Gretchen Caserotti gave an inspiring keynote presentation at the 2017 Power Up Leadership Conference for Youth Services Managers and Staff about natural leadership traits inherent in children’s librarians. The comparison has crept into my thinking multiple times since. Using LLAMA’s Leadership and Management Competencies as a framework, it’s easy to see why children’s librarians are experts at leading a team.
Change Management and Problem Solving
Who hasn’t planned the most beautiful, age-appropriate story time for 4-5 year olds, only to be surprised by a room full of toddlers? Or sensed in the first pages of a story that you’re losing the wiggly kids in front of you? Children’s librarians are experts at flexibility and problem solving. We can improvise a Plan B, achieve buy-in, and motivate a group to follow our lead, breaking into song or dance when needed. We take risks, try new things, persuade others, and keep a sense of humor while aiming for a positive, welcoming environment for everyone.
Communication, Emotional Intelligence, and Conflict Resolution
Children’s librarians are experts at communication. We embrace dialogue with people of all ages, from infants to adult caregivers. We engage reticent participants in our programs, recognizing that every voice has something valuable to contribute. We help develop “a wide range of verbal, non-verbal, and written methods” of communication in our young patrons and caregivers by modeling language-rich interactions and early literacy practices of Talk, Read, Sing, Write, and Play.
We encourage emotional intelligence by talking about feelings to increase self-awareness. We read about Sophie getting really, really angry to spark discussion and promote self-regulation. Children’s librarians are experts at conflict resolution through practiced empathy, understanding, and patience. We recognize what each side brings to an interaction. We encourage equity, sharing, and compromise while embracing diversity and inclusion.
Project Management, Budgeting, Marketing and Advocacy
Children’s librarians are true experts at managing multiple projects and uniting others around a shared vision. We are adept at prioritizing focus areas to create relevant programs that meet community needs within budgeting and staffing limitations. We listen and value input, feedback, and reflection.
We are experts at creative marketing. We reach out to under- or un-served communities and collaborate with partner organizations to network, share posts, and blast flyers. We intuitively understand the importance of turning outward and engaging the community.
Children’s librarians are experts at advocacy. The youth librarian meetings in my library system are full of passionate energy and creative possibilities. We know the importance of our work, we care deeply about it, and we articulate that value to administrators, coworkers, stakeholders, and the community. We speak up for what we believe in and are comfortable around audiences of any size. We ask questions, realizing we’re not experts on everything. We support each other and share ideas and resources.
Team Building, Collaboration and Partnerships
We are experts at unifying teams, whether consisting of coworkers, volunteers, or children and caregivers. We encourage and motivate others. Mentoring comes easily to us, our backgrounds in childhood development blend nicely into leadership development in others. Children’s librarians understand that we can’t do everything alone: community partners are essential for strengthening our vision and expanding our reach.
You are a natural leader! Not everyone hopes to promote to a management position, and that’s okay. Whatever level you represent in your organization, continue seeking opportunities to grow, stretch, and strengthen your leadership voice while advocating for the very best in Library Services for Children.
ALSC’s Managing Children’s Services Committee is presenting a free, three-part Leadership in Youth Services webinar series starting on November 14. To join us, please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/elearning/live-webinars.
What other leadership traits are inherent in children’s librarianship?
Today’s blog post was written by Krista Riggs, Supervising Librarian for Programming and Eservices at the Fresno (CA) County Public Library on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.
This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of VI. Administration & Management Skills and VII. Professionalism & Professional Development.