28 August 2014

APLL Ice Breaker Post

So it's time to dust off the ol' blog!

I have enrolled in the Advanced Public Library Leadership Institute through the Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS). The program is for public library professionals who are in management positions or who aspire to management positions. I'm looking forward to the next two years of learning from our instructor, Anne Marie, and the women in library leadership positions all over Ontario who are enrolled as well.

1.      In one or two sentences describe your primary job responsibilities.

As the Branch Services Librarian at Haliburton County Public Library I am responsible for supporting the day-to-day operations of the eight branches in our system which includes things like staff training, liaising with other departments (admin, IT, etc.), maintaining our website, implementing automation, and promoting branch programming. I split my day-to-day between our two largest branches and visit our smaller branches as needed. Another major aspect of my duties includes marketing and readers' advisory outreach through the local media and social media.

2.      Tell us something personal about yourself.

How about a picture of my cat? This is my cat.

He was a stray who came meowing at our door one winter. He kept coming back and eventually we fed him (congratulations, we have a new cat), and he slept in a box on top of our woodpile for a few months until we were too heartsick to let him live outside anymore. I named him Fehlend... which was chosen because a quick online search led me to believe that it was German for "missing". It is, sort of. The phrase unentschuldigt fehlend, means "unexcused absent" or more to our vernacular "playing hooky" - appropriate for a stray. We think Fehlend is a Norwegian Forest cat (or a mix thereof). He found us when he was around 9 months old and looked fully grown then. He's now 4 years old and 16 lbs which is where he will likely stay.

Another fun fact. My name is Erin and my husband's name is also Aaron. So we cause no end of confusion when answering the phone.

3.      What is it you like about libraries?

I started out liking libraries because of the books, of course. But don't we all?

I've spent a lot of time in libraries, whether public, academic, or special. I think the common thread through each is providing access to a piece of your own narrative. Whether it's knowledge to fill a gap in your own, a story to touch a piece of your heart not touched, or a place to be when you don't have a place for yourself.

I also think libraries represent, and offer, the basic human right to acquiring knowledge, and that as librarians we can provide the tools to people who seek knowledge. I've met many interesting people who are on the fringes of society who use the library in exactly that way, and we're the only ones who give them that free unencumbered access to something that fills a need in them. That never fails to touch me.

4.      Why are you interested in leadership?

I am interested in leadership because I often find myself in leadership positions without really considering myself a leader. That's not to say I don't feel like I have leadership experience, I do. But I feel that my leadership style is not really defined nor am I a natural leader (are any of us?). When working on leadership development at my former job (which was in distance education) we were fed quite a lot of sports analogies. A fellow coworker compared his leadership style more to that of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz rather than an NFL team captain. I think I feel the same way, and hope to develop my leadership skills along that vein - which seems harmonious with library leadership (I may learn otherwise, and that's okay).

More importantly, I am looking to fill those gaps that I find my MLIS didn't address when it comes to leadership in libraries. Things like the intricacies of dealing with municipal government, budgeting, facilities, etc. As well, my leadership experience is in more corporate (albeit, non-profit) environments, and I think there is a difference in library leadership, especially in terms of the library as public institution. I think I have an idea of those pieces, but feel they can come together more in my own mind. I'm lucky in that I have a really great mentor in my CEO at HCPL, but I am also looking forward to learning with and from my fellow professionals in APLL as well.

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