innovation part if my brain. Let’s hope the weight of my book pile gives me a good work out.

 

 

Welcome to WisconsinI would like to apologize for our absence last week.  After a few years of being out of the presentation game, I spent a week in beautiful Wisconsin talking about library leadership.  My one week tour included stops in New Berlin, Fennimore, Madison and Green Bay (concert t-shirts still on sale) where I had the honor of sharing what I have learned about leading libraries filled with Healthy Organizations and People Excelling (HOPE).  This idea of HOPE is a culmination of months and months of study involving trying to find the common elements in a healthy organization.  What I have discovered is that a HOPE filled library achieves high marks in organizational health, customer service, innovation and recognition.  My hypothesis is that libraries that devote energy and resources into these areas will not only be able to easily adapted to shrinking budgets, but also rapid change.  In the next few weeks, my plan is to write about how library leaders can fill their library with HOPE.  I am pretty sure in was the fall Wisconsin air that helped me finally put the pieces together, not the fried cheese curds.