Managing your relationship with the profession by Jamie LaRue

The next relationship to manage concerns the larger library profession. The successful library director is engaged with and contributes to our various professional networks. That might include an informal but regular regional gathering for lunch. It might be a formal participation in a longstanding library system, perhaps as a member of the governing board. It certainly includes participation in state library associations and state library committees. It requires membership in the American Library Association, and relevant divisions, offices, and roundtables.

Why? The main reason is continuing education. We learn from others. Our social and political environment is complex and changing. It’s easy to miss things. Attending a session about, for instance, homelessness, makes it clear that this is not an isolated problem in just a few American libraries. The issue is widespread. Some libraries are conducting important experiments to respond to it, such as the hiring of, or partnership with, social workers. Attending to those presentations and reports not only helps library directors get ready for what may be developing, but find ways to more swiftly move to solutions, and avoid duplication of failed strategies.

But education is not just one way. True professionals have an obligation to check in with colleagues and shine a light into their own emerging issues. You may be dealing with something that seems very specific to your community or institution (homeschooling or charter school support, for example)–only to find that, in fact, you’re just one of the first places it popped up. One of the most powerful ways to learn is to teach.

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