1. Inspire Me With Your Vision For Libraries

In a previous post I listed 24 library leadership qualities that will inspire me to be a loyal follower.

1.  I will follow someone who has a vision of how libraries can take the world to a better place.

A vision provides an inspirational statement that captures the essence of an ideal future. And for me, it is a powerful motivator that provides a sense of direction, creates clarity and focus in everything I do.

A vision:

  • empowers people and focuses their efforts
  • focuses energy for greater effectiveness
  • raises the standard of excellence
  • establishes meaning for today
  • gives hope for the future
  • brings unity to community
  • provides a sense of continuity
  • raises commitment level and
  • brings positive change *

John Kotter in Leading Change (HBSP, Boston, MA: 1996) suggests a vision must be:

  • Imaginable: It conveys a picture of what the future will look like. It is like painting a picture with your words. It is an image that people can carry around in their heads.
  • Desirable: It appeals to the long-term interests of staff, customers, stakeholders, and others who have a stake in the organisation. It is a vibrant, engaging, and specific description of what it will be like to achieve the vision. Passion, emotion and conviction are essential parts of the vivid description.
  • Feasible: It comprises realistic, attainable goals. It has a clear finish line.
  • Focused: It is clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.
  • Flexible: It is general enough to allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.
  • Communicable: People get it right away; it takes little or no explanation.
  • Visionary: It should not be a sure bet – it will have only a 50% to 70% probability of success – but the organisation must believe that it can reach the goal anyway.

Two organisations that have leadership roles within New Zealand libraries are The National Library of New Zealand and Public Libraries of New Zealand. So if we evaluate the vision statements of these two organisations against the characteristics suggested by Kotter, how do they stack up? (NB: I couldn’t find a vision statement for CONZUL.)

The National Library’s vision is: New Zealanders connected with information important to all aspects of their lives.

  • Imaginable: To me, this vision conjures up an image of being tethered to information rather than the benefit of being connected. Score: 3/5.
  • Desirable: The vision is appealing, but not engaging or vibrant. Score: 2/5.
  • Feasible: The vision is certainly feasible, but I’m not sure I’d know when it had been achieved. Score: 2/5.
  • Focused: Yes. Score: 5/5.
  • Flexible: Yes. Score: 5/5.
  • Communicable: A matter of debate, depending on who you’re communicating with. Score: 4/5.
  • Visionary: No. I’d argue the vision has already been achieved through access to digital resources, social networking and ecommerce. Score: 2/5.

Overall: I find the National Library’s vision uninspiring and ordinary. Total Score: 23/35.

The vision of Public Libraries of New Zealand is to lead the development of consistently excellent public library services throughout Aotearoa New Zealand by speaking with authority on behalf of public libraries.

  • Imaginable: The image that comes to mind is of someone with a megaphone! Score: 1/5.
  • Desirable: Unfortunately, not to me. It’s not specific enough for me to grasp. Score: 0/5.
  • Feasible: In my view, “consistently excellent public library services” is unobtainable – a moving goalpost. Score: 1/5.
  • Focused: Yes, by “speaking with authority on behalf of public libraries”. Score: 5/5.
  • Flexible: Yes. Score: 5/5.
  • Communicable: No, “consistently excellent public library services” requires explanation. Score: 1/5.
  • Visionary: Definitely.  Score: 5/5.

Overall: I find the Public Libraries of New Zealand vision confusing. Total Score: 18/35.

Despite both these organisations being strong advocates for New Zealand libraries, it appears that these vision statements have been written to appeal to internal stakeholders, especially funding providers, rather than to provide leadership to libraries and library staff. Do you agree?

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