Lunch with Leslie

By Michael Stephens | Alan Gray, Darien (CT) Library, and Leslie Burger, ALA President-ElectWe were lucky to be heading to San Antonio's highly agreeable climate, though we were going there for different reasons: Michael for the ALISE Conference and Jenny for Midwinter.

Then came a note from Alan Gray, at Darien Library in Darien, Connecticut.

Alan, who definitely "gets" libraries and technology and services really well, offered an invitation: lunch with Leslie Burger, incoming ALA President. Leslie wanted to meet some Blog People. How cool! Michael and Jenny have lunch with incoming ALA president Leslie Burger, January 2006.

So on a wonderfully warm and windy Thursday, before the excitement of Midwinter kicked in, we met at Leslie's suite at the conference headquarters hotel, and we chatted over lunch.

MS: Leslie's been writing a Weblog for a while, and one of our talking points over lunch was providing some hints and tips for successful blogging.

She mentioned that she has to teach herself to post something every day, to which I responded that I would rather read a few quality posts from a blogger I respect and that she should post when inspired.

When she becomes ALA President this July, Leslie will be in a unique position to share her experiences and expose, in her words, the reality of the job instead of the hype.

ALA President-Elect Leslie Burger's headquarters at ALA's Annual Midwinter Meeting, held this year in San Antonio, TX.I hope she continues to post her experiences when she is inspired, because it will provide valuable insight into not just the position, but also the organization.

JL: I was also very impressed with some of the ideas Leslie proposed for making ALA more social and accessible to its members. For example, she has a great idea to start a Facebook-like site for librarians so we can network and connect better online.

MS: HOT! How cool would it be to see the faces of librarianship in 2006 and the faces of the Association? It would, in effect, create a social community from the bottom up.

JL: Can you say, “Librarian trading cards!” Leslie also “gets” Flickr, and she is starting her own account to visually chronicle her year as president. I think during Leslie's term we're going to get a more realistic perspective on what the President of ALA actually does. It will be interesting to see if these types of social tools help to humanize both the position and the organization as a whole and make them at least seem more accessible to members, nonmembers, and the public in general.

MS: Leslie passionately recounted a recent speech, in which she highlighted three concepts she addresses frequently to get librarians thinking about change and the future of library services. She points out the concept of the “lifetime guarantee” and how there isn't one anymore. There is always going to be change. Constant change, we might call it.

JL: Then there is her second concept, the “haircutter as problem solver.” Her theory is that when you go to the salon, you are there to have a problem solved, and the haircutter has to decide the best tools and strategies for resolving your problem. In fact, her exact words were, “See the problem and fix it.”

MS: Her third concept “challenges peoples' notions of what a library can be.” Leslie has hosted library sleepovers at the Princeton Public Library, where she is the director. Recently, she and ten 9-year olds spent the night in the library and played hide-and-seek. It speaks to me that the director is absolutely involved with the users and that the library is not just a 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. entity. Those children are also learning what a fun place the library can be, and hopefully they'll be in love with their libraries their whole lives. Princeton Public Library director and ALA President-Elect Leslie Burger created a playlist for her library staff on her iPod.

JL: I really love that last one. I've always wanted to see public or school libraries host birthday parties, including sleepover ones, for kids. Imagine being able to watch a movie on a movie-like screen, play video games, or even just run around the library and shout at the top of your lungs during your birthday slumber party! I would have loved to do that as a kid! I love too that Leslie understands the library as community and third place, in both the physical and online worlds.

MS: We also touched on “Leslie's Tips for Transforming Libraries" and how libraries can transform communities.

The lunchtime flew by as Leslie, Alan, Jenny and I talked library futures, constructing beautiful buildings, and gadgets—including her blue iPod mini that carries a playlist she built just for her library staff.

It was about then that I realized how far we'd come since I read "Revenge of the Blog People" and replied in an "Open Letter to Michael Gorman."

I actually got a bit choked up thanking Leslie for spending time with us. I felt welcome at her table.

Thanks to Leslie and Alan for a great experience!

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