Leadership

MLIS Portfolio

Deborah Bancroft

In the winter of 2006, I undertook an independent study project for the Espy Foundation in Oysterville, Washington. What was needed was a plan to organize the Library's collection in preparation for a move to a larger building not yet designed or funded. The original mission of the Espy Library was to house and preserve the collection of writer and Oysterville native, Willard R. Espy. The Espy Foundation grants writers' and artists' residencies four times a year and the Library primarily has served these residents. The collection has grown from an original endowment in 1999 of 700 volumes to several thousand. President of the Board of Trustees, Polly Friedlander, requested my leadership in cataloging the expanded collection. My report to the Board included Analyses and Recommendations. Although the new library remains in the planning stages, my LIS 600 Independent Study project laid a solid foundation for future development.

Having lived a counterculture lifestyle for a number of years, I didn't have many traditional leadership models to observe until I began a career with the U. S. Post Office and became an active member of my union, the National Association of Letter Carriers. I encountered ethical models of leadership and also commanders, some of whom ruled by superior numbers of backers, and others who ruled by fear and intimidation. The ethical leaders were not always effective ones and I never quite understood why not.

In LIS 580 Management for Information Organizations, I began to figure it out. Through simulated real life exercises and discussion of numerous case studies, I came to believe that having a shared vision was primarily what made the difference. As I progressed through my coursework, I developed a fuller interpretation when I understood that the connection between leader and follower, between performer and audience, between librarian and patron, has to be illuminated and open for the vision, or message, to be transmitted. Enthusiasm or passion for a project or a story or anything is not enough unless the receiver is open and ready to receive. The passionate and ethical leaders I remember--those that didn't seem to ever gather enough followers to be self sustaining--failed because they didn't engage their audience sufficiently.

The informational flashbulb here for me was the A.R.C.S. model of motivational instruction that I studied for the first time in LIS 560 Instructional and Training Strategies for Information Professionals. The acronym stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. I got it why what might seem to me like righteous information, or the best story I've heard in a long time, sometimes doesn't catch on with the other person I'm talking to. My message hasn't grabbed this person's Attention or been made to seem Relevant. So it is not enough to be passionate, or to have truthful information. You must be able to communicate it effectively with the audience or the message and the mission will fail.

For the past six months I served as President of my workplace staff group, running monthly meetings and trying to keep people involved in shared responsibilities and group social activities. I was proactive in representing staff concerns about the job reclassification project which was in process at the beginning of my term. For example, I initiated a dialog with the Human Relations department concerning the compensable factors being used by the consultants. After the changes were implemented, participation in the meetings dropped considerably and the variety of agenda items shrank to not much more than the Director's report of the previous night's meeting with the Board. Ennui and alienation rose. After a brainstorm session with other staff, I took the initiative of talking with the Director about deemphasizing her role in the meetings, and, as it turned out, she was happy to have a little less to do. I designed some different components to the agenda that should foster community. For our last meeting I even asked one of the graphics designers to walk through the building playing her fiddle to draw people to the meeting, rather than issue the customary loud speaker call.

Because of my counseling training I had initially considered a talking it through kind of approach to get our workplace environment back in shape. However, after looking over the comments I got on my first paper in LIS 580, I took to heart Instructor Nancy Gershenfeld's advice for presenting a five year plan: "...you want the reader to live totally in the vision and not even think about what has come before or what effort it took to get there." I've always been one to pay attention to how the past influences the present, but now I understand that a visionary leader needs to focus attention almost exclusively on the future. I'm hoping that having a whole new look and sound and feel to our meetings will allow people to reclaim a sense of shared purpose and community.

My independent study project gave me a chance to take the role of leader and gave me some practical insight into working with a board. In my term as staff president I also experienced how one individual with a modicum of standing, and a headful of vision, can spark change and bring others along. One thing I've learned through my studies at the iSchool is that active listening, while very important for understanding user needs, is only one of the tools needed for good librarianship. Being able to formulate and transmit to others a unique vision for the future has become my leadership goal in the information profession.