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... the editorial blog by Marydee Ojala, Editor of ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. ONLINE Insider intends to extend the reach of the print publication, presenting a more timely commentary on the products, people, and events that shape today's online world. It explores new technologies as they impact the working lives of information professionals, explains resources for specific topic areas, and expounds on information management tools and techniques.

Education, Training, & Professional Development

Marydee Ojala @ 3:48 pm

Why is it that librarians get an education, library paraprofessionals undergo training, and association members are offered professional development? I’ve often wondered about the differences in terminology, which are not always reflected in the content of the education/training/professional development. Looking back at the SLA Leadership Summit, I realize that the first day was dominated by the concept of networking and the second with professional development.

The SLA Online University is the education segment. With $60,000 in funding from Elsevier, partnerships with several universities including Drexel, Syracuse, and the University of Toronto, and individual partners (“adjunct faculty”), the Online University aims to be the ultimate in continuing education.

More in the line of training are the existing virtual seminars, which will increase to a twice-monthly schedule and articles in Information Outlook will parallel the theme of the seminars. Additionally, courses from Learn.com will complete the package.

Put the two together and, I suppose, you have professional development. Interesting math, 1 + 1 = 3.

Some members of the Professional Development Committee are displeased, not with the projects planned by SLA, but with a perceived lack of input to those plans from the committee. Much of the education/training/professional development plan was conceived and executed without involvement from the committee, I’ve been told. And although at least one member believes committees can dissolve themselves, they actually can’t do that. Only the Board can kill off a committee. I once chaired the International Relations Committee, but that, thanks to Board action, no longer exists and I confess to missing it.

OK, back to my initial question about terminology. I’d characterize the Leadership Summit as management training, something for which you receive no formal credit but learn a lot. For me, it reminds me of programs sponsored by my local SLA chapter when I first joined. Those were the sessions that made SLA important to me. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you call these events, what matters is whether attendees learn something new and can go back to their workplaces and implement what they’ve learned.

Leadership Confusion

Marydee Ojala @ 6:43 am

It’s been a good two days, but as SLA moves from a Winter Meeting designed to train unit leaders in how to work within the SLA structure (Remember DACOLT, anybody?) to a Leadership Summit with leadership training for all members, not merely those in elected positions within SLA chapters and divisions, I sensed some confusion.

Some sessions were specifically on SLA governance. Chapter and Division Cabinet meetings were about SLA business and SLA business only. Other presentations, particularly those from non-SLA members, seemed to me to swing from leadership roles within SLA to those we encounter in the workplace. Sometimes presentations became more expansive to include personal development and our personal lives.

Leadership Summit attracted 244 attendees, many more than last year and reflective of its change in mission. SLA hopes to have more attendees next year. But until it ends the confusion about how its courses, meetings, and sessions address leadership attributes, I think it has an image problem. Who exactly is this designed for and why should I come? Clarify the mission to have a winning product.

Leadership Adventure

Marydee Ojala @ 6:29 am

This year SLA’s Leadership Summit ended with a continuing education session titled The Leadership Adventure presented by Leadership Outfitters. If you didn’t pay the $125 to attend the entire Summit, SLA charged you $199 for this half-day course. Working out those economics is pretty easy.

Leadership Adventure was typical management training, very interactive, very much concentrated on helping you discover within yourself and with your colleagues management and leadership qualities and techniques to become a better leader. If you dispensed with skepticism about “oh another management training course” (which not everybody was able to do, based on the number of people in the hallway outside the door and something that I know I personally should work on), it was actually fun and helpful. It made a nice ending to the first day’s keynote about letting your inner leader out.

We were invited to envision the future (the SLA collage was interesting, made of torn-out words and images from magazine articles — watching librarians destroy magazine pages is always entertaining), to learn how to run effective meetings (I have some candidates in mind who should pay attention to this, not necessarily SLA types), to work as effective teams, and to become more creative.

We ended the Leadership Adventure by noting the nuggets we’d take away from Leadership Summit. My group liked the keynote and found Susan DiMattia’s comments particularly useful. The importance of stories, finding your own leadership style, and identifying with a cause were also mentioned. Finally, the challenge came down to defining what SLA’s core values are and what do the members agree on.

When asked by our instructors if SLA had a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, Ethel Salonen raised her hand to state unequivocally that, yes, SLA had a BHAG. It’s raising a million dollars for Professional Development. Her characterization is dead on.

Dues Debate

Marydee Ojala @ 1:55 pm

Much of the morning of SLA Leadership Summit was devoted to debating a dues increase. One proposal was to implement a tiered system based on salary. The lowest quartile ($0 to $35,000) would see a dues decrease, while the top three quartiles would see an increase. The second proposal was to index an increase to the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Much was said on the issue but the vote was to send the whole notion back to the Board with the assumption that the Board will ask the Finance Committee to take another look at it.

Google Goes Answers

Marydee Ojala @ 7:38 am

Google’s define: command now goes to answers.com for its definition link rather than to dictionary.reference.com. It expands the amount of data, but as Gary Stock of Googlewhack fame pointed out to me, “Googlewhackers all

over the world were left whackless for nearly eight hours! Scandalous! :-)”

Thanks, Gary!

Leadership Skills

Marydee Ojala @ 7:17 am

On the afternoon of SLA’s Leadership Summit’s first day, there were various seminars designed to impart leadership skills to attendees. First were three concurrent sessions, one for beginning leaders, led by Bill Fisher, one for mid-career leaders, led by Sharyn Ladner, and one for experienced leaders, led by Richard Hulser. Attendees self-selected their level of experience. I peeked into all three rooms, which were about equally full, with perhaps the mid-career one slightly larger. I had wondered about how the self-selection would work, and at first blush, it seemed to have worked well. In conversations later, however, I learned that several librarians thought they’d chosen the wrong one.

From listening in (though only sampling, I must confess) and talking with attendees, I think there’s a basic confusion about whether SLA wants to train unit leaders in how SLA works or association members in how to assume leadership positions in their organizations. SLA probably wants to do both but right now the message is unclear.

The next session, Leadership Skills Specific to SLA, on the other hand, was very clear. Susan DiMattia talked eloquently about what being an SLA leader was all about. The word that’s been prevalent all day is Networking. This is the major benefit to SLA. Susan urged us to use networking as a rationale for going to SLA meetings but cautioned against implying to management that networking was fun. She suggested we keep examples of how networking was key to solving problems at work and advancing the cause of employers.

Following was Terri Brooks who invited four chapter and division leaders to talk about how their units were mentoring new leaders. Linda Broussard then talked about how to communicate with headquarters. Duh. Send email and pick up the phone.

I went directly from that meeting to the open Board meeting, which started late. They considered a proposal to rename committees and decided not to at this point in time.

Member Forum

Marydee Ojala @ 1:59 pm

The remainder of this morning was the Member Forum, where members can share what’s on their mind in relation to the association and its governance structure. Ethel brought a good deal of Hein’s philosophy to bear as she both framed the discussion and responded to member concerns.

I think the two main concerns revolved around membership and communication. How does

SLA help those who’ve lost jobs and how will the association recruit new members? What’s going on with a proposed new dues structure based on income? How well does headquarters communicate with members? (Not particularly well seemed to be the general belief.) How are changes in the committee structure communicated? (Again, not well.)

As I keep hearing, and have heard over the past few years, about new task forces being formed, I wonder if task forces are taking on the role that committees are supposed to have. Is the committee structure being weakened? Should SLA still have committees?

I also wonder if reports from older task forces are ever read, let alone acted upon, or if they simply molder in the archives waiting to be joined by a newer task force report.

Speaking of committees, I hear that the Professional Development Committee has declared itself defunct.

Heil the Keynote

Marydee Ojala @ 1:42 pm

After the obligatory introductions of SLA Board members, Board candidates, and staff, the SLA Leadership Summit got off to an energetic start with a keynote address by Gary Heil of the The Center for Innovative Leadership. He titled the talk

“For the love of the game: the art of leading an inspired team” and discussed how to get your inner leader out. One theme was that those who influence the flow of information can significantly affect the future. He quoted Scandinavian Airlines’CEO

Jan Carlzon, “People without information cannot take responsibility. People with information cannot help but take responsibility.” Hein recommended changing the information that people look at.

He then advised we consider Carl Frost’s questions:

Do you know we would like to be different?

Are there compelling reasons to change?

Are we passionate and optimistic about the cause?

Are there significant, attainable opportunities for improvement?

Is there enough in it for me that am willing to commit to the effort?

All leaders, Hein said, have inspired followers. The question is what are they inspired to do?

Good leaders should have only one priority, one cause, and everyone who works for that leader should believe (and say) that they are that cause, they are the organization, not that they merely work for that organization.

Hein moved on to optimism, saying that it’s a choice. Positive thoughts change brain chemistry and thinking is merely re-arranging your prejudices. You must change the way you think to change the way you lead.

Word travels incredibly quickly these days. You are who you are, not who you say you are.

Particularly for service companies and service departments, Hein claimed we need to determine what value we are willing to deliver that will render the experience remarkable. We should create an environment that encourages motivated employees.

There’s an incongruity between cause and structure. Structure drives behavior. If the structure doesn’t align with our cause, we need a different structure.

I didn’t find any of his insights to be completely novel, but he stated them nicely and had lots of very funny stories to tell that effectively illustrated his points. His delivery style was reminiscent of Tom Peters and I do wish he’d get his grammar correct on his slides and review them for typos.

I know, I’m a picky editor. I apologize. I still enjoyed the talk.

SLA Leadership Summit

Marydee Ojala @ 1:38 pm

I realized this morning that SLA has made an official name change for this event. It’s not really Winter meeting after all. It’s now called Leadership Summit and the intent is to broaden it out to include SLA members who are not elected to an office within their chapters or divisions. In commenting on the internationalization of the association, president Ethel Salonen noted that, particularly with the formation of the Asian and Australia/New Zealand Chapters, it’s not appropriate to call something the Winter meeting when it’s happening during their summer. She also told us that the Fall meeting is now the October meeting.

Good Morning, Tampa

Marydee Ojala @ 8:16 am

Flew into Tampa yesterday, but got here too late to register for the winter meeting. Last evening was purely social with a Meet and Mingle in the hotel bar. All the Board members and Board candidates are here, plus the heads of chapters and divisions. Even when people who work for vendors attend winter meeting, they’re here as librarians and SLA members rather than exhibitors. Makes for a different dynamic than other meetings. I’m off now for the opening session.

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