Reflections on Library Journal’s Lead the Change

Reflections on Library Journal’s Lead the Change

by Rachael Altman, Head Editor, INALJ Alabama

“Librarians are human change agents. Their product is a child who learns, a young person grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.” –Peter Drucker

ra2Last month I attended Library Journal’s Lead the Change Leadership Event Series at Alabama Public Library Services in Montgomery, AL. The mission of Lead the Change is to empower individuals, transform libraries, and enrich communities. The series was hosted by David Bendekovic, president of The B.A. David Company, helps individuals, businesses, and not-for-profit organizations improve their performance, enhance brand recognition, and increase profitability and efficiency. Lead the Change empowers attendees to be innovative and work harder to prove the value of libraries.

The day included six sessions covering leadership, purpose, action planning, outcomes and impact, and community. My top six takeaways include:

  1. We are all leaders and managers—We are all managers because we manage our actions every day. We are all leaders because we lead and interact with library users every day.
  2. Start with why—we know what we do, but why do we do it?
  3. Anyone can make a difference—we must be inspired to move and just do it.
  4. Stop fearing change
  5. Shift from efficiency to effectiveness—user needs and community/library goals should align. What do your community members need? Maybe they need to pass algebra. The library can provide algebra resources and tutoring to the community. The library aims to effectively assist users and lead them to develop new knowledge and skills.
  6. Community as the collection—focus on community management over collection management. Find out what your community wants and needs. Position the library in the mind of the community. Be a part of the community. Go to community meetings. Be present.

The event in Montgomery included about 100 librarians from all over the state (mostly public libraries—there were only two of us from academic libraries). I was surprised by the low turnout of academic librarians, especially during a time when all libraries have to fight to prove worth and value. The series was practical and insightful, and it brought the library community together to develop a plan to create change in our communities.

Lead the Change is especially relevant with Barbara Stripling’s recent announcement of a campaign called America’s Right to Libraries, as well as the development of a Declaration for the Rights of Libraries, to serve as a strong public statement of the value of libraries for individuals, communities, and our nation. Stripling is calling for libraries of all types to stand up for their right to have vibrant school, public, academic, and special libraries in their communities. Now is the time for the library community to pull together to create change. Now is the time for action.

After attending Lead the Change and reading Barbara Stripling’s announcement, I am even more grateful for my education at Syracuse University because the preaching and teaching of Dave Lankes has served as a great inspiration and model for librarianship. I feel empowered to create change despite the fact that I am a new librarian who is still developing skills and navigating the field. I can make a difference because anyone can make a difference.

The workshop reinforced my belief that you do not need a formal title or position to create change. But in order to create change it is necessary to increase the visibility of librarians beyond the physical walls of the library through community engagement, a commitment to responsible citizenship, and facilitating knowledge creation in my communities. We must have conversations in our communities and enter into the people space to and discover shared experiences—discovery leads to knowledge and knowledge opens our eyes to the world.

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