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President's Message: January 2019

I recently had the privilege to speak to the fall 2018 graduating class of Maryland's Library Associate Training Institute (LATI) about MLA. Much of what I shared was about the organization of our association, in hopes of giving the LATI participants a better sense of the entry-points for involvement and the benefits of participating in the important work of MLA.

Those of you who have attended the recent Getting to Know MLA web meetups have been a part of similar conversations. While I greatly appreciated this chance to champion the work of MLA, the part of the day that I found to be the most rewarding – and the most FUN – was participating as part of a panel organized by Linda Zuckerman, LATI Coordinator. She had invited Tonya Kennon (President & CEO, Howard County Library System), Michael Gannon (Chief Operating Officer for Support Services, Prince George's County Memorial Library System), Lisa Kenyon (Staff Development and Training Coordinator, Enoch Pratt Free Library) and I to share perspectives from our own experience on how the Library Associates can prepare themselves for the next step in their careers.
I recently had the privilege to speak to the fall 2018 graduating class of Maryland's Library Associate Training Institute (LATI) about MLA. Much of what I shared was about the organization of our association, in hopes of giving the LATI participants a better sense of the entry-points for involvement and the benefits of participating in the important work of MLA.

Those of you who have attended the recent Getting to Know MLA web meetups have been a part of similar conversations. While I greatly appreciated this chance to champion the work of MLA, the part of the day that I found to be the most rewarding – and the most FUN – was participating as part of a panel organized by Linda Zuckerman, LATI Coordinator. She had invited Tonya Kennon (President & CEO, Howard County Library System), Michael Gannon (Chief Operating Officer for Support Services, Prince George's County Memorial Library System), Lisa Kenyon (Staff Development and Training Coordinator, Enoch Pratt Free Library) and I to share perspectives from our own experience on how the Library Associates can prepare themselves for the next step in their careers.

What I'd like to do here is capture and share some of the themes that came out of this conversation, while also giving credit to one of my many mentors in my career, Pat Hofmann, who spoke at the fall 2012 LATI graduation six years ago and offered her own list – her words of wisdom – on the eve of her own retirement as the Director of the Calvert Library. See the Spring 2013 issue of The Crab (Volume 43, Number 3) for a write-up of her inspiring talk. What follows are some thoughts that came from us on December 19, 2018, with a few additional ideas I'm including that we didn't have time to get to that day.

1.    What is the best approach to advance an idea when it doesn't have support from your supervisor? Each situation has its own nuances, but suggestions from our panel including talking with colleagues across your library system and elsewhere (perhaps with friends you've made through MLA) and work to strengthen the idea.  It was also recommended to make sure that the proposed idea ties-in and supports the library's mission and goals.

2.    While some of us advised not to let oneself get pigeonholed into one position, it was noted that it can be valuable to develop a specialized expertise that makes you the go-to person in an organization. It can be advantageous to develop expertise on the cusp of when it will be needed by your library system. Having a valuable specialization can also help you stand out from other job candidates.

3.    It really helps to know someone on an interview panel. Not that they will treat you any differently than other candidates, but it can help you feel much less nervous and increase your comfort. Often these kind of professional relationships can be developed by serving on system-wide teams or at the state level by getting to know people through MLA.

4.    Ask someone from outside of your library system who you know through your professional association work to serve as a job reference. Do make sure that they know that you're using them as a reference.  The MLA President might be willing to do this [that's a hint].

5.    We were asked to reflect on the most important conference program we had ever attended. This provided an opportunity to share this piece of advice: If you get a lot of value out of a program, make sure to let the people who organized it know.  Thank them and tell them that you would like to be involved in planning future programs.

6.    Take responsibility for your own skill development. Take the training offered by your library system and also seek out other learning opportunities offered by MLA, Maryland State Library, State Library Resource Center, webinars, and conferences. Read articles. Listen to podcasts. Follow groups and individuals on social media who will introduce you to new ideas. Maintain a strong awareness of library trends and broader trends. Be informed.

7.    Don't wait for one person to retire or in order to move into their position. The traditional linear ladder of advancement doesn't exist anymore, so be prepared to participate in “bouldering,” moving up and over to positions that interest and challenge you.

8.    Once you move into supervisory positions, listen to the advice of your staff. If their perspective is different than yours, engage in a dialogue to determine what approach will have the greatest impact toward advancing your community and what activities can be sustained.

9.    A positive attitude, a great sense of humor, and enthusiasm will take you very far, even if you need to develop some technical skills once you are on a job.  Admit when you don't know something, but be prepared to learn and describe how you would handle a particular situation if given the chance.
10. Champion the accomplishments of those around you!

Looking ahead, now is also an excellent time to make sure that all of Maryland's emerging library leaders are aware of a very special opportunity. Applications are now being accepted for the Nettie B. Taylor Maryland Library Leadership Institute (MLLI).  Held only once every two years, the Institute is designed for any library staff person who has demonstrated leadership potential, excellent communication skills, initiative, and a commitment to the profession. These are the individuals who make a difference in your community.

The mission of MLLI is to identify emerging leaders in the library community and provide them with a transformative educational experience; provide a safe, collaborative experience to expand the comfort zone for dealing with risk, success and failure; yield graduates who actively advocate for libraries; and produce committed, capable, and enthusiastic leaders for Maryland libraries.

MLLI has three components in 2019: a Summer intensive (July 17 – 19), a Fall overnight (October 10 – 11), and a follow-up project. Both face-to-face sessions are hosted at the Donaldson Brown Center in Port Deposit, MD and facilitated by Maureen Sullivan. The application process is initiated by nomination from a Maryland library director. Twenty-four participants will be invited to attend. There is a $1,000 registration fee that includes accommodations and meals. Scholarships are available.  All Maryland libraries (academic, public, school, and special) are encouraged to submit nominations.  The application is due by Friday, February 15, 2019, notifications will be made by Friday, March 29, 2019, and the registration fee will be due by Monday, July 1, 2019.

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