In case you have not heard, the wonderful multi-type library systems in Illinois are being restructured. They are being downsized for the most part into their ILSAPs and delivery of library materials with the goal to go from nine systems down to one or two. To read more about this, pick up the new Library Journal or American Libraries or check the various library system websites.
As one of the 22 laid off in the Alliance Library System, I have been grieving the loss of the systems but also reflecting on the relationships and teams that I have enjoyed in the nearly ten years of my ALS tenure. I am honored and privileged to have worked with some incredible people.
Nearly ten years ago, I joined an incredible team of library consultants, all very skilled and well-known in their field. I was afraid that I might never measure up, but over time I found my niche. They were all innovators, thinkers, and doers, and it was always exciting, challenging, and invigorating. Since then, Johanne Grewell has retired, Mary-Carol Lindbloom directs a system in New York, and Denise Anton Wright directs a public library in Wisconsin. This team founded summer camp for school librarians, managed the first academic virtual reference program in the country, developed Safe Harbor, and created Parade of Programs, a database of programs and programmers, and many other tools and services for our members. We filled their places with other incredible team members and went in other new and exciting directions with Technology Training Wheels, Library Toolkit, Trustee Connections (newsletter then blog), ISAIL , knowledge based consulting, online workshops, and many other programs. The team changes and develops with new members with different interests or priorities. As a group we love to learn, to experiment, and to serve our system libraries. Lee Logan, Beth Duttlinger, Genna Buhr, Angie Green, Suzanne Baschieri and I hope everyone has a chance in their lives to be part of such a team.
On a broader level, the state-wide consultants were a team as well. Even though we only officially met once a year, we knew and valued each other. We sometimes worked together on projects or workshops and ILA programs. The consultants I worked the most closely with over the years have been Nancy Smith, Charm Ruhnke, Anna Yackle, Louise Green, and Doris McKay.
One of my favorite responsibilities as a library development consultant has been to work with public library networking groups. When I was a public library director, my networking groups were invaluable. As a library director, you are alone in your organization. You are friendly and probably work well with your staff but the responsibility is yours and it can be daunting. Knowing that support group is out there helps you to feel less alone and links you to people who have been there. Going through a referendum or building project? Someone in your networking group has been there, done that, and is willing to share their experience. If you have not cultivated the relationships of people in similar positions in your county, region, or state, put that on your New Year’s resolution list. You will learn much and create an un-equalled support group for yourself and your library.
In the last few years, I have been part of yet another remarkable team. I have been a member of the board of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries. My term is winding down but I want to pay tribute to that wonderful group of people. The members change but the energy and spirit of innovation remains. We have different backgrounds, strengths, and priorities but we came together to turn an organization that was once part of a university into its own entity. The first year was especially challenging as we stumbled along blindly. The first presidents–Ken Davenport, Don Reynolds, and Patty Hector with the help of the incredible organizer Carla Lehn really had vision, know how, and the energy of thousands. It was exciting joining this group of people after the organization’s first few months of existence. Helping a new organization start-up and grow from infancy is a unique experience, and I am glad I was part of it. The current president Timothy Owens and president-elect Sonja Plummer-Morgan are and will carry on the tradition with skill. If you have not been active in a professional organization, make the time. You will never regret it.
And if you ever have the pleasure of meeting or working with any of the people I have mentioned by name above, consider yourself very lucky!
On another note, although this blog was originally started to serve the public library boards and administrators of the Alliance Library System, I will continue the blog but widen the focus to public library boards and directors anywhere. If you have topics you would like to see addressed, please let me know. See you here next week!