Leadership in a Digital Age: Libraries Are Laboratories for Deep Learning

By Sullivan, Maureen | American Libraries, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Leadership in a Digital Age: Libraries Are Laboratories for Deep Learning


Sullivan, Maureen, American Libraries


The increasingly digital context brings challenges and opportunities for librarians, library start, archivists, and museum professionals. New roles and the competencies required to perform them are evolving. One overriding role for all of us is that of the leader. The complexity of the changes we experience leads to many unfamiliar situations in which deep learning is necessary to successfully work through the problems and challenges. Scholar Warren Bennis calls these "crucible" experiences.

Libraries today are rich with such experiences. They are laboratories for deep learning. To keep pace with the changing needs and interests of our communities they also need to be workplaces that expect, cultivate, and support innovation. Today's libraries require each of us to be a leader, whether by position held or by opportunity taken.

In late Marcia, I served as a faculty member for the first Harvard Graduate School of Education Library Leadership in a Digital Age institute. I initiated the institute to address challenges we face as leaders in this new expanding context, and I led a session in which a group of about 100 participants had a lively discussion to identify future competencies. The framework for this discussion consisted of four general competency domains: conceptual or problem solving; specialist competencies; interpersonal skills; and self-management.

The conceptual domain includes such abilities as creativity and critical thinking, while the specialist area includes deep knowledge of a discipline and literacy. The interpersonal skills category includes communication, influence, and collaboration--all key for effective leadership.

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Competencies in self-management, a relatively new competency framework, include risk-taking and a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.

To develop your future competencies, start by examining your current and emerging areas of responsibility. Take time to explore what is changing in your work and in your area of practice. …

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Leadership in a Digital Age: Libraries Are Laboratories for Deep Learning
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