The Editorial Board of LL&F invited all three candidates for ALA President to talk about leadership. We strongly feel that the next president of our primary professional organization needs to not only address the need for strong leadership in libraries, but also exemplify the traits we promote in this blog.
All candidates were sent the same questions via email. They were given the opportunity to provide a bio. The first candidate spotlight is on Christine Hage.
Christine Lind Hage has been a full-time public librarian for 45 years and has been responsible for five major library construction projects. Recognized as Michigan’s Librarian of the Year in 1997 she has published and presented widely on various public library subjects both nationally and internationally.
Christine has been a frequent contributor to PUBLIB and is the author of The Public Library Start-Up Guide published in 2004 by ALA. Within ALA Christine is a past president of the Public Library Association and is the past president of United for Libraries. She also served as an ALA Councilor for 12 years, and Chair of the Office of Information Technology’s America’s Libraries for the 21st Century Committee.
She knew she would be a librarian since she was 8 years old and has never worked anywhere but a library. She is currently the director of the Rochester Hills (MI) Public Library.
What does library leadership mean to you?
My primary responsibility as a library director and leader is providing the essential and relevant resources our staff needs to serve the community and the profession. This includes financial resources, work and learning spaces, equipment, supplies, responsive and flexible schedules, and the empowerment and independence they need to be successful leaders in their own areas of service to others. As a team manager, I partner with my staff to create a collaborative, cooperative, dynamic, and visionary work environment. This shared vision translates into how we all serve our diverse demographic of patrons who come to us with a wide spectrum of resource needs, interests, and expectations. Likewise, the ALA has been instrumental in teaching professionals to be advocates for serving our public, respect all of our members and the profession, and creating responsive and responsible output from our committees. Our history shows that we are all better and stronger when we make decisions based on the needs, skills and contributions of our diverse membership. Being a leader, one must be first a team member who values new ideas and strategies for setting and accomplishing ambitious and valued goals and outcomes.
Who has inspired you as a library leader?
My first mentor was a library school professor Rose Vainstein who showed her students how important it is to create libraries that center on patrons while pulling together information, vision, and expertise from other professions. Sue Sutton, a former reference librarian, also modeled great reference librarianship to me. Sarah Long, former ALA President, additionally, has provided me insights and wisdom throughout my career. The new librarians also inspire me with their grasp of the emerging digital realms of information and the value of protecting and advancing the profession.
Tell us about your career path. When did you decide to take on a leadership role?
From the time I stepped through the Tudor designed libraries of the Detroit Public Library system, my dream has always been to be a librarian. My life and caraeer have been dedicated to libraries, patrons, and the profession. In 45-year of service, I have been the full spectrum of a page, circulation assistant, children’s librarian, reference librarian, and director. Advancing libraries as public, academic, and specialty institutions is at the core of who I am. Libraries are the fortress of a free society and our profession must defend and protect them as they increase society’s awareness of the value of free speech and the right to publish one’s ideas.
Before going to library school I worked in my school library, college library and as a page/reference assistant/circulation assistant in a public library. While in graduate school I worked for Rose Vainstein. I received my MLS when I was 21 (went to school year round) and started in my first professional position as Head of Adult Services in my hometown library. I worked there for six years and moved on to the directorship of a small library and 4 years later became an assistant director/head of adult services and eventually director in my current library, the Rochester Hills Public Library. After 18 years I was recruited to start a new library and was the director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library. Seven years later, my work was done there and I returned to the Rochester Hills Public Library as director, where I still work. It has been a 45 year career that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed! I believe I lead by example and it seems to work well.
What specific skills would you recommend ALA members learn to enhance their leadership abilities?
One skill at the heart of librarianship is membership and networking to create a unified organization that recognizes diversity but honors the profession as the defender of free speech and the right to access information. Building this network is as simple as introducing yourself to others at conferences or online and then taking an active role by volunteering for committee work and service projects. Open your mind to all the possibilities by approaching your career with zest, curiosity, and an exemplified willingness to listen, invetisgate, share, and learn. Find people you admire and ask them to mentor you. And don’t forget to help others to build the profession and the institution of libraries.
What change do you want to see in the library world?
We have certainly changed the formats we work with. When I started 45 years ago one of the first decisions I had to make was whether to purchase paperback books for my public library. Later I moved us from reel to reel tapes to cassettes, to CDs to downloadable music. We moved from 16mm movies to VHS to DVDs. So over the years our formats have certainly changed, but in most ways we’re in the same business of providing information and recreational materials to our users, in the format and timeframe they want and need. We are still people working with people. Our tools change, but our mission is pretty much the same…give them what they want and need.
Thanks Christine with sharing with us your vision of library leadership! The polls open on March 15 and close April 22. For more information visit the ALA Election Information webpage.