ALCTS Holds First Virtual Midwinter Symposium

Dallas Symposium | Virtual Symposium | Attending the Virtual Symposium

An effective leader offers guidance without imposing strict guidelines, encourages experimentation and risk-taking, and doesn't object to breaking an occasional rule in the interest of achieving a spectacular result. Those are the attributes described by Adam Goldman, the Director of Northwestern University’s Center for Leadership, during the inaugural session of “Launching Your Star Potential: Leadership for Today’s Libraries,” the 2012 ALCTS Virtual Midwinter Symposium. The well-attended event consisted of five one-hour webinars held on successive days during the week preceding the ALA Midwinter Meeting. They featured six leaders from the library community and beyond who presented unique perspectives and advice about leadership.

Building on the first day's remarks, Pamela Sandlian Smith, the director of the Anythink Library System (Colorado) and the recipient of the prestigious 2012 Public Library Association Charlie Robinson Award, spoke of “Leadership by Disruption.” By creating a climate for free expression, Pamela and her staff re-envisioned the library and the services the library offers. She also shared the wisdom of Adam Bryant and his Corner Office project online at

Mary Page, Associate Director for Collections & Technical Services at the University of Central Florida, outlined the differences between being a manager and being a leader. To flourish as a middle manager, one must be able to interact with staff above, below, and in lateral positions. Successful leaders are passionate about what they do, have genuine respect their staff, listen and learn, ask early and often “What do you think?” are decisive but flexible, and say “thank you” frequently. A successful leader seeks but also takes responsibility: when things go well, the leader acknowledges the contributions of the staff; when things go wrong, the leader assumes responsibility for the problem. Leaders earn their success and then hold the door open for others to grow and succeed.

Maureen Sullivan, President-Elect of the American Library Association and Erica Findley, a 2012 ALA Emerging Leader, shared personal experiences about leadership. Although Maureen is a seasoned library leader and Erica is just embarking on her career, their remarks about leadership and the value of professional engagement were remarkably similar. Erica stressed the need for feedback for new leaders from their mentors and managers and asked for honesty in praise as well as criticism. Maureen shared her favorite readings on leadership, including The Truth about Leadership and The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner and On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis.

The closing keynote speaker was James Hilton, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at the University of Virginia. His presentation, “Leading Change,” focused on the role of leadership throughout the organization and strategies for leading effectively in a world of constant change. He shared the idea of making ‘little bets’ and adjustments along the way to an ultimate goal, as put forward in the book Little Bets by Peter Sims.

Based on the success of the symposium, ALCTS plans to offer more virtual events in the future. Two virtual preconferences have already been planned for June 2012 prior to the ALA Annual Conference.