Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blogging NELA – Weeks Later

Life has been hectic, and I finally caught up on my electronic clippings for blogging (from September!), and now am working on my paper files. The fattest is the one for the New England Library Association (NELA). This year’s conference was held in Burlington VT (about 5 hours drive almost due north from Bridgeport).

Because of family commitments, I arrived just in time for the banquet at which Lucy Gangone received the Emerson Greenaway award. Lucy is a former NELA President, has worked in a number of libraries in New England including Worcester Public Library and Hartford Public Library. She was the brains and energy behind NELA’s leadership development program, NELLS. She moved to Florida earlier this year, and I am sure will soon be a leader there. There are photos from the event, and others have appeared in places like ConnText.

Maureen Sullivan – Leadership and Emotional Intelligence
I’ve known Maureen for many years, having first run into her when she was at Yale. I worked with her most closely during ALA’s second Core Values Task Force. (That is worth several posts, some day!) Maureen was the facilitator for NELA’s successful NELLS leadership event. She started by reminding us that leadership does not happin in 90 minutes or even a week. It is developed over time and needs the full commitment of individuals. Among other points she noted how many administrators use “evidence based management” in dealing with problems and complaints. She cited as an example dealing with complaints about “noisy teenagers.” How many complaints do we get compared to the number of people using the library? Does it really constitute a problem? One of her handouts was a great “Six Leadership Styles at a Glance” which we reviewed after rating our own leadership skills. I found it fascinating having used a similar instrument as part of the screening which the City of Eau Claire did for the candidates for Library Director. One great quote: “It is hard to speak truth to power.” Maureen noted that millenials are seeking more feedback than many of us are used to giving. We need to set some new ground rules. She also noted that there are regional culture differences. (This is something I will need to pay more attention to!) Also, there is regional cultural bias in management theories which tend to reflect the cultures of the coasts, and not the middle or southern parts of the country, Effective leadership is about building a relationship with followers. One of my new personal goals is centered around this: seeking to understand and be understood.

I did snag the handout for Maureen’s later presentation which I did not attend, called Nurturing Leadership within Your Own Library.Based on the handout, it was much more concretely focused on how to do this in your library.

Bottom line recommendation – if you ever get a chance to hear Maureen present on leadership (or anything else, for that matter) GO! It will be well worth your time.

Emily Alling & Maura DeedySocial Software: What you need to know These two recent library school graduates was focused on academic library uses of various social software opportunites. They showed several of them including discussion of myspace, Facebook, Flickr, and others. They noted that reference staff at some academic institutions have used these effectively to encourage students to call on library staff for help. In a way, it is finding students where they are and engaging them. They had some very interesting practical tips.

ALA President Leslie Burger presided over an ALA Forum. Most of the Chapter Councilors were present along with a number of other ALA junkies. We talked about a number of issues. Leslie was most gracious in giving me some of the credit for working on the ALA Council Photo Gallery [link]. She also credited my friends (and back row colleagues from ALA Council last year) Rochelle [link] and Jessamyn [link]. Staff continue to tweak how it operates, and so far about 120 Council members are pictured. One of the key tidbits I picked up was the spread of economic impact studies. I know that Florida [link] and South Carolina [link] have done surveys showing that the return on investment (ROI) of spending public tax dollars on public library services ranges from 4 to 12. Leslie noted that Pennsylvania is about to release a study which shows the value between five and six. She also noted that the New Jersey State Library has a calculator [link] vor valuing a library.

There was a great panel presentation on NELLS. One participant and one mentor from each of the two sessions talked about the incredible value of the experience. Having done the program twice, NELA has now committed to a schedule with will have NELLS alternate with Counterparts. Staff and member leaders have found it too difficult to organize both events in the same year, so henceforth, they will alternate.

Gregor Trinkhaus-RandallPrepared or Not, Here I Come: Disasters Waiting to Happen Gregor works for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and did a first rate workshop on disaster preparedness. I picked up a second set of the extensive handouts so that I can share them with both my current (Bridgeport) and future (Eau Claire) libraries. Great content!

Museum Reception (ECHO Center) There are many pictures of this event on my Flickr account. As I was waiting in the hotel lobby for the shuttle bus, who should I run into but, Jessamyn West! We sat together and even found Lichen and her mom (who is also a librarian). It was a nice opportunity to see a very nice museum which seemed to be aimed at young people, but also explained the geology and ecology of the area.

Nancy Davis Leading for Libraries and Leadership Does there seem to be a theme in my program choices? Perhaps. Some of the choices were affected by the knowledge that any of the place-specific programs would have less applicability in my immediate future. Nancy gave credit to Maureen for what Maureen had covered. Nancy also had a leadership skills assessment. Part of her message is to remember that we will use different styles in different situations. A really good leader will be aware of this and will change style based on the specific situation and needs of the individuals involved. This was a great follow-up to Maureen’s program.

Jessamyn WestWeb 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0 I won’t say too much about the content here, since Jessamyn has it up on the web. This is the first time I have seen Jessamyn formally present. I have known her for a couple of years, and really like her on a personal level, and respect her knowledge and ability to communicate it on the web. In this presentation, I could see why she is rightfully beloved by the librarians and members of the public she serves in Vermont. She struck exactly the right tone of not condescending, but without making assumptions about the level of technical knowledge of her audience. And she did it with a wonderful light touch and sense of humor. I’ll even go this far: It was great!

Closing Lunch The closing luncheon speaker was Jack Canfield the creator of the Chicken Soup for… series. He is now a motivational speaker, and after he talked about how the series was started, he talked about his newest book, You’ve GOT to Read This Book. I had almost escaped the conference without buying a book, but the pitch he gave was just too good. The book has stories from notable people about books that changed their lives. So I bought one for me (and have only dipped into it a very little), and one for a friend who is going through a rough patch. I hope it is a help and inspiration.

Exhibits I did wander through the exhibits, not so much to plan on buying anything, but more as part of the Michael Golrick Farewell Tour. I talked with a lot of vendor representatives with whom I have dealt over the years,Some I will see again at national conferences, but others I may not (unless/until I return to the region). It was a bittersweet part of the conference.

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