I’ve taken to watching TED talks as part of my continuing professional education. These presentation range from five to twenty minutes in length and there is a wide variety of subjects being covered. TED has put out a pretty cool app for the iPad, allowing me to watch a talk or two in bed before turning off the light. The app doesn’t have access to every TED talk but it does allow you to save the talks it does have for offline viewing.
Last night, I watched a variety of amazing talks: Mick Ebeling, Caroline Casey, Morgan Spurlock, and Ralph Langner. But it was the General Stanley McChrystal talk that really got me thinking. In the middle of his talk, the General makes the observation that the old leadership days of getting all of the major decision makers into the same room and being able to look them in the eye is over. The new leadership reality means using email, chat, and phone and video calls to build trust and a consensus of a common purpose. Instantly I thought about the different things that happened out of the HarperCollins limited eBook circulation announcement. There were emails going to lists of people, chatting online with various folks, some phone calls, and only when I got to the Computers in Libraries conference did I finally talk to someone face to face about it. While it is not the same as sending men and women off into combat, I felt that the tools used by the General and the people organizing against HarperCollins are one in the same. It made me reconsider the issue of leadership within the librarian community.
For as much as people complain about the lack of leadership coming from the state and national librarian organizations, the reality is that the leadership vacuum has been filled by a numerous and diverse group of people all across the country, both online and offline. While the state and national associations are important for taking consensus (read “strength in numbers”) action, the steady state of leadership position turnover in these organizations has diffused actual leadership to members of the librarian community.
There’s a saying in poker that if you sit down at a table and you don’t see a sucker, then the sucker is you. I’d like to paraphrase it to my librarian brethren and say that, if you see an issue that you want to change and don’t see anyone taking charge of that, then the leader is you.
A group of students felt like their graduate school education was incomplete so they formed a group blog HackLibrarySchool to address and provide some of the education they felt was missing. JP Pocaro and Justin Hoenke felt that there was a lack of movement in incorporating video games as a viable collection materials and for programming; they founded 8bitlibrary as a library oriented video game and gaming resource. Brett Bonfield and Gabriel Farrell felt so strongly about the HarperCollins eBook limit that they set up the website Boycott HarperCollins and loaded it with information as to the importance of the issue.
These are but a few examples of people within the librarian community seeing a leadership need and filling it. Are there other examples you can think of? Has the librarian leadership really diffused to the community?