In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Leadership Lessons in a Climate of Social Transformation
  • Janice Simmons-Welburn (bio) and William Welburn (bio)

College and university libraries—regardless of organizational, environmental, or cultural differences—face many issues in common, which are brought about by important and rapid social transformations. Daily we struggle with social questions such as which segments of our society are encouraged to attend college and for what purpose, when is research ready to be shared with the public, how does scholarship affect learning, and what responsibility does higher education have to the broader society. Understanding the social transformations we face as academic librarians is crucial to our ability to participate fully in achieving the campus agenda. Yet, librarians can often get distracted by the more immediate challenges, such as those posed by economic stress or by the urgency of adopting new and emerging technologies for improved services to our clientele or improving the workplace for staff.

Library leadership cannot afford to act solely on the basis of such uncertainty and indeterminacy. As real as these challenges are, leadership must also focus on the centrality of human purpose in an organization. It is human purpose, Joan Magretta writes in her book What Management Is, "that animates organizations in the first place."1 The essence of management is to seek ways of transforming that human purpose into performance. It follows that a leadership style grounded in virtues is crucial in order to link human purpose to building the library's organizational capacity.

Leadership and Virtues

If it is the responsibility of leaders to sustain an organization and its shared values and to create opportunities for change, then a significant portion of that responsibility lies in leadership's ability to relate an organization to its social context. For an academic institution, [End Page 467] this entails the provision of opportunities for advanced learning, research, and outreach to the broader society. Despite those characteristics that differentiate colleges and universities and their libraries from one another—including mission, environment, and culture—academic leaders have in common such virtues as trust2 , integrity3 , civility, accountability, and the ability to foster collaboration among people in organizations. These characteristics are so widely accepted that they seem to be almost intuitive for effective leadership. On the other hand, leaders often find them very difficult to sustain in practice on a daily basis

Trust defines an ideal social relationship; and, in higher education, trust is constantly challenged by political, economic, cultural, and social forces. Trust is also upheld by libraries when they assume responsibility for the preservation of knowledge created, made accessible, and contained in various media, whether in print, non-print, or digital format. This is more than the assumption of custodial responsibilities. Trust undergirds the time-honored associations among libraries, their clientele, and those who sustain libraries financially, including parent institutions and benefactors.

Integrity has far reaching implications for defining a leader's capacity for decision-making within a broader community. There is substantial debate over the meaning of integrity for the individual. Where leadership is concerned, it may be useful to see "acting with integrity" as a way of suppressing self-interest for the good of the community—in other words, making decisions with an appreciation of the broader social context and institutional and professional values. Do decisions regarding physical and virtual resources take into consideration access requirements and the persistent digital divide within student populations? How does one weigh the differing needs of undergraduate and graduate students? These decisions are predicated upon a leaders' understanding that integrity involves looking out for the common good of the institution over self-interest or self-promotion.

Civility, as Stephen L. Carter has defined it, "is the set of sacrifices we make for the sake of our common journey with others, and out of love and respect for the very idea that there are others."4 A career of service in academic libraries can teach us that it is not enough to appreciate or value diversity for its own sake, as though recognizing or acknowledging differences is enough to create a community based on civility. It is paramount that leaders understand and act on the belief that there is a common journey shared...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-7131
Print ISSN
1531-2542
Pages
pp. 467-470
Launched on MUSE
2006-09-21
Open Access
No
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