News - MLA
Wednesday, December 20, 2023 12:00 AM

Note From Debbie

December 21, 2023

“Think Big”

MLA is a little organization. Not in terms of our mission, but in terms of our size. With only five staff members and a budget normally under $1M, we are considered small in the nonprofit and association world. And while we may be small, we are MIGHTY, and, we THINK BIG!

Where do we get inspiration to be mighty? Rather than viewing resource constraints (like our budget and staff size) as limitations, small organizations like MLA find our strength in articulating our entrepreneurial spirit. MLA thrives on innovation, on instituting creative ideas, on listening to the needs of our members, on knowing our own limited capacity and taking calculated risks. Big thinking often involves stepping out of our comfort zone.  

MLA actually draws inspiration from all sorts of organizations, especially larger organizations to achieve our goals. For us, the key to “thinking big” lies not in mimicking larger organizations but in molding and shaping many of their successful programs into our unique, small organization. We look for cost-effective ways to implement those big ideas without compromising the end result. We are resourceful, finding ways to do more with less and we innovate out of necessity – you can too. Those big organizations, or big libraries, that share big ideas at conferences are always worthwhile to listen to. And while it may not all resonate, if we listen closely, there are always, always, always bits and pieces that can be creatively implemented by smaller organizations. And many times, we will do it better.

I say constantly that the MLA staff can think of a project at five in the morning and by the time we are done drinking our coffee, we are already implementing it. We turn on a dime and embrace our flexibility, making quick adjustments to institute informed decisions. I like to say that MLA sets “Big Hairy Audacious” goals – we don’t limit ourselves to small, easily attainable objectives, we set goals that challenge us and push our limits. 

Like many of you who run small libraries, as a small organization MLA needs to stand out in a crowded nonprofit field and we have embraced larger organizations' branding and marketing strategies. We have invested in building a well-defined brand, utilized social media effectively, built a robust and easily navigable website, and along the way created compelling content. We have a great story to tell about our libraries, and we know that a compelling narrative can inspire support and collaboration. We need to get through the highly competitive media “white noise” that is created by all those larger institutions and find our unique place to shine and be relevant. 

Small organizations like MLA excel in building close relationships with our members, or in your case, your library patrons. We treat them like family, we know them personally, we have a deep understanding of their needs, we solicit feedback from them and involve them in developing new programs and services. In addition, the entire MLA staff wears multiple hats and knows the inner workings of this organization, they are engaged in decision-making processes and encouraged to offer their input on big ideas  – there is very little that isn’t shared at our weekly staff meetings. 

While sometimes it is good to be in the same room with the same size organizations, MLA finds “gold” in connecting with larger organizations who have achieved significant success not just in the library world but in others as well. We take time to learn from their experiences and build networks that support and encourage big thinking. We are a “curious” staff, and each and every one of us is committed to lifelong learning. In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, staying status quo isn’t an option. 

Being small isn’t in our vocabulary and it shouldn’t be in yours either – be bold, be confident, be creative, be persistent, and don’t be afraid to dream beyond the conventional boundaries. THINK BIG!

Deborah Mikula signature



Deborah E. Mikula
Executive Director


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