Just Do It! Leadership Training Builds Strong Networks: New Jersey Librarians Help Create Tomorrow's Leaders through Goal-Oriented Preparation

Article excerpt

We face a shortage of librarians--a truth universally acknowledged. Mary Jo Lynch, former director of ALA's Office for Research and Statistics, reported that 62% of those in the profession are over 45, and more than ever are retiring early (AL, Feb. 2000, p. 8-9). In the past 14

years we have dropped from around 9,000 librarians working past the age of 65 to about 4,000, according to James Matarazzo, professor emeritus of library and information science at Simmons College in Boston. The shortage includes library directors and administrators--a group more easily and traditionally grown internally than recruited from the outside. Where will our new leaders come from?

After 30 years in librarianship in New Jersey--a state not noted for shrinking violets--I have met very few librarians who have been intentional about their career development. Effective leadership training encourages eager librarians to be more career-focused and goal-oriented, and builds a strong network. Will a concerted program of library leadership training make a real difference? Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that those who have had the experience value it highly. "It changed my life" is not an uncommon reaction.

Princeton (N.J.) Public Library Director Leslie Berger spearheaded the planning of two leadership programs in the late 1980s for the New Jersey State Library. While many of those who participated some 20 years ago are leaders today, it's not possible to prove scientifically that they wouldn't have progressed professionally without the training. Nonetheless, many library organizations are offering some kind of leadership training. (For a list of links and contacts, visit www.cjrlc.org/leadership.htm.) Most of the statewide instruction tends to be multitype, but at least three American Library Association divisions--the American Association of School Librarians, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Library Administration and Management Association--as well as the Urban Libraries Council, based in Evanston, Illinois, have all developed programs for their members.

Picking the perfect model

The following outlines the advantages and disadvantages of three common training models. Geography, budget, and the availability of local trainers are a few of the factors that will affect the model of choice.

The one-week (3-5 day) residential program, often led by an outside facilitator, the most common model.

Advantages:

* Less local administrative time required.

* "Big name" speaker draw.

* Year-to-year continuity, if the same leader or locale is used.

* Easier to build intensity over time with group in isolation.

Disadvantages:

* Expenses of facilitator, lodging, and meals.

* Momentum more difficult to maintain.

The monthly-meeting model requires a small geographical area to allow easy travel for a daylong meeting. It also depends on local trainers.

Advantages:

* Lower cost for food, lodging, and local speakers.

* Multiple speakers with different styles and philosophies may be more appealing.

* Time for practice and reflection between sessions.

* Ease of monthly, rather than weekly, attendance.

* Weekend overnight stay enhances bonding and maintains impetus.

Disadvantages:

* More local planning and management time required.

* More coordination needed to maintain coherent focus.

A three-part program--two or three days each over several months--builds on the strengths of models one and two and may vary geographically.

Advantages:

* Time for practice and reflection between sessions.

* Extended time period may allow for greater impact.

* Varied locations may be easier for some participants.

Disadvantages:

* Greater travel and facilitator expense. …