How to Be an Influential Librarian – Leading and Mentoring from Wherever You Are: 2017 Annual Conference

More than 100 attendees listened to three speakers at this program share their own experiences and offer advice to librarians who want to be influential leaders. The program was held on Sunday, June 24, and co-sponsored by the Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA) Mentoring Committee and the ALA New Members Round Table (NMRT). Each of three speakers represented a different point in her career (early, mid, and late career) which provided a varied perspective on and experiences in leading and mentoring. The program was also interactive; attendees participated in two exercises. The first exercise asked attendees to think about a time when they had influence on something or someone, and what that was like. The second exercise prompted attendees to think about a time when they were influenced positively or negatively and what that was like. After each exercise attendees shared their reflections with a neighbor. During the course of the program, the audience was encouraged to reflect on their own experiences and those of their neighbor.

Madison Sullivan (University of Washington) provided the perspective of an early career librarian. She emphasized the personal nature of leadership; in other words, a leader’s actions are informed by factors such as past experiences, culture, and geography. Sullivan encouraged the audience to try and understand where others are coming from in order to effectively communicate and lead. Her takeaways for librarians who want to be leaders were to connect and engage with others in the profession, come from a genuine place, and give others the opportunity to make an impact by “opening the door behind you.” Her advice to new librarians was to be patient, especially the first year of employment, and build relationships with people throughout the organization.

Rachel Fleming (University of Tennessee, Chattanooga) represented a mid-career librarian, “one who is not new and not ready to retire.” Fleming shared her belief that mentoring is a powerful way to influence others. She mentors others to help them have a shorter and easier path than she did, and get to the place they want to be in their career. Her advice to librarians was to make a conscious decision whether they want to be a library administrator so that they can pursue those opportunities (or not) as they arise. Fleming also suggested that librarians take time to develop their own ideas and determine what they have to offer as a leader and a mentor, show respect and compassion to others, and intentionally reflect on interactions with the intent of improving them in the future.

The final speaker was Maureen Sullivan (Maureen Sullivan Associates) who has many years of experience in the profession. Sullivan, who offered much of the same advice as the other speakers concerning cultivating relationships, self-awareness, and awareness of where others are coming from, also offered four “influence strategies”: establish credibility, establish a frame for common ground, provide evidence, and connect emotionally. She left the audience with the notion that it is the effort to be intentional that makes a leader and that each of us can be a leader in our work. Leadership is a process of influence, so take the time to understand what is called for in a particular situation, and be ready to share power and responsibility to insure a successful outcome.

Reported by Tammy S. Sugarman, Georgia State University Library