ALA President Leslie Burger visits the University at Buffalo November 11, 2006Posted by jennimi in library.
I had the pleasure of attending an address by ALA President Leslie Burger yesterday at the University at Buffalo. The event was sponsored by the ALA student chapter and had been rescheduled due to the October Storm. Ms. Burger was soft-spoken, but direct, intelligent, and a passionate advocate for libraries and equally importantly, PATRONS. I took three pages of notes but will just give a few highlights here. I especially liked her story about keeping her library open late while election results came in as an example of how libraries build community. Sure we can all watch from home, but for certain things we want to be in the company of others. Even at ASIS&T during one of the large get togethers our new friend set up his laptop for us as “impromptu election info kiosk”. Ah librarians… but I digress.
Ms. Burger’s presidential initiative has been “Be a Transformative Librarian”. As a blogger, tagger, tech enthusiast and all around smiling social type, much of what she said was a no brainer for me. However, I was thrilled to hear an ALA President talk about how exciting emerging trends in technology and information science are, rather than knock them (see: “Revenge of the Blog People” by Michael Gorman, Library Journal, Feb. 15, 2005.). It was also nice to juxtapose these ideas with the good ole fashioned ones, like “playing well together” and being a “library cheerleader”. In my view the social connectivity of these technologies can and does bring up important issues to be explored, but, for example, responding to comments someone makes on your blog (because they took the time to visit you, read you, and post) is one modern day version of smiling at someone at the reference desk, or responding to a suggestion they placed in a comment box. This stuff is here to stay, and whether people are connecting socially via chat rooms, IM, blogs, flickr accounts, specific sites such as Facebook, Burger is right to ask what role libraries can have in embracing these technologies to welcome our “tech savvy” patrons.
I was equally thrilled to hear Burger advocate for administrators to support enthusiasm and passion, and forward-thinking young next-gen librarians. At least I think I heard that. I can think of a couple directors I wish I had seen there. (Not speaking about my current one here… :) If there’s one thing I have learned working in Technical Services it’s don’t assume ANYTHING about people who work in technical services.) Below, my summary of Leslie Burger’s 10 Tips for Librarians. I had read these around the liblogosphere for awhile, but it was inspiring to hear her go through them all in person. Bravo!
10 Tips for Librarians:
- Be passionate! Be a cheerleader for libraries!
- Think “all community all the time”
- Walk on the wild side (take risks) – challenge the status quo, ask why? give someone in your organization the title of Chief Innovator (how do we apply?? Mark, you in?)
- “400,000 smiling faces”. Hire for attitude as well as skills
- Develop leadership at every level – it’s everybody’s job (not just Provost, Dean, Chair, but everybody!)
- Become an activist
- Embrace change – change is the one thing in life that’s constant
- Invest in the basics (2nd most important according to Ms. Burger) – need GREAT websites, catalogs that make sense – that look like how people want them to look! Need buildings that work!!!!! Patrons can go to Barnes and Noble and have coffee, why not the library? Need great collections, need funding that matters! can’t allow ourselves to be victimized by our vendors anymore
- Play well together – collaborate – involve all key stake holders – this takes a lot of work
- “Keep everlastingly at it” (John Cotton Dana)
During the question session I asked what Ms. Burger planned on discussing in her following meeting with Provost Tripathi and Interim Dean Lucinda Finley. Would she be presenting her presidential initiative? She stated that her talking points would be more specific. 1. She would advocate for the library school at University at Buffalo to have a prominent place in the University. 2. She would clarify the ALA accreditation process as an opportunity for the program to strive for excellence, and not a punitive measure.
Kudos to the students who worked so hard to make this happen. One comment I heard from some folks afterward is that a few people left because they couldn’t hear Ms. Burger. Wonder if this room is equipped with a mic or if someone could have gone out to find one? Luckily, our colleague Jim Milles, of Check this Out, recorded the talk for his podcast series. Hopefully it came out well, and I will certainly post an update with the link when it goes online.
update, November 13, 2006: Turns out Jim’s recording for the podcast didn’t work out. Ah well, thanks for trying Jim. I’m glad I attended and blogged it, oh and photographed it. Hopefully, folks will share their impressions and notes with those who couldn’t be there.