Monthly Archives: March 2012

Leadership Quotes

I have always found great insight into any subject by pondering the quotes that I come across from individuals who, by virtue of their words, seem to understand it much better than I do. I stated earlier this year that I wanted to focus on Leadership in my blog posts, so here are some quotes that I hope will give you some insight into what leadership is and should be, as well as maybe some inspiration.

What is leadership?
A definition of leader that I have used for many years is;

A person, who by force of example, talents, and/or qualities of character plays a directing role, wields commanding influence or has a following in any sphere of activity or thought.

By contrast, to put leader in better perspective, a definition of a manager is;

A person who conducts, directs or supervises activities, especially the executive functions of planning, organizing, coordinating, directing, controlling and supervising of any business type project or activity with responsibility for results.

Leadership, or management?

“Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right things.”
Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, Leaders


“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
Peter Drucker


Chester Barnard, a noted management theorist in the early 20th century, stated; “the leader’s role is to harness the social forces in the organization, to shape and guide values.”

How does one develop their leadership?

“Each person must develop his own leadership. Leadership cannot be bought. It cannot be conferred. It cannot be inherited. It knows no divine right. It cannot be passed on by any process of succession. It is acquired only by the personal mastery of each individual aspirant.”
Sterling W. Sill

How does one demonstrate leadership?

“The line between firmness and harshness, between strong leadership and bullying, between discipline and chicken, is a fine line. It is difficult to define, but those of us who are professionals, who have also accepted a career as a leader of men must find that line. It is because judgment and concern for people and human relations are involved in leadership that only [people] can lead, and not computers. I enjoin you to be ever alert to the pitfalls of too much authority. Beware that you do not fall into the category of the little man, with a little job, with a big head.”
Lieutenant General Melvin Zais


“A good leader is one who makes people think they have more ability than they have, so they consistently do better work than they thought they could.”
Charles E. Wilson


“Leadership is action, not position.”
Donald H. McGannon


“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”
Arnold H. Glasow


According to Peters & Waterman (In Search of Excellence), every example or factor of excellence in leadership “lives only as the leader’s integrity lives within it.”

What is inspiring leadership?

“To give a man this [loyalty] is the acme of inspired leadership. He has become loyal because loyalty has been given to him.”
GEN George C. Marshall, WWII Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


“It is reported that on one occasion in the face of great enemy forces, Joan of Arc said to her generals; “I will lead the men over the wall.” A general said, “Not a man will follow you.” Joan replied, “I will not look back to see whether anyone is following or not!”


Lao-Tzu, a 6th century B.C. Chinese philosopher, wrote; “Of a great leader when his work is done they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”

How is your leadership? Is it equal to the challenges of the 21st Century Library?


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Go Big or Go Home!

My daughter reminded me of this truism the other day and it stuck in my head as words that should guide our profession. In this uncertain future, librarians need to …

Go Big or Go Home!

In recent Posts I’ve commented on visionary and excellent leadership, the high performing library, strategic management, and being “The Library” again. This saying seems to totally summarize those several hundred words.

Go Big or Go Home!

It’s always good to elaborate on what exactly something so seemingly obvious really means, because it’s not always obvious to everyone. Some people “get it”, but others think it’s too ambiguous.

Go Big or Go Home!

If something is worth doing it’s worth doing well – in the case of 21st Century Librarianship – it’s worth doing excellently! That’s what it will require in order for the institution of the library to survive, transform, and reinvent itself into the relevant institution that every community needs. Yes, every community NEEDS A LIBRARY, so…..

Go Big or Go Home!


Either lead, follow, or get out of the way!

It’s far past time for discontinuous thinking, visionary leadership and 21st Century librarianship. In the future there is no place for timidity.


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Last Thursday I presented to a school librarians association conference on “Becoming a 21st Century Librarian”. In the ‘environment’ section of the presentation I covered eTextbooks as a coming reality in the classroom and school library, and used an infographic from Accredited Online Universities Guide.

What Apple is doing to advance the eTextbook through iBooks 2 for iPad, and iBook Author is both remarkable and aggressive. It literally may change the face of education.

Combine that with results of what higher-ed students are already saying about eTextbooks, based on the results of a survey by – A LOOK AT STUDENTS USING eTEXTBOOKS – and the reality is clear – eTextbooks are the new reality.

At, the infographic shows some very convincing trends toward the use of eTextbooks. About half (48%) of all students choose eTextbooks because of the lower price, another 25% choose them to have instant access, 19% choose eTextbooks for the portability, but only 6% prefer reading digital format.

The attraction for eTextbooks seems to be the search capability that 52% like most. Twenty percent like highlighting, and 14% like the copy-paste capability (one might expect this to be the most valued feature), and 12% like the interactive study guides and quizzes. As far as saving time, another big student issue, 51% claim they save from 1 to 3 hours per semester, while 17% say they save more than 3 hours, and 29% don’t see any time savings with eTextbooks.

In response to the question – “Would you buy an eTextbook next semester?” – only 7% said No, but 38% said Yes for all their books, while 54% were undecided – Maybe.

What does this whole trend say about the future of technology, eBooks and library services?


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Many 21st Century Library Directors Are NOT Librarians

That headline snapped into my brain yesterday when I read that The new head of Ottawa’s library is not a librarian,

Danielle McDonald took over the Ottawa [Canada] Public Library and its $50-million budget this week. She’s a departure from her predecessor, Barbara Clubb, who started out shelving books and capped her career with a national award for her service to librarianship. McDonald is a lifelong administrator specializing in behind-the-scenes work in the city bureaucracy.

With a rich history of service to a population of now over 880,000, and a $50M budget, what kind of experience and/or education would a librarian need to direct such a large operation in Ottawa? Obviously, these library decision makers/boards of trustees/ community leaders believed that it is not necessary for their library’s director be a librarian. One could easily make the argument that they believed it was more important for the leader to be a leader, have some business acumen, be an experienced manager, and be able to direct the library’s activities in a successful direction.

When one looks around at all of these mega-library systems, one finds many library directors who are not librarians. Every librarian should ask themselves “Why?”

Salt Lake County Library Services has been headed by Director James D. Cooper, MBA, since 2001. In 2005 the system garnered the Best in Utah Library title, and the system has grown significantly under Jim’s leadership, building two new branches since 2008, making a total of 20 throughout the County of over 500,000 customers. According to Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings for 1999 to 2010, SLCoLS ranks fifth in the nation.

Would anyone realistically expect the President of New York Public Library to be a librarian?

Dr. Anthony W. Marx, President of Amherst College and a distinguished political scientist, became The New York Public Library’s President and CEO on July 1, 2011. … A native New Yorker, Dr. Marx attended P.S. 98 and the Bronx High School of Science. He then attended Wesleyan and Yale, where he graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in 1981. He received his M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1986, then earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton in 1987 and 1990.

The former Director, St. Louis Public Library, Glen Holt did not have an MLS degree, but directed the multimillion dollar operation for 15 years, that included initiation of a $70M library renovation, before turning over the leadership to his deputy director in 2004. Associate Professor and Chairperson Dr. Mary E. Brown, Department of Information and Library Science, Southern Connecticut State University, uses a Holt publication in her coursework.

Holt, Glen (2002). A way to the future: reorganizing library work, The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, 15, 1.
[Summarizing:] Holt argues that traditional library work tends to entangle librarians in chores that do not take advantage of their training and abilities and encourages library management to make structural changes that will allow librarians to do intellectual work rather than less significant tasks. This intellectual work should include old and new tasks that require full use of librarian expertise while using non-librarian employees for most other work. Mr. Holt discusses steps that his institution has taken to evolve the traditional role of librarians into knowledge managers. Although these steps may not be appropriate for every institution, there are several principals that may serve library administrators attempting to transform their institutions in a similar fashion. Principally applying business principals for cost-benefit efficiency and using technology to improve the communication and services of a library institution. [Emphasis added.]

Several states like Wisconsin have laws that require library directors to be certified – with one notable exception.

Administrators of public library systems, county libraries, county library services, and municipal public libraries except Milwaukee Public Library must hold certification as described in this manual. An “administrator” of a library or system is, according to administrative rules, the head librarian or other person appointed by the board of the library or system to direct and administer the library or system. [Emphasis added.]

IMHO, the major issue is leadership and executive experience required for larger library systems. Where does a librarian get that? OJT? I don’t think so. SLIS? Definitely not!

It appears to me that this trend toward hiring non-librarians to fill high level library director positions will continue until the profession begins to develop its own – its own visionary leaders and executives – and takes mentoring very seriously.

If anyone has examples of librarians ascending to these high level library director positions, please share.


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Our Future is Not Uncertain – It’s Ambiguous

In January 2012 Robert Safian posted an eye-opening article for FAST COMPANY titled “This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier of Business“. When I recently read it, it resonated with me because it so closely defined my ideas of what the 21st Century Librarian must be like in order to – not only survive – but thrive in the library’s ambiguous future.

As I have stated too many times to count – “21st Century Librarians create 21st Century Libraries” – and that begins with a 21st Century librarian mind-set. (21st Century Library Paradigm – More Evidence and The 21st Century Library is More:)

Safian has done an expert job of describing and explaining the future and what it requires from individuals to not only survive – but thrive. Through interviews with several Gen Flux members, he has painted a compelling picture of the future of those who will thrive in business, but his observations and conclusions can be applied to librarianship equally as meaningfully.

Look at the global cell-phone business. Just five years ago, three companies controlled 64% of the smartphone market: Nokia, Research in Motion, and Motorola. Today, two different companies are at the top of the industry: Samsung and Apple. This sudden complete swap in the pecking order of a global multibillion-dollar industry is unprecedented. Consider the meteoric rise of Groupon and Zynga, the disruption in advertising and publishing, the advent of mobile ultrasound and other “mHealth” breakthroughs … Online-education efforts are eroding our assumptions about what schooling looks like. Cars are becoming rolling, talking, cloud-connected media hubs. In an age where Twitter and other social-media tools play key roles in recasting the political map in the Mideast; where impoverished residents of refugee camps would rather go without food than without their cell phones; where all types of media, from music to TV to movies, are being remade, redefined, defended, and attacked every day in novel ways – there is no question that we are in a new world.

Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast – the road map and model that will define the next era – no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.

To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach … [b]ecause some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux. This is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one: What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates – and even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. This is no simple task. The vast bulk of our institutions – educational, corporate, political – are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills. [Emphasis added.]

In addition to shining a spotlight on the inadequacies of our current SLIS curricula to develop librarian leaders for the future, the 21st Century skills that I have been advocating through numerous Blog posts include:
• Business Acumen
• Cloud Computing
• Crowdsourcing
• Customer Targeting
• Digital Discovery
• Discontinuous Thinking
• Gaming
• Likenomics
• Open Innovation
• Planned Abandonment
• Subject Matter Expert in ‘Community’
• Social Networking
• Value Added

I have also been advocating that the external environment – technology advancement, education reform, and societal changes – has changed so drastically that business as usual will not keep libraries relevant or even alive.

That still doesn’t discount the way mobile, social, and other breakthroughs are changing our way of life, not just in America but around the globe. And in the process, these changes are remaking geopolitical and business assumptions that have been in place for decades. This was not true in 2000. But it is now. Chaotic disruption is rampant, not simply from the likes of Apple, Facebook, and Google. No one predicted that General Motors would go bankrupt – and come back from the abyss with greater momentum than Toyota. … Digital competition destroyed bookseller Borders, and yet the big, stodgy music labels – seemingly the ground zero for digital disruption – defy predictions of their demise. Walmart has given up trying to turn itself into a bank, but before retail bankers breathe a sigh of relief, they ought to look over their shoulders at Square and other mobile-wallet initiatives. Amid a reeling real-estate market, new players like Trulia and Zillow are gobbling up customers. … “All these industries are being revolutionized,” observes Pete Cashmore, the 26-year-old founder of social-news site Mashable, which has exploded overnight to reach more than 20 million users a month. “It’s come to technology first, but it will reach every industry. You’re going to have businesses rise and fall faster than ever.”

Within the librarian profession we tend to rely on the past for perspective. We try to play it safe when making decisions about what to collect, what to program, how to deliver services, etc. That time has passed and especially in this rapidly changing future, we can not resort to some outdated playbook of “We’ve always done it this way.” and expect to survive.

Susan Peters, who oversees GE’s executive-development effort, “The pace of change is pretty amazing,” Peters says. “There’s a need to be less hierarchical and to rely more on teams. This has all increased dramatically in the last couple of years.”

Executives at GE are bracing for a new future. The challenge they face is the same one staring down wide swaths of corporate America, not to mention government, schools, and other institutions that have defined how we’ve lived: These organizations have structures and processes built for an industrial age, where efficiency is paramount but adaptability is terribly difficult. We are finely tuned at taking a successful idea or product and replicating it on a large scale. But inside these legacy institutions, changing direction is rough. From classrooms arranged in rows of seats to tenured professors, from the assembly line to the way we promote executives, we have been trained to expect an orderly life. Yet the expectation that these systems provide safety and stability is a trap.

“The business community focuses on managing uncertainty,” says Dev Patnaik, cofounder and CEO of strategy firm Jump Associates, which has advised GE, Target, and PepsiCo, among others. “That’s actually a bit of a canard.” The true challenge lies elsewhere, he explains: “In an increasingly turbulent and interconnected world, ambiguity is rising to unprecedented levels. That’s something our current systems can’t handle.

“There’s a difference between the kind of problems that companies, institutions, and governments are able to solve and the ones that they need to solve,” Patnaik continues. “Most big organizations are good at solving clear but complicated problems. They’re absolutely horrible at solving ambiguous problems – when you don’t know what you don’t know. Faced with ambiguity, their gears grind to a halt.

“Uncertainty is when you’ve defined the variable but don’t know its value. Like when you roll a die and you don’t know if it will be a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. But ambiguity is when you’re not even sure what the variables are. You don’t know how many dice are even being rolled or how many sides they have or which dice actually count for anything.” Businesses that focus on uncertainty, says Patnaik, “actually delude themselves into thinking that they have a handle on things.” [Emphasis added.]

If you think you have a handle on the uncertainty within librarianship, you’re fooling yourself so you can feel safe. The ambiguous future takes the “science” out of librarianship that can only be replaced by BOLD LEADERSHIP.

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