Learning Leadership

Learning Leadership

I’ve participated in a number of leadership programs, all of which have been useful in their own way. However, the actual leadership practices typically fall by the wayside as I return to the daily grind of work. All that has changed.

In August, I participated in the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians (LIAL) offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in collaboration with ACRL. I’ve been ruminating on the experience ever since and am finally ready to share a few thoughts.

I think my leadership capacity has naturally developed over the years, but LIAL helped me to more clearly see my strengths and weaknesses, built my confidence, and convinced me that I need to focus on the next step in my career. Since returning, I’ve been much more focused on my own leadership journey. I’m planning and reflecting. I’m using the four frames to think through issues. I’m putting myself out there. I’m making a concerted effort to continue developing my leadership skills on my own.

In addition to the insights, learning, and amazing instructors, I also met some pretty incredible classmates. I hope they will become lifelong friends.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here, but my LIAL experience inspired me to share. If you have the opportunity to go to LIAL, I strongly encourage you to do so.

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Service is Resource Sharing

For various reasons, I’ve been reflecting a lot on service* lately. Through this reflection, some things about myself have started to coalesce in my mind. As I mentioned in a previous post, my path to librarianship was not direct. However, every job I’ve ever had has been based in service in some way (though not necessarily service as defined by my *). I don’t know which came first, my service jobs or my service ethos. Whatever the order, I can’t remember a time when service wasn’t important to me. It is essential to me to be of service both in and to my work and to ensure that my service is high quality. As a librarian, I have spent ten years developing a program of service that benefits my library, my university, and my profession. Along the way, I’ve also accrued benefits in the form of personal satisfaction and a network of friends and colleagues that I can turn to when I need support.

I recently read Cal Newport‘s So Good They Can’t Ignore You in which he argues that passion for your work is something that grows with time rather than something innate. It’s only through building “career capital” and cashing it in for more creativity, impact and control that we become truly happy in our work. That has certainly been the case for me. I didn’t come to librarianship with a burning passion for it, but my happiness and passion have grown over time. Without realizing it, I have become, at my professional core, a resource sharing librarian with a commitment to providing access to information in all its forms. Resource sharing has become my life philosophy, extending far beyond the sharing of library materials. I see service as yet another form of resource sharing. Whether it be sharing my librarian perspective in faculty governance, sharing my experiences and expertise through mentoring, or sharing my knowledge in professional committees, it is all resource sharing. It is all service. It is only through sharing our personal resources and serving our communities that we can hope to achieve collective success.

* I’m defining service here as applying one’s “knowledge, skills, and expertise as an educator, a member of a discipline or profession, or a participant in an institution to benefit students, the institution, the discipline or profession, and the community in a manner consistent with the missions of the university and the campus.” ~ from Service at Indiana University: Defining, Documenting, and Evaluating (1999). Indianapolis, IN: Center for Public Service and Leadership.

A Ten Year Odyssey

Thursday marked ten years as a librarian at IUPUI University Library (UL). In fact, it marked ten years as a librarian period. This milestone seems like an appropriate time for reflection.

Like many librarians I talk to, I didn’t set out with the intention of becoming a librarian. While in graduate school, a friend told me about the dual degree program that would allow me to earn my MA in Public History and an MLS at the same time. The real attraction for me was that the dual degree meant two more years of structured classes rather than two years of unstructured thesis writing. I was working full-time, and this dual degree option seemed more feasible and achievable for me. I still didn’t think I would ever work as a librarian.

How quickly your life plan can change. I will be forever grateful to that grad school friend. During my second year of library science classes, I quit my full-time job and started an internship in the Indiana State Library‘s Manuscripts Section, which seemed a great combination of public history and library science. Maybe I could be an archivist or manuscripts librarian. I also got a graduate assistant position at UL in Reference and Interlibrary Services. And that was it.

In interlibrary loan, I found my place. I was providing a much needed service and satisfying my love of mystery at the same time. (Finding an item to fulfill an interlibrary loan request can be real detective work.) The work of interlibrary loan (and resource sharing more broadly) reflects my belief in the intrinsic value of service and learning. It is also a perfect platform for some of my skills and traits — attention to detail, organization and logistics, problem-solving, ability to learn new technologies. The evolving landscape of resource sharing gives me the opportunity to be innovative and take part in new and interesting projects, which is important for someone who can bore easily. My involvement in resource sharing has also led me to take a broader view of collection management and sparked an interest in shared collections (just another form of resource sharing in my opinion).

IUPUI University Library has also been a good fit for me. There is a culture here that embraces innovation and experimentation and allows for failure. My role at UL has evolved as well. I was initially hired as the Visiting Interlibrary Loan Librarian, supervising Interlibrary Services. Over time, Interlibrary Services grew and became an independent department named Resource Sharing & Delivery Services in recognition of the services we offer beyond interlibrary loan. Plus, many of you may not know that I’ve also been a long-time member of the Bibliographic & Metadata Services department. What began as an original cataloging assignment expanded to include metadata librarian and eventually department head. These diverse responsibilities have kept things interesting. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

I’ve grown a lot over the last decade. I found a field that I believe in and love. I’ve made a difference for my library and, I hope, the resource sharing community at large. I have more belief in my own abilities and expertise and am much more comfortable speaking in front of groups. Service and learning continue to be core to who I am, but the importance of making significant contributions and giving back has grown. I’ve received so much support and encouragement over the past ten years, and now is the time to start paying it forward. As I begin to look ahead at the next ten years, I won’t even hazard a guess at what they might hold, but I hope resource sharing, in all its forms, continues to be a prominent part of the picture.

Research Evolution

Research Evolution

In the spirit of my last post, I’d like to share an exercise I did in preparation for a recent mentoring meeting. The topic of the meeting was how to generate topics or identify areas of interest and whether I thought a librarian’s publications should have a thematic direction or consistency.

That is a conversation demanding preparation or at least a little self-reflection. I started by printing out the publications portion of my CV and categorizing them. There is a little variation, but two distinct categories did emerge: (1) open access and interlibrary loan and (2) international interlibrary loan. Then I tried to think back, back, back to the days when I was just starting as a professional librarian. How did the beginning shape where I am now?

When I became a librarian, the thought of doing research with a capital R wasn’t appealing and was, in fact, a little intimidating. With the help of my then boss, I started out doing presentations of practical advice for interlibrary loan (ILL) practitioners instead. That evolved into an interest in web-based ILL finding aids and teaching others the tools I found to locate difficult requests. Then I got involved in the ALA RUSA STARS International Interlibrary Loan Committee, which accounts for one of my publication categories, but also expanded my previous finding aid work to include international publications.

All of this interest in finding aids logically evolved into an interest in open access. What could be better than helping people locate where a thing is? Well, helping people locate the actual thing, of course. Eventually, I started integrating my library’s request data into my open access and interlibrary loan presentations, which in turn led to a body of writing on the topic that might even be consider Research.

Through this thought exercise, I learned about myself and was able to help a mentee. The prospect of generating topics that will interest both you and your potential audience can be intimidating, but the ideas will come. Take time to reflect on your daily work and find the things that matter to you. Start presenting. Have conversations. Let your interests evolve. Start writing. You never know when you may even see a thematic direction emerge that you never would have anticipated.

Mentoring is Resource Sharing

Two years ago, the Dean asked a colleague and me to represent to the library as members of the IUPUI Mentoring Academy. I agreed because, as Dean Lewis pointed out, I had recently gone through the tenure process, making it likely that a number of my fellow librarians would come to me for guidance. I thought the Mentoring Academy would give me skills to better mentor and guide those that sought my advice.

Little did my colleague and I know, we were about to be tasked with developing a mentoring program for the library faculty. To be completely honest, I was not thrilled at this prospect. I didn’t think mentoring was “my thing.” But, like the dutiful librarian I am, I worked with my colleague to develop a program proposal and then to revise that proposal when we didn’t secure campus funding in the first round.

When I found out our program proposal was funded in September 2015, another colleague and I were in need of a capstone project for a campus leadership program we were beginning. Implementing the mentoring program seemed like the perfect fit. It felt like something I was obligated to do anyway, and it could now fill this secondary obligation as well.

Thus began the planning of events to get the mentoring program off the ground and to provide development opportunities for our librarians. Slowly, my attitude began to change. As I moved through the leadership program and the mentoring program planning, I began to recognize all the mentoring relationships I already have. They are largely informal, but I’ve been helped along the way by numerous mentors. I also began to recognize that I am already a mentor to several friends and colleagues, again informally. Then I began mentoring librarians within my library, and the attitude adjustment was complete.

This journey brought on an epiphany. Mentoring is exactly “my thing.” Mentoring is resource sharing. It all seems so obvious now. My entire librarian life has been devoted to resource sharing, and now I’ve found another method. By offering to mentor and providing development opportunities for my fellow librarians, I’m sharing some of my most personal and precious resources — my time, my experience, and my empathy. Resource sharing doesn’t stop with the books we buy or the articles we deliver or even with our ILL expertise. To make a successful community, resource sharing must extend to our very selves.

Show Your Deep Work

I recently read two seemingly contradictory books, Cal Newport‘s Deep Work and Austin Kleon‘s Show Your Work! Deep Work includes a chapter titled “Quit Social Media,” while Kleon says to share every day. So what am I to do? Newport does give his readers permission to stay on social media if its positive impact outweighs its negatives. It’s just clear that he thinks that is a rare state of affairs. But that permission means not all sharing avenues are closed.

Truthfully, I’m not a huge social media sharer to begin with, so I’ve quickly carved out what I think is a middle ground. I’ll still post to Facebook when the mood strikes me. I’ll still check out the Twitter feed when I attend a conference. That’s it for social media. I think the best way for me to #showyourwork is to write the occasional blog post right here – occasional being the operative word.

I’ve done the blogging thing before and eventually got overwhelmed. The self-imposed pressure to keep up my posting frequency led to abandonment. This time I’m setting low expectations from the start while embracing Kleon’s notion that “you want hearts, not eyeballs” (p. 129). It isn’t about how many followers you have but having the right followers – the followers that care about the same things you do. So don’t expect daily, or probably even weekly, posts from me. Right now, I’m more interested in integrating #deepwork in my life, and this website is a tool in my learning process. Like Kleon says, “Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine” (p. 67).

Another element in all this is my keen awareness of the importance of sharing. I am a librarian devoted to resource sharing after all. So when I have thoughts to share that can’t be contained in a Facebook post, you’ll find them here. I hope we can share ideas and help one another.

Welcome.