By Meredith Farkas | December 11, 2008
I know people have been bemoaning the death of blogging in recent months. I certainly haven’t helped any with my lack of posting, but it’s certainly not from a lack of inspiration nor from my immersion with microblogging (which I’ve never quite managed to get into on a regular basis). I actually have lots of ideas for things to blog about, but have become so immersed in the pregnancy/baby thing that I haven’t had any additional mental energy to actually put any of these ideas “on paper.” With my class at San Jose State winding down, I hope I’ll be able to carve out a little bit of energy to focus again on blogging.
I’ve been particularly remiss in not writing about the Triangle Research Libraries Network Management Academy, which I attended in early November in beautiful Chapel Hill. It was truly an amazing professional development experience, and by the end of the week, my head was so full of ideas that I was practically chomping at the bit to get back to work (not what I usually feel when I enjoy a conference). I learned so much that will benefit me directly in my work, helping me to be a better manager, coordinator, seller of ideas, and project manager.
All of the sessions were great, but some definitely spoke to my immediate needs as a manager more than others. The sessions that I found most valuable were on Wednesday and Thursday of the week where we discussed performance management and communication (managing people) and resource planning (project planning and management). As a brand-new manager, these are two areas I really struggle with. It’s hard for me to find a balance between being hands-off and micromanaging people. While I do well with a more hands-off approach (just tell me what our goals our and I will figure out on my own how to get it done), some people require more supervision. Wendy Hamilton Hoelscher from Duke University taught us a way of approaching the supervision process that really made sense to me, and that I plan to employ from now on. Lynda Aiman-Smith, management professor at NCSU, taught us so much about planning, which will be important as I am leading a lot of projects now where I’m working with people who are not my direct reports. We talked a lot about managing people who we are not directly responsible for supervising, and it was something almost all of us have to do in our work. I feel much more confident in my ability to lead and manage as a result of this Academy.
Friday morning was also fantastic as Susan Nutter and Sarah Michalak (UL’s for NCSU and UNC respectively) came to visit and talked about being Directors. Susan Nutter is a bit of a hero to me; what she’s done at NCSU and how she’s supported innovation and talent in our profession is inspiring. She’s the kind of director I’d like to be one day. What struck me most is how much Susan’s early career experiences mirrored my own. She started her first management position after working for three years, by which time she felt like she’d been doing the same thing forever and felt very ready for this new responsibility. She admitted that she made a lot of mistakes in that first management position (which I am most assuredly doing as well) but learned a lot from the experience (which I most assuredly am). There have been times when I’ve wondered if my impatience would hinder me in my career. Seeing that someone who has risen to the top of our profession was similarly impatient gives me a lot of hope. Maybe impatience isn’t such a bad thing as long as it’s tempered with also being politic. It’s my impatience that led to the things I’ve done that led to my promotion.
But it wasn’t just the speakers who were terrific. It was also amazing to spend a week with 35 exceptional members of our profession. Engaging in a dialogue with them and hearing about their experiences and insights was such an incredible learning experience. It was nice to bounce ideas off people, to discuss the things each of us struggle with, and to realize that we’re all dealing with many of the same issues. While I did feel like the course was geared towards folks working at ARL’s, I still got a lot out of it. While we don’t have the money or man-power that an ARL has, I am very lucky in that I get to be involved in my library’s operations at all levels. All professional librarians here are involved in budget discussions and decision-making. We get to help make big decisions that impact the entire library. I don’t feel like there’s anything at my library that’s shrouded in mystery or that I can’t try to fix. So while I definitely felt more like a “have-not” at this Academy, I also feel lucky to have the opportunities that working at a small library afford me.
Would I recommend the TRLN Management Academy to others? Without hesitation! This was, without question, the best professional development experience of my career so far. If you’re a new manager or coordinator, this is a brilliant opportunity to help you find your footing. The participants at the Academy ranged from being very early-career to folks with 25 years of professional experience. It was nice to have that diversity of experiences and perspectives, as we all had so much to learn from one another. I will treasure the experience and look forward to putting much of what I learned into practice.
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