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Written by Gail Madziar, MLA Executive Director   

Executive Director's Desk - February 14, 2019

Gail Madziar headshot

“Change is inevitable. Your growth is optional.” John C Maxwell, leadership author.

When it comes to conferences I am a firm believer that sometimes you learn as much during a conversation in the hallway as you do sitting in a session or listening to a speaker.

I had the privilege of many hallway conversations, meetings and sessions at the ALA Midwinter conference in Seattle last month. I listened to passionate ALA presidential candidates talk about their vision of the future. Our own Michigan librarian Lance Werner was eloquent, passionate and visionary in his thoughts on ALA and librarianship.

However, this year’s conference was different for me as I walked the exhibit floor and talked with attendees and exhibitors. It was my last conference as MLA’s executive director and perhaps my last professional conference as I transition to a new stage in my life. 

That’s when the saying “Change is inevitable. Your growth is optional.” spoke to me -- from a billboard -- as I was traveling on the shuttle to the airport to catch my flight back home. Not only does it confirm that you sometimes learn things in unexpected places, but it illustrates that you must first be open to learning from the unexpected. Everything changes and often the choice for that change is made by someone other than ourselves. But it’s how we respond to the change that really matters. Your growth really is optional. You can grow, stagnate or retreat. I took that quote personally as I seriously thought about my upcoming “growth during retirement” but I also looked at it from the perspective of five days of intentional growth by thousands of dedicated library professionals. Libraries are changing, the communities we serve are changing and the definition of librarianship is changing right along with it. It has been fascinating and enlightening to watch the evolution of the library world.  

I have enjoyed working with and for librarians these past six years more than any other profession in my association career. While I learned to appreciate the passion each person has for their chosen profession, I can proudly say that I have partnered with some exceptional library leaders to accomplish some amazing changes.

Legislatively we ensured personal property tax reimbursement for libraries, safeguarded free speech with the SB 571 “library gag order” debacle, secured annual increases in state aid to libraries, defeated multiple attempts to siphon penal fines and finally successfully eliminated tax capture for our libraries.

MLA professional development has grown to include a successful mentor program, a revamped leadership academy, overhauled interest groups, and a new directors academy. These changes have helped to ensure the librarians heading into leadership are both challenged and informed. MLA has also collaborated with other library organizations to offer additional opportunities.

New partnerships include NIS which made health insurance more affordable for libraries. The MLA office has experienced a new location, new database, new communication vehicles, two new websites, administrative and accounting enhancements and of course new staff. I have had the privilege of teaching and mentoring some exceptional employees who spread their wings to new adventures but also took with them a passion for the importance of our libraries.

With the dedicated MLA board leadership under the direction of President Kristin Shelley, President-elect Michelle Boisvenue-Fox, the legislative committee with Chair Ryan Wieber and an amazing and hardworking staff, MLA will surely see continued growth and success throughout this latest transition and into the future.

Please join us on March 8 at the East Lansing Public Library for a farewell reception. I would love a chance to say goodbye and thank you in person.

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