ALA11 takeaways

So I just posted this whole thing about how to win at conferences that you’re attending conferences for personal/career reasons, and I promptly went to an ALA where I had work responsibilities and it was different and I’m not even totally clear on how it was different.  Except that I worked for, like, 25 hours Friday-Sunday, not counting the 8 or so I spent doing Emerging Leaders (check out our project and demo!), and after I got home Monday night I promptly slept for 11 hours and then it took me another two and a half before I could remember how to take a shower.  What I’m saying is: I have a lot to process.  And that’s going to take me a while.  But going through my notes from ALA (which by itself took me three hours) I find I do have takeaways, themes that kept recurring:

  • There’s a simple, three-step recipe for winning at ALA: talk to people; identify cool things to do; actually do them.
  • Figure out who you are, and be that. This was Emerging Leaders Team M’s advice to LITA on marketing and branding — and I look forward to their implementing it — but it’s good advice for the rest of us, too.
  • Processes need ownership and authority. I saw a number of committees and other groups ask who had ownership of a particular project, or note that it wouldn’t get done unless some specific individual did have ownership, or express frustration that they had a charge but didn’t have the authority needed to enact (rather than just talk and recommend). Note to self: don’t join a committee that isn’t chartered with the authority it needs to act. Don’t vote to charter one, either.
  • A lot of discussion of finding your niche. ALA is this vast, sprawling, many-tentacled Cthulhoid horror, and you’re not going to get your mind around it (not that this has stopped me from trying). But you can gravitate toward neighborhoods where you find your tribe and where people are doing good work, real work (all neighborhoods should be like this; sadly, not). Surround yourself with people better than you, and learn from them. Join up with people better at some things than you and be better than them at others — complementary strengths make you an unstoppable team. Look for ways to experience, and facilitate, leadership development at all levels, not just obvious places like boards and committee chairs.
  • People can be the people you believe them to be. Find people to believe in — see things in them they don’t see in themselves. This is one of the things leaders do; believe in us more than we believe in ourselves until we turn into that person we didn’t know we were meant to be. (Sometimes it’s hard.)
  • There is no spoon. Still. Always.

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