Better Library Leaders Season 2, Episode 1: The Map
Welcome to Season 2, Episode 1 of Better Library Leaders, In which I introduce the new show format and provide a map to the season to come.
Hey everyone! Welcome to Season 2 of Better Library Leaders! One of the things I love about podcasting is that you’re the boss. You can make episodes as long or as short as you want, and put them out on whatever schedule you want. When I put out my last episode, I told you I needed to take a while away from this project to figure out what I wanted it to be, and how I could make it sustainable in the long run. I’d gotten sucked into the race for downloads and page views and subscription stats and monetization and totally lost sight of what I wanted to do—share what I’ve learned about leadership in general and library leadership specifically.
I needed to step back and take stock of what had worked during the first season of better library leaders and what hadn’t—in several senses. I needed to figure out what my unique message and voice truly is in the ever-growing library podcast space. I needed to see how some external challenges to my original long term vision for this project were going to shake out before I could decide whether it made personal sense to put more energy into it, and if so, how much energy I could put into it without burning out. I was careful in my estimate—I told you I’d be gone for as long as a month! Well, fast forward 6 months, much of that time spent pretty sure that Better Library Leaders had run its course. But believe it or not, I’m back.
It took a lot longer to get answers to my questions than I expected, but the good news is that the signal lights are glowing green. I understand more about my voice as a podcaster and leadership teacher. A lot of unanswered questions in my professional and personal life settled out. I had a blast teaching my first course on Collaborative Leadership at Library Juice Academy—so much so, in fact, that I’m teaching it again in September. But most importantly, over the last few weeks I’ve actually felt the itch again. I’ve started planning episodes. And I even think I’ve come up with a strategy to provide value to you on a regular basis without working myself to death.
One of the first things I realized as I took stock is that this podcast needs to be more sustainable for me to produce. I’m not going to bore you with the fine points of podcast editing, but suffice it to say every episode of the first season of Better Library Leaders took between 4 and 8 hours to produce. Between Better Library leaders and the other podcast I contribute to I’ve gotten faster at editing, but there’s just a minimum amount of time that it takes to produce a show at the level of quality that I’m willing to publish. That doesn’t even factor in finding interesting news stories, writing spotlight segments, and recruiting guests. Looking pack with perspective, I was trying to work the equivalent of a second full-time job, and even with folks like my friend Cindy helping me with some of the administrative stuff behind the scenes, it was no wonder that I collapsed. So I asked myself, what could I do on a regular basis, with a reasonable amount of production time, and release on a predictable schedule?
I can do this. I can talk to you for 10-20 minutes about the library and leadership topics I care about, in a world that may suddenly seem hostile to our core values as information professionals, no matter what our political affiliations. In fact, that’s where we’re going to start, with a topic I was fiddling with before the burnout hit. We’re going to go through the eight tenets of ALA code of ethics. We’re going to go through Ranganathan’s laws of librarianship, one per week. And then, if anyone’s still listening, we’ll keep going. We’re gonna talk about fake news. We’re going to talk the history of our profession, and how library leaders have both fought for inclusion, and succumbed to the temptation to dodge hard debates using the excuse of “neutrality”. I want to cover intellectual property and open access. We’re definitely going to talk about models of leadership that will help your library succeed in times of uncertainty and scarcity without burning anyone out. We’re going to talk about vendors and technology, public services and technical services. We’re going to consider the ACRL information literacy framework and the tenets of critical librarianship and the struggles of promoting critical thinking skills in a world focused on quantifying everything we do for its monetary value. We’re going to talk about how the wider worlds in which our libraries operate, be they city governments, k-12 schools, institutions of higher education, law firms, businesses, museums, or whatever else. Every so often we’ll have a guest who knows more about an issue than I do, or I’ll devote an episode to discussing some hot news topic in the library world or some pop culture discovery that’s surprisingly relevant to our purpose. But there are better library interview podcasts out there. there are better library news podcasts out there. And allegedly I have a gift for synthesizing complex topics of leadership and librarianship and making them accessible. So that’s what I’m gonna do. Along the way we’ll be discussing these issues in the better library leaders facebook community, and I’ll be sharing your thoughts and questions and concerns here on the podcast. We are going to start at first principles, and work together to build a stronger and better library world. And then who knows? I may change the format again in another dozen episodes, though hopefully I won’t need another 6 month hiatus to do it. That’s the great thing about podcasting, after all.
The paradox of leadership is that while it is by definition something that transforms your team and what it does (hopefully for the better), leadership originates inside every person. it leads each of us toward the changes we wish to see in ourselves and in the wider world. Whether you’re a newbie to the profession or a hardened library director who’s seen it all, that power is inside of you. Nobody can give it to you, and nobody can take it away. That said, you won’t always win. There will be mistakes and setbacks and crises and battles you never could have predicted. Your goals and strategies will change. Your perspective will expand. Your skills will get sharper. You will become a better library leader. And you will use that power to further the promise and purpose of libraries in a world where all the rules can change in an instant. Because when librarians lead with purpose, we will NEVER become obsolete.