For the past 7 days, I have been immersed in a most thought-provoking, motivating and life-changing experience that has gone far beyond my great expectations. Though most Canadian librarians and information professionals have heard of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute (NEL or NELI), few apart from the former participants know the details of the program. The common phrase used is “What happens at NELI stays at NELI”. This secrecy surrounding NEL definitely contributes to the program’s mystique; however, it also helps enhance the learning experience for the participants. It was explained to me that if we knew going in what awaited us, the anticipation would cause our behaviour would be different and perhaps we would not be as receptive to the incredible moments of profound learning and self-discovery that occur. What I can say is that the librarians and information professionals whom I have spent the past week with are some of the most intelligent, motivated, caring, genuine, and funny people I have ever met. Knowing that I share my profession with such wonderful people makes me truly proud to be a librarian. We are the leaders of tomorrow and the future of libraries is in awesome hands!
Becoming the director of a public library straight out of a MLIS program can be extremely daunting. I have fairly high expectations of what a library director should be accomplishing at their library and in their community but the past month especially I have felt particularly overwhelmed trying to live up to these expectations. Perhaps because it is February and February is known to be the most depressing month of the year, I find myself getting discouraged more easily and reacting more sensitively when faced with my own professional shortcomings.
One of the areas that I am particularly struggling with is the concept of leadership. In the past, I have definitely never considered myself to be a leader. No one can question that I am very dedicated to my library and that I work hard but do I have innovative ideas? Do I have the creative approach to motivate others to work towards a common goal?
Prior to starting a MLIS, my formal leadership experiences were limited to being a camp counsellor and I certainly had no experience as a manager. During the one SIS management course at McGill University, we spoke a lot about management and leadership. However, there is a huge difference between discussing these matters using theoretical examples and being faced with real life situations. Unfortunately, real people do not always react the way that you thought they would when doing a case study!
Luckily, in the fall of 2010, I applied and was accepted to attend the 2011 edition of the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute. NELI, as it is often called, is a leadership training institute in Canada that is designed specifically to assist in the development of future leaders in the library and information profession. Even after a few months of learning that my nomination was accepted, I am still incredibly stoked to be participating in this highly reputed institute! I know librarians who have attended in the past and they all agree that it is a truly transforming week professionally and personally. Yet I feel that it could not come soon enough…
In the meantime, I am still trying to find ways to improve my theoretical baggage on management and leadership in hopes that some of it will transfer over to real life situations. I have discovered an interesting conference PowerPoint Presentation entitled Creating Leaders put together by Daniel Phelan who conducted an interesting survey of NELI participants and who also provides a recap of some key leadership theory. I would be extremely open to any other suggestions you know of have of resources that might help me provide my library and my employees with the leadership that I know they deserve!