Sunday, 23 June 2013

Leadership and Libraries

All images in this post are from Stephen's slides
I had the great honour of organising a talk by Stephen Abram on Leaderhip Strategies for Librarians in Cambridge last Monday.*

I was really pleased with the turn-out and found the talk truly inspiring. I didn't feel the time go!

There were a few points about leadership that I particularly liked:

Leaders see an improvement that needs to be made - a desirable future state, sometimes before others, and actively seek to achieve those improvements.

This is a great definition, incorporating a sense of vision and the willingness to act and to make a difference.  The critical point about this definition is that it's not tied to being in the management role - as Stephen points out anyone can do this at any stage of their career.

Lies we tell ourselves

Librarians come with all sorts of excuses not to lead, from the idea that it's someone else's responsibility to make the changes, to the idea that they don't need to highlight their good work because it will be noticed anyway, to the problem of criticising the status quo without making constructive suggestions about how the situation can be resolved.

Leaders as followers

All leaders need to also be followers, no matter how senior they are, so we need also to consider what makes a good follower.

Real professionals have names and reputations
Why do so many libraries have just a generic email address and no information about who works there and what their specialities are? This is something I feel quite strongly about - I hate sending emails to unnamed people and feel it's a barrier to building relationships with our users - but something I think we address quite well at English.

Research into Library Leadership
Stephen briefly mentioned research by Mary-Jo Romaniuk, Cheryl Sandstrom, Donna Brockmeyer and Ken Haycock - must look them up to see what their topics were.  Findings on what 'Makes a Difference' and 'What doesn't help or work' can be found on slides 9 and 10 of the presentation.

Other things to follow up:
  • A mention of the user-centred design and persona development that's happening in Canadian libraries (their research found a 2% overlap between user behaviour and librarian behaviour!)
  • Stephen mentioned a number of leadership initiatives in Canada and the US, including the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute, Crucial Conversations (Google seems to think this is based on this book - possible addition to #llrg reading list?), ALA Emerging Leaders and Tall Texans.  I know about the Clore Leadership Programme (have been eyeing it wistfully for years) - are there other leadership initiatives in the UK and Ireland?
  • There were more - adding "Go through the presentation thoroughly" to my to do list!
*Huge thanks to Andy Priestner for taking the time out of his own conference planning to let us know Stephen was coming and putting us in touch with him!


  1. Excellent summary of a great talk. I'm struggling to write up my own thoughts, not because I can't think of anything to say but because there is so much good stuff to fit in!

  2. thanks for this Niamh - great overview. I.

  3. Thanks Niamh. Reading this write up (and Isla's) really makes me kick myself for not being there...