The 2009 ACRL/NY Symposium took place on December 4th at Baruch College. This Symposium comprised a unique opportunity to listen to young academic librarians discuss how they became administrators and managers early on in their careers. Their quick rise and innovative management styles have essentially made them the ‘Library Leaders’ at their academic institutions and within the profession. Even though the symposium was geared toward academic librarians currently in the field, their collective advice inspired me to be more proactive and innovative in the projects I take on in the school library I manage as well as in my own graduate education. Each of the speakers illuminated the differences between good managers and good leaders, and why the two are not synonymous.
One of the more interesting topics discussed was the question of new librarians who desire to ascend to management roles with only a few years of experience. The first speaker, Brian Mathews (formerly of GA Tech, currently at UC Santa Barbara, and blogs as The Ubiquitous Librarian), said it best when he stated during his “Service and Subconscious” speech that “To be a good leader, one must first be a good follower.” New librarians must have significant project experience in order to fulfill leadership roles and before requesting supervisory and other advanced job titles. Mathews speech also centered on the role positive user experiences play within academic libraries, stating that libraries should be a “place of refreshment for minds and bodies” and a “holistic experience.” He also reiterated the importance of marketing academic libraries to users through innovative outreach methods, stating that librarians must “Change the lens through which one views their customers.” Important questions to ask when assessing Access Services include: “How do we frame interactions with users and staff?”, “What does the library’s future look like?”, and “What does an ideal interaction look like?”
Mathews utilized the book When Fish Fly as an example of a failing Seattle fish market that re-envisioned their business as a tourist destination through innovative marketing, increasing their customer base and their profits as a result. Mathews also encouraged librarians to create a positive group work environments because both positivity and negativity are contagious. If someone is negative, challenge it. If someone is not providing good reference, challenge it by telling them “You’re not on Vision.” Librarians need to be empowered to take an active stance in order to be “an essential force in the learning experience.”
The presentations and speakers at the ACRL/NY Symposium offered a multitude of advice on how create innovative management styles and lead staff. More information on the Symposium, the poster sessions, and the recommended booklists on leadership are available at the ACRL/NY blog:
Photos of the event on Flckr: