Posted on March 19, 2011.
by Noël Kopriva, Pittsburgh Chapter, Food, Agriculture & Nutrition Division
Lead? Me? When I was asked to run for Chair-Elect of the Food, Agriculture, and Nutrition Division (FAN) after only a few years as a member, I couldn’t help saying to myself: “I don’t know what I’m doing yet!” Now, nearly a year later, I’m reflecting on the experience of learning to lead.
When I was asked to run for Chair-Elect, I had qualms about my inexperience, both as a FAN member and as a librarian, but those were not my only doubts: I was convinced that I was temperamentally unsuited to a leadership position. I like to listen to people and encourage them, but I’m not fond of giving directions; that is to say, I unconsciously equated leadership with bossiness. As I thought about FAN and the people I knew in leadership positions, however, I realized my experiences with the division had actually shown me that leaders do not “boss” if they want to be effective. Good leaders listen well, they encourage you to play to your strengths, and they help you to learn from failure. These are all qualities I wanted to cultivate as a librarian and as a leader, so I ran for Chair-Elect and got the position.
In my son’s favorite episode of The Backyardigans, called “Super Team Awesome,” one of the characters is a tour guide without super powers. Not to worry: “You have the gift of leading people,” Tyrone the Tour Guide’s friends tell him. “You’re a real superhero!” And it’s true: Tyrone gently leads his team of certified superheroes through an obstacle maze of sticky bacteria, slippery rocks, and active volcanoes to help them save the earth. His is a perfect example of servant leadership, which is characterized, according to Fillipa Manulo (2007), by “the desire to serve authentically and with purpose (par 36),” not by a desire for power or control. It’s an example I aim to follow each day as I communicate, plan, and organize in the virtual world with my colleagues in FAN and in real life as a subject librarian and instruction coordinator. In either context, I see my primary mission as one of empowerment—helping students to become lifelong learners, helping faculty to succeed in their research, helping colleagues obtain access to the professional development tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
The desire to serve, the desire to lead: to do both effectively, we must be future ready. We need to think not only in terms of our skill sets, whose currency we anxiously monitor, but in terms of our openness to change, our commitment to thoughtful stewardship of our resources (Anzalone, 2007, par. 30), and to a realistic assessment of our ability to be effective in innumerable environments and platforms. If we do these things, we will not only be ready for the future ourselves, we can show others the way.
Since 2007, Noël Kopriva has been the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design Librarian at West Virginia University Libraries; since 2008, she has served as the Instruction Coordinator for Evansdale Library. Prior to her career as a librarian, Noël worked as a college writing instructor and in the production end of medical and educational publishing. She holds a BA & an MA in English, and an MLS, all from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Anzalone, F. (2007). Servant leadership: a new model for law library leaders. Law Library Journal, 99(4), 793-812. http://www.aallnet.org/products/pub_journal.asp.
Berstein, AD, Burgess, J., Gray, S (Writers) & Kim, D (Director). (2010). Super team awesome. In Janice M. Jacobs (Producer), The Backyardigans. New York, NY: NickJr.