"A sacred mission"

The 2009 SLA Conference kept me far too busy to blog, but I’m finally catching my breath. I suppose I could have blogged every day and Twittered away to keep my peeps on the edge of their chairs, but I didn’t feel moved to stop and write things down until the crowning event at the Library of Congress.

dr billingtonTwo nights ago, to celebrate the SLA’s 100th anniversary, the Awards Reception was held in the Great Hall. It was magical–and a very, very nice way to cap off the conference. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, spoke earlier in the day, and called librarianship a “sacred mission,” which touched everyone in the room. In the cathedral of the Library of Congress’ Great Hall, that mission becomes real.

I talked earlier in this blog about our “noble calling” so you know I’m a believer in the future of libraries. I interned at the Library of Congress in 1981, and I was entranced the whole night, going through my own personal way back machine. What will the next 100 years bring?

Meanwhile, the conference is over! And what a whirlwind; it was totally exhausting, but in a nice way. For SLA, it was a really good conference: lots and lots of people, plenty of attentive vendors, and no real problems. The sessions I attended were spot-on.

It was a totally different conference being a candidate for President-Elect. I was very busy trying to be in all the right places and to shake hands and share ideas with as many people as possible. I always wish I could go to more sessions.

Today, I’m so tired that I’m losing body parts—first my smile faded, then my eyes were shot, then my voice went, and finally my feet had to be wrapped in band-aids from all the walking around. But I feel cautiously optimistic that I have a done my best.  I wanted to take advantage of this gathering of the tribe to meet as many members as I could, and to share ideas with them. People were very positive and supportive about my message: Future Ready.

What’s next? For now, I’ll visit my daughter in New York City and drop in on the SLA 100th Anniversary festivities there. It’s my next ticketed event!

Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hound

Ginger & ArnoldAre you an animal lover? If so, have you noticed the lessons your dog, cat, or other critter can teach you about life, just by they way they approach each day?

As a joke, someone recently offered me their copy of  Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun, which is a light-hearted look at how an obscure barbarian leader might sum up his approach to managing an unruly horde.

Attila cover changedHowever, I have a better leadership model to work with – our two golden retrievers, Arnold and Ginger. Even though they passed away last year, within six weeks of each other, I still think of them all the time. I miss them now because of their sharp instincts and insights. 

 At the SLA conference in June, candidates will be asked to speak about their leadership philosophy, and key traits that make good leaders. So I boiled down some of the dog widsom that I witnessed and tried to translate them into positive leadership skills.

 Dog Wisdom  Leadership Skill
Head down, tail up Dogs are always on the lookout for new information that will inform their world and help them make the right decisions. A happy dog has their nose to the ground, seeking out new data, and their tail is usually up, indicating they are in a good mood.
Join the pack Dogs are pack animals and so are we. If you join the pack, the pack will be stronger for it. A good healthy pack has a wide variety of individuals, all pulling in the same general direction. Good leaders inspire others to share the load for the good of the entire group. Good packs have a nice balance, and the members seem to have more fun.
Wag more, bark less  A good leader should have a pleasant demeanor and welcome meeting new people. Keep wagging your tail as you sniff out a new friend and everyone benefits. A good leader doesn’t dominate the conversation with a lot of barking. In fact, a good leader often doesn’t have to do a lot of barking – if you’ve watched Caesar Milan on The Dog Whisperer, you know that a subtle nip is all that a good leader needs to keep everyone’s tail wagging.
Some bone need to be chewed thoroughly Have you ever seen a dog leave a bone when it still has meat on it? Neither have I. Dogs will relentlessly work a bone until the job is completed.


In Forest ParkWe all wish we could be the person our dog thinks we are. Your SLA leadership team is the same way – we want to do right by our members. We put high expectations on ourselves and try hard to do good things, but we need your feedback – a kind word, a pat on the head – to keep us on the right trail and make for a doggone good pack.

Creative solutions in libraries

How can you do more with less in these turbulent times? Isn’t that one of the key questions of the day? How do we keep up with an expanding body of information with less time and resources? In my travels and discussions with members, I keep coming face to face with a refreshing spirit of innovation and creativity.  

For example, in Los Angeles last week at the SLA So Cal meeting at the University of Southern California, the speakers offered up some creative solutions to dealing with resource restrictions. A couple ideas struck me as insightful, regardless of the economy, and I thought I’d share them with you. 

In one example, Library Manager Sue Brewsaugh and her team at the Boeing Company have developed customized web pages to help groups leverage internal expertise. The customized web pages present information resources on a particular topic to bridge the gap between knowledge management and library resources. They provide integrated connections to external and internal technical material. Security levels are built in. The result has been popular with users. 

A second tool the Boeing Library developed is a searchable expert’s collection. The collection brings together, in one place, all the work of individual Boeing engineers in an updatable bibliography and expert’s database.  

Another creative solution was presented by Doris Helfer, Chair, Technical Services at California State University, Northridge. At CSU, students are charged a Campus Quality Fee that was instituted in lieu of various small user fees (i.e., lab fees). CSU asks the students to vote on how they’d like to see the money spent by way of campus improvements.  

The CSU Northridge Library has successfully received funding for new computers in the computer lab, a new laptop lounge with new furniture, 24/7 access to the library during finals, MyILibrary (from Coutts) which is a patron-driven model of e-book selection, and they just received funding, for next year, for a pilot project to have text books on reserve in the library and to continue 24/7 access to the library during finals. For more information feel free to contact Doris at dorishelfer@ gmail.com 

I’m impressed with how collaborative these solutions are, and I think they can serve as a model for others. The key is to share our successes with others and cross-pollinate good ideas across our membership. 

So let me ask you this: What creative solutions have you implemented against a challenging budget?

 cindy dot romaine at romainiacs dot com

Find Cindy @

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Cindy is entrepreneurial, a strategic thinker, and innovative. She feels that positioning ourselves to be (and I’m grabbing the tag line from the Comcast ad) FUTURE READY is vital to our success.

Five minutes

Cindy-mercial: Given five minutes (more or less) to introduce myself to my colleages,  I went with an infomercial theme. 

[slideshare id=1465008&doc=socal5minutes-090520103958-phpapp02]

What other popular icons lend themselves to membership organizations?

cindy dot romaine at romainiacs dot com

The Evolution of the Library

SLA asked candidates for the Board this question:  “What are the top two issues facing SLA and our profession and how would you address them?” Here’s my response:

As I start to formulate this response, I am standing in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. My mother-in-law has checked herself into the hospital. The doctors and nurses are trying to determine what’s wrong through a series of diagnostic tests, pointed questions, and even poking around a bit. It is really disturbing not to know what is wrong–just that it hurts.

At the same time, it’s comforting to watch everyone work. They have assigned roles and functions, and they are a good team. The ICU team members aren’t the bench players – these folks work efficiently and smoothly. I feel like we are in good hands.

Determining the issues confronting our Association is a bit the same. We have formed committees and assigned some of our best talent to look at the profession, the association, and our role. SLA has already devoted time and resources to the diagnostics of our situation, specifically, through the Strategic Alignment research that Fleishman-Hillard conducted over the past three years. The Strategic Alignment identified, among other points, that:

  • librarians and information professionals represent a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing
  • information professionals provide value-added intelligence to create a comprehensive understanding of issues
  • information professionals facilitate good decision-making

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I believe that the two underlying issues confronting SLA are:

1) the economy and 2) the evolution of the library

Regarding the economy, we are going through what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls the “Great Disruption” – a time when “the market and Mother Nature both hit the wall….” Here is Friedman’s crucial question:

“We need growth, we need ways to raise people’s standards of living, but what will be the new ways we should focus on—post-The Great Disruption—that will allow us to grow people’s living standards in a more sustainable and regenerative way?”

I’ve noticed that SLA members and units are responding in positive ways to the anxiety that the economy has created. There are programs for Career Agility (by the San Andreas Chapter), Doing More with Less (by the Southern California Chapter), and How to Evolve with the Changing Landscape by yet another Chapter. Chapters and Divisions are also providing networking which is fundamental for job leads, encouragement and gaining insights.

2) Regarding the evolution of the library, in coining the phrase “The Great Disruption,” Friedman could just as easily have been referring to the effect that the new wave of social networking tools, user generated content (UGC), the atomization of information, and the glut of information has had on the information profession. Information is pouring onto the Internet by the terabyte, be it yoga hamsters or functional specifications. Somebody has to be in charge as the paradigms evolve, and that somebody is the information professional. Frankly, it should be comforting for Internet users to know we are here, and maybe that’s part of the story we should be telling.

It’s all very complex. Like the ICU technicians I talked about earlier, it’s hard to determine what information will be useful in moving us forward. My mother-in-law had a lot of tubes inserted and monitors beeping, but the doctors made sense of it and put her back on the right road. By Mother’s Day she was perky again, and as we say out west, this wasn’t her first rodeo. She’s had tough times before and got through them. So will we.