I still need to do a write-up of my thoughts from last week's ALA Conference, but Leslie Burger
was kind enough to share with me her inauguration speech. While I
enjoyed her wit and passion throughout the entire talk, I've excerpted
below the piece that really resonated with me. Hopefully it will
resonate with you, too, and inspire you to move beyond the mediocre and to attempt true transformation within your library and with your staff. (And thanks to Alane for the link.)
Innovation, creativity, the willingness to take risks, the bravery
to learn from failure, trusting your colleagues and your users, and the
ability to embrace change and possibility (as opposed to regressing out
of fear and anxiety) will be key to such transformation. I look forward
to the coming year, in no small part because Leslie is now President of
ALA, there are so many ALA staff members who “get it” and who also want
to transform ALA itself, and libraries in general seem to be moving in
this direction by embracing Library 2.0 principles.
“Transformation is a fancy word for change. No one much
likes change it can be scary exciting rewarding. Our friends here in
New Orleans have found that it can be cataclysmic. But change or
transformation if you prefer the fancy word, has one characteristic: it
Let me make the case for why transformation is needed and why now.
Librarians and libraries have already been through a decade of great
change spurred by a technological revolution that has changed the way
in which we do business. We are hard at work trying to transform
reference service, our catalogs, our approach to customer service, our
buildings and our collections. Some of our staffs are tired and burned
out on change. Weve been so busy dealing with these changes, that we
havent always done a good job of communicating them. How many of our
users know what a 'database' is??? And how many of us can tell them in
10 words or less?
Now is not the time to stop.
We have changed how we do business. Now we must change how others see us.
We have this absolutely unique moment in time to transform the way
the world perceives us, to build on the things that we do so well and
set the stage for the next century of library service to the
communities we serve.
My agenda for the coming year is ambitious and necessary.
Libraries Transform Communities is the theme. We know that when
libraries are transformed either by new service programs, renovations,
or new buildings that the communities we serve are in turn transformed.
When customers realize they are getting more from their libraries, they
become advocates and passionate supporters for what we do, and learn in
new and different ways.
So how do we facilitate the transformation? Heres my plan.
- We need to develop a national library agenda to guide our work in transforming libraries of all types
- We need to provide practical tips that will allow everyone to
transform their library regardless of budget constraints. Well do that
through several summit meetings at the midwinter and annual meetings
- We need to provide people who are inspired by the message with the
tools they need to make the changes were talking about. Well publish
a transformation tool kit (print and web-based) to assist in this effort
- We need to help libraries who need some assistance in implementing
a transformation agenda. We can do that by establishing a 'librarians
without libraries' volunteer program to match people who have talents
and skills with libraries in need of assistance
- We need to get our message out to a broader constituency by
extending our national advocacy effort using the web, I just happen to
own the domain name, welovelibraries,org.
- We need to create a pool of emerging leaders who have the tools
they need to advance the ALA and transformation agenda for years to come
Our Libraries Transform Communities Toolkit will be a source of many
ideas and much inspiration. Id like to share just five tips that are
especially important to me.
- The first is to be passionate. Believe 150% in what you do. Share
your passion with others. Engage in shameless promotion. Be out there
in the community.
- Create a vision to guide the future. Focus every aspect of how you
do business to reflect that vision. Engage your board, staff, Friends,
faculty colleagues, students, etc. Dont just talk listen.
- Walk on the wild side. Try a different new practice each week or
month. Do what businesses do. Hire for attitude as much as skills.
Challenge the status quo. Give someone the title of 'chief innovator.'
- Build a culture that encourages and rewards change. Encourage your
staff to take some risks. Offer rewards for new/different ways of doing
things. If they turn out be better, great! If not, recognize,
appreciate and learn from the effort. Be relentless about promoting the
changes you want to see. Good example: The library that encourages
staff to keep track of how many times they say no and figures out how
to turn no into yes.
- 'Keep everlastingly at it.' Thats what John Cotton Dana, our
first and perhaps greatest library promoter would say. Never give up.
If you all think this sounds like a pep talk, it is. . . I am now
the official library cheerleader. I love and believe in libraries. I
cant think of any other work that provides the stimulation and
excitement that I find each day. We in this room are fortunate to call
Change isnt easy, but it is the key to our future. Heres a
prescient quote from Apple Computers back in 1997 'the people who can
crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.'
During my year as your president, I will work to lead change to
transform our profession, our libraries, our communities.
Please join me.”