The Library Leadership Manifesto

When I attended Aurora in 2005 my manager expected me to be so changed by the experience that I would actively seek new adventures within two years. He was right. By February 2007 I had left libraries altogether.

For library leaders to successfully provide guidance and direction, others must be inspired to follow. It takes courage to be a leader, but it also takes courage to be a follower. Endless attention is paid to leadership development, but we don’t train library staff how to be “strong followers who are not only capable of brilliantly supporting their leaders, but can also effectively stand up to them when their actions or policies are detrimental and need rethinking.”[1]

The list below is my public declaration of library leadership qualities that will inspire me to be a loyal follower.

I will follow someone who:

  1. has a vision of how libraries can take the world to a better place
  2. aims to be the best and attempts to make it happen
  3. shows me the way (leads by example)
  4. helps me overcome obstacles
  5. strives for a cure rather than a band-aid
  6. stretches my thinking
  7. listens to others
  8. communicates in a way that I can understand
  9. asks for my opinion
  10. doesn’t know all the answers and invites conversation
  11. is prepared to change everything except their basic beliefs
  12. knows what is right, and does the right thing
  13. tries a lot of stuff and keeps only what works
  14. takes a leap of faith
  15. lead with questions not answers
  16. engages in dialogue and debate, not coercion
  17. appreciates and acknowledges achievement
  18. is prepared to live outside their comfort zone
  19. doesn’t rely on a crisis not happening but relies on being ready
  20. motivates others to excel
  21. changes before they have to
  22. is visible
  23. tests their ideas outside their immediate circle of influence
  24. shares their ideas, stories, and successes with the world

All too often libraries are judged and ranked by the number of transactions that occur and not the experiences that make up these transactions. In my view, this is the heart of successful library leadership that is missing.

A version of this article appeared in eLibraryLife, 6 April 2011.

[1], accessed 26 February 2011.