President's Update - January 12, 2017

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MLA President Kathleen Zaenger
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Happy New Year!


Building library leaders and providing robust professional development are two of the values MLA espouses. In some of my recent readings, I gleaned some helpful advice relating to those values.

Those of us in charge of something whether it be a project, a department, a library or something else take on the role of the "expert" such as "Information Giver" or "Problem Solver". The down side is that we sometimes continue the role out of habit even when it is ineffective. We are drawn to the role because it makes us look smart and/or it is gratifying to our egos. But it can also be inauthentic if used inappropriately. Those who learn how to be the "dumbest person in the room" and just listen and let the ideas flow for collective learning become the best leaders.

This is my New Year's resolution- to practice being the "dumbest person in the room" and learn more deeply from my colleagues' ideas.  

As I embrace my year as MLA president I continue to seek out more leadership works and have been reading "Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization". This book illustrates how we as humans can be much more successful when we work in tribes or teams. While this is not new information, what is new to me are the behaviors these tribes exhibit in the five stages described. The most effective tribes have a noble cause and most members will act in a way to support that cause even if it does not always benefit them individually in the short term. Well-functioning tribes can make things happen that are impossible for groups of individuals to achieve. A synergy forms in these tribes that can make them far more powerful than the sum of their parts.  

MLA is like a tribe or like groups of tribes within the larger tribe with the overall noble cause or mission of "Helping libraries and library professionals succeed". In the last month our collective voices successfully joined to communicate to our state legislators the importance of passing legislation to free many libraries from the automatic tax captures of Tax Increment Financing Authorities (TIFA).

We're also working collaboratively with other library organizations in the state to create a program that will help libraries encourage civility in our communities. It will help us to highlight libraries as welcoming places and assist people as they engage with each other in a learning environment.  

Both of these examples support MLA's mission as a noble cause. They also support my personal idea of a library's noble cause which is to Build Community through the Power of Knowledge or inversely to Use the Power of Knowledge to Build Community. When our entire library profession works as one tribe expanding our collective purpose to build knowledge and community, we achieve amazing things. Let's keep our eyes open to these possibilities in 2017.

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