Monthly Archives: June 2014

Visionary Leader for the 21st Century Library or Control Freak?

I always say I’m not a control freak. Some would say I am. I think what they mistake as control is actually having a clear vision of my organization’s potential and direction.

Much like the artist creation of a movie- a library (or and organization) is a collaboration. Cinematographers, gaffers, scenic design, costumers, art directors, foley artist = librarians of all specialties, facilities managers, pages, trustees, community collaborators, security officers.
But it is the director that creates and holds the creative vision for the whole and communicates that effectively to the entire collaborative team.  The director must always retain a clear vision of the final product to avoid wasted resources, the team getting ‘lost in the weeds’, or a mangled final result.
In that setting no one says the director is a control freak. Rather they may say that he/she is a perfectionist that works tirelessly and brings out the best in everyone to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The ability to skillfully guide the multitude of contributors (like a symphony) to bring their skill set to the table and create a product that resembles on screen the vision the director had in his/her head is essential.  I believe that leaders of great organizations must practice the same approach.
Visionary Leaders must:
  • Have clear vision and a grasp of how the parts will come together.
  • Think many moves ahead.
  • Plan for exceptions. Allow for opportunities.
  • Be open to spectacular unexpected contributions that make the whole better and Reject the opposite with equal vigor and determination.   (This does not make you a micro manager or a control freak. If a screenwriter had suggested trotting a cowboy on a horse thru the final scene in Casablance-no one would have snarked that the director was a control freak for saying no to the idea.)
  • Do not become complacent. Divide the long haul future into a series of attainable goals or projects. Your time with an organization is the career of a filmmaker with each new stage or project the equivalent of a completed film.
And… Like we all want in a good movie…
Be EPIC!!!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We say we are cutting edge…but are we?

Recently, I spoke at the NJLA annual conference on 21st century library titles. It was a panel discussion and the premise was  to introduce and discuss “cutting edge” librarian titles of the future!!

I was asked to presented my library’s two newest titles “Circulation Reengineering Project Leader” and “Innovation Catalyst Librarian”. The other panelist actually held the positions they were presenting. But as our people were just getting started in their new roles, I presented them.
I was very excited to discuss these new positions and get input! Our Circulation Reengineering Project Leader is a 12 month contract position created to infuse our Circulation Department with a more “Retail-like” customer service tone and revamp our training based on best-practices from a retail environment! The goal: to up-level our front line customer service and training program.  Our Innovation Catalyst Librarian position is even MORE exciting!! Here is a blurb from the position ad:
“The Trenton Free Public Library is in search of a passionate, creative, type-A professional who will be instrumental in helping lead our organization into significant and meaningful Change!!  Our Library is poised to leap into the future and we are looking for someone to assist.  We are not interested in snail paced incremental change- but rather overhauling everything from policy to staff training, from technology to programming and more immediately.
This position is a rare opportunity to shape a dream job!   We are NOT looking for someone to run our Facebook page and Tweet; but rather an individual who is focused on the future.  We want to create an environment where you won’t just advise us on the next ‘big thing’— with only your own vision as the limit-  we want you to CREATE the next big thing!
The successful candidate will, with a great deal of autonomy, work directly for the Library Director. They will engage in all aspect of professional Librarianship.  They will work in all areas of the Library so as to be versed in where and what improvements and change are needed with an eye always on innovation.  They will assist other Librarians in pulling together divergent areas of the Library’s services to create cohesion and thus improve our performance.  They will take the lead on grant applications to assist in the funding of  innovative services and opportunities.
The Librarian must have strong leadership skills, passion, and a clear vision of 21st Century Librarianship and Library Services in all aspects of Library Service. “
I arrived at conference! I was ready to be energized and inspired!!
Going first, I gave a brief intro of our titles and sat back to be awed as everyone else did the same.
Next up: “Digital Librarian”
Then:  “Emerging Technologies Librarian”
And rounding out the line-up:  “Acquisitions and Emerging Technology Librarian”
Um..ok. Hmmm…
I thought to myself “Maybe there is more. Just wait”. So we trudged through the descriptions of their positions.
“Manage our digital services”
and “Training the staff in new technology”
finally “Recommending new technology “
Um…ok. Hmmm…
So there I sat. I was so disappointed!! I was ready to be WOWed!!  The panel had been billed as the latest and greatest new types of librarian jobs.  Attendees were prepped to come and discover what skills were necessary to successfully apply to these “positions of the future!!”
Emerging technologies?  Digital librarian?

Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being too harsh. But these are not new titles.

And as I sat there heartily crushed and disappointed. Was this the best we had..? Was this our profession at its most cutting edge??  I realize that my true disappointment was not in the panel- the speakers were all wonderful and engaged and passionate!  The source of my disappointment is that it appears that once again, as a profession we are lulling. Remember the paradigm shift? Libraries without walls!! No Ssssh-ing!!!  New ways of serving our public!! That was amazing! And that went on for what….20 years?  Why? Was it that our patrons were so to acclimate?  Was it that Library Boards were slow to embrace the new trends? Or was it that the Librarians were slow to implement?
Or- what I fear the most- That we embraced the shift and then said “TA-DA!!!” and sat for years feeling satisfied with our progress and “cutting-edge-bad-self”!!!! Rather than driving forward into the next big- thing…the next paradigm shift…we rested…regrouped…basked in the glow of our successful shift.
And the world moved on. Bigger, faster, more, digital, content, apps, smart-things, iThings…
And we watched.
And, when once again the shift was logical and apparent and….safe…we shifted!  Emerging technologies, digital content, bigger, faster, more… YIPEE!!! We are once again enjoying our “cutting-edge-bad-self” image.
And we are watching…
If libraries were businesses we would be out of business. We move so slow!!  We wait and watch. When something is tried and true by the typical handful of Library risk takers (we all know them- like LAPL and their Career Online High School program. GO LAPL!!! The David Lee King’s, etc) THEN we all jump safely on.
Simple fact: If it’s safe it isn’t cutting edge!!! We must be risk takers. It is how we will stay vital and important to people’s everyday lives!
We can do it!!


Filed under Uncategorized

First Day

You will slowly start to see changes in the look of the blog in coming weeks.  This is only natural.  Just as when someone moves into a new apartment or house they put their own stamp on the place to make it cozy and feel like home.

This is something we do with our organizations as well.  We show up on the scene and take a look around.   Remember that first day?  You looked at your new space, organization, processes, procedures, policies, teammates, etc with fresh eyes.  In that moment you have something you will never have again- a First Impression of your Library.  So grab a note pad and start writing.  Its only for you so don’t edit yourself.  If you don’t like the carpet or you love the weird blue painting at the circulation desk, write it all down.  Is it hard to find something or someone? Write it down! Do you hear a rule or policy and think “That’s great!” or “Are they serious?”?  Write it down!! Keep that pad secure and handy and keep writing for at least the first few weeks.

And then what you ask?  When that constant bombardment of “new” and first impressions has slowed to a point you haven’t written anything in a few days, Stow your little note pad in the top drawer of your desk and wait.

….and wait

….and wait

Do your job, make changes, be amazing! …..and wait….

Wait for that day maybe a year from now when you walk in and everything feels familiar and cozy.  On that day, pull out your list and read.  Read your first impressions of what has now become comfortable.

In all likelihood you will probably find that you have changed some of the things you didn’t like…and kept some of those you did.  But, as is the nature with any job, we get busy.  When we get busy some things become a lower priority.  New projects pop up and take center stage or the daily onslaught just pushes the “little things” off to tomorrow’s tomorrow.  Sometimes those lower priority items may even drift out of our consciousness completely.

Your little note pad has given you a great gift.  First Impression that can now be viewed through a lens of context and experience.

Now you can say “Oh I know why it is that way…” or “Wow, I can’t believe I got use to that! I need to make improving X a priority again!”


Now- if you are thinking- Kimberly! This sounds great.  Wish I had read this before I started but now what good does it do me?  Well, I’m sure you have new folks starting in your organization from time to time :). Pass this suggestion along as part of their welcome and orientation! Perhaps even start them off by giving them a notepad for their observations.  In addition to benefiting from their observations, you will be setting a tone from the first day by letting them know that the organization values them and their ideas!  That you are a open environment striving always to be better!



Filed under Uncategorized

Picking up the Torch…

It is with pleasure and with a great deal of trepidation that I take on Dr. Matthews’, my father’s, blog.  As I voiced to him, I fear that it will not continue to be the high level of scholarly work and academic reflection that he has made a hallmark of this blog over the last four years.  There is a reason he has those two initials in front of his name and those three initials at the back.  I do not. I am what I am and what that is is a 21st-century library director. Or at least that’s how I like to think of myself.  And that is exactly how I will continue this blog.
So for those who’ve come to read the reviews of and reflections upon scholarly works for writings about our field, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. As a library director I have a stack of periodicals and professional journals on my desk at all times… Very rarely do I actually have the time to Peruse them.
For those who may have come for philosophical reviews of other blogs and articles about Librarianship, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. I have many blogs bookmarked on my iPad and computer that I attempt to follow… Very rarely in the cast of the day do I find time to check them.
For those who come seeking theoretical and academic analysis on the trending themes of our profession, I fear you will be disappointed. I try to keep up with everyone’s ideas of what is happening on the front lines of Librarianship and I’m sure if I did I would have a million opinions.
Unfortunately, as a  library director, I find myself spending my days dealing with the issues that come across my desk from staff, vendors, politicians, trustees, budget, marketing, the latest technology being hawked in my email Inbox, etc.
Therefore as I continue this blog doing my very best to honor my father and what he has built here, I will do it by blogging about what I know… And that is the 21st-century library in action.  Names and specifics will be changed to protect the innocent (and the not so innocent). I hold paramount the tenants of ethics and privacy that are the foundation of our profession and will, in no way shape or form, forgo those in my blog postings. I will talk about the issues that I deal with on a day-to-day basis, the random thoughts that I have, and my musings for the future of our libraries and our profession.
Occasionally I will be off base or I may write something that you read and think “OH She doesn’t know about x,y,z…!”  You will be absolutely right! So drop me a comment! I hope this blog will inspire conversation, debate, and sharing of ideas and information.  That it will continue to be a spot where librarians everywhere who are busy ‘fightin the fight’ can drop by now and again and be inspired, informed, and, hopefully, amused.  A place to rest, recharge, and rearm to forge through our Library-Land with a bigger tool bag and fresher smile.
So buckle your seat belts, hold on and let’s take this baby out for a spin! Because the one thing I have learned about libraries during my 20+ year career that they did NOT teach me in library school is:  Libraryland is crazy ~ You can’t make this stuff up!!
Hopefully you will enjoy the ride with me.
Kimberly Matthews


Filed under Uncategorized

Passing the Torch

I have been blogging about 21st Century Library since January 2010. Some say that’s a long time for a blog. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4&1/2 years, but I do feel as though I have run my course and written virtually everything that I have to write about the “21st Century Library” and 21st Century Librarians.

It is a topic that will never be fully explored, reviewed or discussed, because as much as we engage in the topic it will evolve, even while we converse, into whatever we envision it to be, which creates a new conversation about the new role of librarianship.

One of my earlier positions on change within the librarianship profession I wrote in February 2011 in Discontinuous Thinking;

Charles Handy based the title of his book THE Age OF UNREASON on George Bernard Shaw’s observation that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man. His argument was that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable [person] persists in trying to adapt the world to himself; therefore for any change of consequence we must look to the unreasonable man, or, I must add, to the unreasonable woman.” [Emphasis added.]

While in Shaw’s day, perhaps, most men were reasonable, we are now entering an Age of Unreason, when the future, in so many areas, is there to be shaped, by us and for us – a time when the only prediction that will hold true is that no predictions will hold true; a time, therefore, for bold imaginings in private life as well as public, for thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable.

My point being that librarians need to adapt the library to serve the new environment that society has created for its consumption of information. We need to better understand the real business that libraries are in, and librarians must discard the old stereotype of the library and librarianship and replace it with whatever works in the community that their library serves.

This should not be interpreted to mean that I endorse librarians shaping their community for the better, because our role is to serve. Simply serve the information needs of our community. Librarians do not establish what those needs are, they figure out what those needs are and satisfy them. The vacuum created by the uncertainty, evolution, or revolution, of the role of librarians within the community allows many misdirections in seeking that role, but the guiding principle is always service! If the new role does not fit the concept of service, then it isn’t the correct role.

Having stated all this, I will be stepping aside as the blogger of 21st Century Library Blog to allow a better mind than mine to direct the conversation about that new role of librarianship. Many times I have referred to my “good friend urban library director” in posts because I found many ideas and words of wisdom in her writing. She has agreed to take up the challenge of contributing to this conversation, partly because she has lots of ideas and things to write, and partly because she is my daughter, who was a librarian before I was.

Director Kimberly Matthews, Trenton (NJ) Free Public Library, has agreed to step in as the new blogger for 21st Century Library Blog. I have every confidence that you readers will find her writing more thought provoking, engaging with a very “practice” orientation, and even amusing.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to present this forum and hopefully contribute to this worthwhile conversation. Thank you all for your support.

“21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries”


Filed under Uncategorized