Networking and Collaboration
What differentiates a leader from a manager? “Manager” is a title, while anyone, regardless of title, can be a leader. Leaders have the ability to persuade and influence others, and they achieve this through networking, collaboration, and relationship-building. One doesn’t have to be acknowledged as a leader in order to act like one; anyone in a team is capable of displaying leadership skills, networking, and collaborating for the benefit of all.
Networking isn’t simply exchanging business cards and calling it a day. It means getting to know people in a field who can serve as good resources. It means building relationships with vendors, licensors, clients, and other stakeholders. Anyone in a library –not just established library leaders or those with “manager” in their title– are capable of networking, by collaborating with others, discussing issues, and otherwise “being involved” with the library community at large. Networking is what happens as you begin to build relationships with others, but it is not the entire process. Building relationships takes time– sometimes months or years.
Similarly, collaboration involves more than just working on a project with other people to achieve a mutual goal. The collaborative efforts that produce the best work are those where the team members see each other as valuable resources, each with unique perspectives and experience on the issues at hand. It’s possible to network with people, collaborate with them later, and then, when they trust your skills and judgment, persuade and influence them as a leader.
Those in library leadership have to collaborate with others as a means of advocating for the future of the field. Information professionals also network with licensors and vendors on a regular basis, to bring new and in-demand resources to patrons at a reasonable cost. Information professionals also need to build relationships within their own organizations, so that collectively, that organization can then serve as an influential model and resource to other, similar organizations.
For myself personally, I aspire to one day have a leadership position in a library environment. To achieve such a position, I need to demonstrate that I deserve it, which is something I can only do by persuading and influencing those I would answer to that I have a strong support network, am capable of collaborating with diverse teams, and can continue to build relationships with various parties to achieve the library’s overall goals. Networking, collaborating, and building relationships are all activities I need to do on a day-to-day basis in order to accomplish my short and long-term goals. The form they take may not be obvious: I can network by attending required meetings just as much as I can by going to a mixer at a library conference. I am able to collaborate with other information professionals by working on projects, or by joining association roundtables and committees. Finally, I can build relationships in-person with co-workers, visiting licensors and vendors, patrons and stakeholders, or I can build them online or over the phone, communicating with those same parties to achieve mutual goals.
As previously mentioned, there’s more to being a leader or a manager than simply having the term in one’s job title. It should come as no surprise, then, that networking, collaboration, and building relationships were a core part of my Fundamentals of Library Leadership and Management (LIM 501) course. This course differed from other “Fundamentals” courses in that it specifically focused on library leadership and management: what it takes to become a leader, what traits managers have, and how information professionals can develop their skills and serve as persuasive, influential leaders in their organization. One way that I examined this was through the study of a trend or issue in library leadership and management with my teammates.
Trend Analysis: Academic Library Leaders & Workplace Culture Team Presentation
Artifact course context and relationship to program goal. This presentation on the innovative ways in which academic library leaders can impact organizational and workplace culture served as the culmination of a semester-long project. The project included several components, beginning with a trend or issue proposal in Week 5, a presentation in Week 14, and a comprehensive term paper in the final week of the course. The presentation served as a high-level overview of the issue we opted to study, and why it’s important to study.
In studying organizational culture in academic libraries, we looked at how library leaders and managers can innovatively apply skills like networking, collaboration, and relationship-building to better their organization’s workplace culture. Additionally, by tackling this extensive project as a team, we developed our own networking, collaboration, and relationship-building skills in order to achieve a mutual goal.
Roles, responsibilities, and process. For this team assignment, I proposed the topic of examining the innovative ways in which academic library leaders can impact organizational or workplace culture. Because we distilled the final paper into a summative presentation, much of the work that we did for the paper helped us develop our presentation. Each of us researched one to three potential sources and wrote quick summaries of them for our teammates so that we could determine what information would be the most useful for our chosen topic. Once we decided what literature to utilize, we broke the paper into several sections: an introduction, a background and review of the literature, a real-world case study, opportunities for discussion with recommendations, and finally, a conclusion. For both the presentation and the paper, I handled writing the introduction and the conclusion. We collaborated on writing the paper through several Google Hangouts meetings and used Google Docs to keep track of our meeting agendas and notes on sources, including summaries and drafts. This collaboration also entailed making periodic comments on the sections that other team members submitted for things like clarity, grammar, and overall cohesiveness.
Skills and abilities. For any assignment submitted throughout the MMLIS program, I utilized different technology skills, due to the online nature of the program. Using WebJunction’s Competency Index for the Library Field (Gutsche & Hough, 2014), these technology skills can be broadly classified as Core Technology Competencies, and include E-Mail, Hardware, Internet, Operating Systems, Software Applications, and Web Technologies for accessing course materials online, creating and editing shared documents, and compositing multiple videos together for submission.
Additionally, I made use of Collaboration skills in working with my teammates to propose a trend or issue that we could study, find literature on the topic, write portions of a comprehensive group essay on the trend, and finally, present a high-level overview of the issue during a summative video presentation. I actively participated in all team meetings and activities, developing original content and providing editorial coaching for my teammates when necessary, thereby contributing in a constructive manner toward our team’s goals and objectives. Each of us assumed a share of the responsibility needed to bring both our paper and presentation to a successful conclusion, rather than viewing the teamwork necessary as burdensome.
Finally, although I wasn’t a team leader for the Summer 2016 semester, I endeavored to demonstrate Leadership skills by recognizing and leveraging the strengths of my teammates and inspiring them to use those strengths to produce their best possible work. This enabled Sam to produce accurate, detailed meeting notes for us, Jordan to develop comprehensive agenda and assignments for each teammate, Rob to contribute thoroughly-researched literature, and me to design and edit our digital files to not only meet assignment requirements but standards of good editorial and graphic design.
Future Work Environments
Librarianship can be distilled into two parts: information and human interaction. Regardless of the library or information center I eventually call my workplace, it will not truly be a library without those two components. The ability to persuade and influence others, network, collaborate, and build relationships are all reflective of the human side of librarianship, and are just as vital to the profession as information organization, retrieval, and management.
If I wish to become a library leader, it behooves me to stay abreast of trends and issues such as the ones my teammates and I examined in this analytical presentation. Furthermore, since I aspire to work in an academic library after graduation, the knowledge gained from the process of developing a presentation about innovative library leadership in such an environment may well prove to be extremely useful. If nothing else, the process of putting together such an extensive paper and accompanying presentation served as an extremely useful lesson in how networking, collaboration, and relationship-building can transform someone into a persuasive, influential leader; after nearly five semesters of coursework in a variety of teams, I find myself receiving messages from my former teammates, often asking for advice or answers to questions. Though we may be scattered across the country and are or will eventually work in a variety of library environments, it is the networking, collaboration, and relationship-building that this program offers that will enable me to be an influential member of the library community.
Gutsche, B. & Hough, B. (Eds.) (2014). Competency index for the library field 2014 (2nd ed.). Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.webjunction.org/documents/webjunction/Competency_Index_for_the_Library_Field.html