Things I’ve learned from Helene

This afternoon several fellow staff members and I said goodbye to one of the strongest voices in the Library world as she moves to Columbus Metropolitan Library. (You’re quite lucky, CML). Helene Blowers.
It is a wonderful and delicious thing to have someone in your life you regard as a mentor, teacher, leader, earth-shaker AND friend. Helene you’re all of these. You’ve moved mountains not only at PLCMC but within the library profession. Your name is synonymous with learning.

So–as I think Helene would do it–here are 5 BIG things that I’ve learned from working, chatting, dreaming and being with Helene:

1. Spend your time celebrating, promoting and drawing attention to the great work of others. It will reap benefits for all.
2. Leadership is about saying “yes” and standing back, watching, and applauding.
3. Give away the good stuff. Don’t hold onto it. Whether it’s information or permission.
4. Asking permission is for first graders.
5. Act on what you keep talking about. Otherwise it’s just talk. We don’t need more talk. More cake, less icing. Please.
5a: If you’re not dreaming and talking about it–start now. Cultivate those wild seeds that are trying to sprout.

Thank you, Helene.


Are you a diagrammer?

How does sentence diagramming and looking into the future of vital libraries and civic organizations connect? Before you read what Kitty Florey says below from her book Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog (all about the flooky practice and history of sentence diagramming and how it affects–or not–our lives today) think about this: Writer’s write. Leaders lead. Visionaries envision.
And diagrammers draw diagrams.
Which of these do you aspire to be? Which is active? Diagramming (analyzing or dissecting) a practice or an organization or a job doesn’t create any energy or vitality in it. It simply dissects it. The spirit is in the doing. Innovation is doing. Consulting, studying, dissecting is, well, consulting , studying and dissecting.
Reading Florey’s book reminds me that dissecting takes away the fluid nature–the very spirit–of language, just like peeling apart the layers of a practice to “make it more innovative” stalls out innovation all together. You can’t create a diagram for innovation. The Ren Gen knows this. Real innovators know this. Diagrammers haven’t caught on to this just yet. Are you diagramming your work, your practices too much? If so, consider being the innovation you’re seeking out instead.

“Among the people I’ve talked to about it, the consensus seems to be that learinng diagramming may have helped us to understand the functions of words, to think more logically about language, and maybe event to write more correclty. But it didn’t help us write well.”

Analyzing doesn’t help us innovate. Doing does.

Microtrends & Individual Tastes

Yesterday during the course of an excellent conversation with my colleague Helene, we discussed the idea that likely many of the “core values” of most human beings could be boiled down to a handful of statements that ultimately feed into all missions, goals, you name it. If we (the library, your org, agency) aren’t appealing to those core values or real driving needs of the community we’re often missing the point. One of those core needs is the need to feel “ownership” over things. We want to have our individual tastes, ideas, and products of expression represented in the world we inhabit.
In his book Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes, Mark Penn discusses the “niching” of our culture. This makes me think of the need for the individual to come out, to be heard or seen. By watching these niche movements we can tap into what’s coming down the pike before it hits us head on. What microtrends are you seeing in the community? Your library? How do we appeal to “the individual” when we’re also serving a larger community. It’s all connected…and quite fascinating (and intense) to look for the weave in it all. But look we must!