This past month I was privileged to be a part of the first Virginia Library Leadership Academy. The Academy was the result of several years of hard work by the Leadership Development Forum of the Virginia Library Association.

On April 19 and 20 twenty-three selected individuals participated in a training and development program in Charlottesville, Virginia. Let by Robert Burgin a former instructor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at North Carolina Central University and a library consultant participants learned about leadership through lectures, networking and participatory exercises. Each participant is working on selecting a  project which must be completed in a year’s time.

I had agreed to mentor three individuals as a part of their project assignment.  With seven other mentors I attended the second day luncheon. During lunch I had time to meet and begin to know those with whom I would be working. After the luncheon there was a panel discussion where participants directed questions to the mentors.  I come away from such activities refreshed in both mind and spirit. It is wonderful to interact with such talented individuals who will be providing the next generation of leadership to libraries throughout the Commonwealth.

Events such as the Virginia Library Leadership Academy are important. Leadership is a difficult proposition at best and any help that a leader or prospective leader can receive along the way is to their benefit and to the benefit of the institution that employs them. After almost 35 years as a library director, I feel a strong obligation to work with  individuals as they proceed through the stages  of their leadership experience. Maybe, I can help them avoid some of the mistakes that I have made along the way.  Often all that is needed is a listening, sympathetic presence.

As I prepared for my presence at the Academy I thought of all the individuals who have helped me along the way. Some of these were librarians, some were trustees, others were community members who provided wise guidance in times of difficulty. Without their presence I would not have made it to where I am now.

The above event was followed by the annual meeting of the Virginia Public Library Directors Association. Our group has met for years at Graves Mountain for 24 hours of activities including annual business meeting, updates  from the Library of Virginia, a report from our legislative liaison, special programs, evening musical presentation and the awards presentation. In addition we have time to interact with each other in a very informal setting.

I find it nice to be able to put away my Blackberry (as it does not work in this remote setting) and chat and learn from my fellow directors as well as the staff of the library development division of the Library of Virginia. What did these chats tell me? That other libraries are also suffering in this economic climate; that advances in technology pose new challenges to library operations;  that none of us are getting any younger; and some of us have been in our positions for a good while. The longest serving public library director present at Graves Mountain had been in her position for 36 years. That in and of itself is a major accomplishment.

As I left Graves Mountain on Friday afternoon,  I was reminded again of the joy that the soul receives when the mind can idle and interact with others without the pressure of immediate deadlines, phone calls, e-mails and the other aspects of our technological society. You are also reminded that your institution can operate very well without your presence. This too is important.

So long for now!

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