It was a wet and windy weekend in Wellington as library staff from near and far gathered at Massey University to attend the LIANZA Weekend School in late October. I was fortunate to have received funding from Aoraki LIANZA to attend after they put out a callout for sponsorship applications. The overall theme of the weekend school was Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui – Spreading the net – and there were key 4 themes:
- Capturing transferrable skills
- Networking and leading from any position
- Innovative Technology
- Partnerships between libraries and other agencies
There were a wide variety of librarians represented as attendees and speakers, from public libraries, tertiary libraries, school libraries and specialised libraries (eg. for corporate companies). I would probably not have mixed with such a breadth of librarians had it not been for us all being under the LIANZA umbrella. One thing that stood out was how several of the speakers had crossed in their library career among the different library types, showing how transferable library qualifications, skills and experience were across sectors.
Looking at Leadership
One theme that was well-explored over the weekend was leadership. (Read more about LIANZA’s leadership skills and competencies here).
“What do leaders really do?” contemplated John Coster. Leadership, he said, is not making plans, solving problems, or organising people, although they do these things. He said what they do is prepare the organisation and people for change.
Several speakers at the conference shared this quote:
“It is not the strongest species that survives nor the most intelligent but the ones with the most responsiveness to change.“ Charles Darwin
Sue Roberts, University Librarian and Director, Libraries and Learning Services at the University of Auckland spoke about leading – and learning – through discomfort; that challenge and discomfort happens on the journey as a leader but where the magic happens is outside your comfort zone. She said to “move towards the magic.” Roberts answer to “What is Leadership?” was: “Anyone who lets themselves be accountable for finding potential or processes.” She said that globally, people are increasingly working in VUCA – “volatile uncertain complex and ambiguous” situations and are having to respond to this. (You can listen to an interview with Sue Roberts talk about leading through change, leading a learning culture, advocacy, innovation and risk taking on Library Chat podcasts page via the LIANZA website.
There was talk about Daniel Goldman’s emotional intelligence.
- Other awareness
- Other management
There was talk of having a core purpose, a mission, values – a call to start your own mission if you haven’t one and the need for a personal vision.
What is your vision?
What do you want to achieve?
This questioning tied-in nicely with on a hands-on workshop role modelling GROW Coaching – GROW stands for Goal, Options, Reality and a Will / Way Forward.
Brigid Brammer, Coach at Wellington City Libraries, spoke about ‘Leading from all levels’, that is, whether your job title anointed you as an official ‘leader’ or not, you can lead from any place on a topic, issues, projects, be a role model, etc. Brammer also talked about recognising situations when you are not communicating well. She talked about being mindful of emotional language eg. the villain, the victim, the helpless story.
On self-awareness, one speaker talked about ‘Acute attention discipline’ – that is, being present in the moment. They said that what people value most was someone else’s attention and this really struck a cord for me – whether it is our library patrons wanting to feel truly heard or our colleagues.
There were a wide variety of other talks, including ones on personal digital archiving, finance and budgeting (brought to life by Ivy Guo as a fairytale story with heroes and villains) and the value of networking and partnerships.
Paula Eskett, now at CORE Education, and formerly from Christchurch City Libraries closed the conference with an inspiring talk about a refugee boy that brought tears to the eyes. He used to come into where she worked at Upper Riccarton Library as a young boy and Paula met him again later in life and it made her wonder if she had done enough to make the libraries a positive experience for him and his new refugee family all those years ago and reminded us to reflect on how invaluable kind and caring interactions are for our library patrons. She left the attendees with a powerful story to reflect on our individual influence.
Attending the conference was also a chance to see LIANZA’s Emerging Leaders Kōtuku programme in action, as I’ve wondered what was involved in it. Those being mentored in this leadership helped organise and spoke at the conference, which was a first for some. They put themselves in a vulnerable position, but in a safe space, which was another form of developing leadership that we heard about.
The next time you see a call to apply for conference sponsorship or a role you’d love to apply for, just do it! In the meantime, consider joining LIANZA as a member and being part of your local regional group, like Aoraki LIANZA, which has great events, opportunities to network, conference and weekend schools and professional development.