After a short break…Siobhán McGuinness gave her presentation entitled “Learning and developing leadership: opportunities, influence and motivation.” Siobhán gave real world examples of how she has forged a professional profile winning national library awards in career development. She stressed the importance of being “bold and brave” at the level of new, and mid-level management positions, within libraries. She then gave evidence of her recent achievements winning a prestigious award in career development, the Career Advancement Award from the SLA (Special libraries association) Leader and Management Division. Despite a temporary setback in her career, she has continued to liaise with her professional network; by having a library mentor, being involved on committees and teams, attending conferences, having a lively website, as well as blogging and tweeting about events. It is abundantly clear that Siobhán fully understands how to actively promote yourself as an important voice in the library profession. She gave sound advice:
“No matter what your rank – we are all leaders”
and recommended that all junior library staff should break the mould of what a librarian is, or should be: turn your obstacles into opportunities, exert influence, set challenges and deadlines. That Siobhan had achieved all these things, and more, made her advice prescient, she clearly knew what she was talking about.
Hugh Murphy, Senior librarian at NUI Maynooth then followed with his talk entitled “Leaders, managers and power mongers.” Hugh delivered his talk with great humour as well as providing some food for thought regarding theories of leadership in libraries. He began by showing that culturally and professionally we have a problem with the term ‘power’ in Ireland. Historically a “Great Power” suggests colonialisation, invasion, occupation, and culturally it suggests exerting pressure on the weak by the ‘powerful’. Power is therefore ‘bad’ in cultural terms, and as a profession, librarians are prone to shy away from power.
Hugh stated that very few people are born leaders, and that he himself was wary of becoming one, but after attending a “Future Leaders” course he learnt about it in detail. He now leads a team of over 25 members of staff. He then gave examples of some negative aspects associated with leadership: ‘Role blur’ (information overload); ‘Energy theft’ (when a negative comment can deflate a meeting); and Gender politics and power. He then went on to describe one of the key skills of being a leader, the ability to be ‘self-reflective’ as well as to demonstrate ‘capacity and view’ and show empathy. He characterised librarianship as not being a ruthless work environment, in comparison to being a lawyer. He however countered this by asking if consensual management is any good if something goes wrong, and that therefore, leadership is a vital component of effective management.
The ever engagingMarie O’Neill, Director of DBS Library, ended the day’s talks with a lively session which really made us all question our roles as leaders, and if we were doing enough to show leadership in libraries. In her talk “Developing a leadership style and brand,”Marie discussed some of the problems of library training; and that there is no recognised framework for the education of library leaders in Ireland. She asked those present the provocative question:
“Do we fully embrace leadership?”
Marie then went on to point out how our profession is detrimentally associated with the anachronistic image of introverted, shy & retiring type; a ‘cat-loving-cardigan-wearing’ librarian stereotype! She questioned if we are doing enough to break this association. She then gave an impassioned call for greater self-motivation, as librarians too often are satisfied with “generic management approaches,” and are anonymous in terms of political lobbying. She added that the library profession is doing too little too late, with closures and mergers in Ireland and the UK, and that although CILIP has issued an “Impact Toolkit” to help us counter these threats, the “horse may already have bolted.” She concluded by admonishing librarians for not putting our heads above the parapet, as we are not taught to be adversarial – and recommended that we begin developing leadership in Irish libraries by having a debating competition and debating cup!