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Advice in conversation with academic library leaders

CHICAGO — The path towards leadership starts with you. But you don’t have to go it alone. For “A Starter’s Guide for Academic Library Leaders: Advice in Conversation,” published by ALA Editions, authors Amanda Clay Powers, Martin Garnar, and Dustin Fife sat down with many of the library leaders they most admire for a series of conversations about the aspects of the job that they find the most fascinating (and challenging). Much like the chats you might have over coffee at a conference or with a mentor, these frank discussions will nourish you with nuts-and-bolts wisdom on a diverse range of academic library management issues. Among the topics and situations broached are:

  • balancing personal values against the common refrain “you don’t get to be who you want to be in positions like ours”;
  • five questions to ask that reveal much about organizational culture and climate;
  • creating a culture of change, including why a newly promoted director chose to make the most drastic changes in the first 100 days;
  • forming a “dean team” to help frame responses with consideration to institutional culture;
  • the value of demystifying the budget for the entire library staff;
  • using tools such as a personal “learning journal” to fuel professional development;
  • cultivating a personal network by setting up meetings at local libraries during conferences;
  • the risks that result from jumping into a situation too fast and boxing yourself into a corner;
  • lessons learned from failed initiatives;
  • examples of navigating controversies, such as a director’s response to a WPA mural with a racist message; and
  • managing facilities, with an example of how injecting a previously ignored library voice into a building project led to a tripling of the space.

Powers is Professor and Dean of Library Services at Mississippi University for Women (MUW). Prior to joining MUW, she spent eleven years at Mississippi State University as a reference librarian and then as head of Research Services. Her current research focuses on academic library leadership and applications of social media in academia. Garnar is Dean of the Kraemer Family Library at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Co-editor of the ninth edition of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) “Intellectual Freedom Manual,” his other research interests include professional ethics and equity, diversity, and inclusion in libraries. Fife is Director of Library Services at Western Colorado University. He has served as President of the Learning Round Table of the American Library Association and President of the Utah Library Association. In 2016, he was recognized as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. He is currently working on an EdD at the University of Colorado Denver that focuses on access and equity in education.

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