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ALA 2009 Unconference

Greetings! I’m Anne Heidemann, Children’s, Tween, and Teen Services Department Head for the Canton Public Library in Canton, Michigan. I’ve posted here a few times before.

I was lucky enough to be one of the 75 attendees at Friday’s ALA Unconference, which was created as part of ALA President Jim Rettig’s Creating Connections initiatives. As Rick posted, we, the attendees, gave ten presentations and participated in close to thirty discussion groups, all on topics suggested and voted on online.

Many of the presenters and discussion group moderators have already added their presentations and resources to the wiki. I got a lot out of the whole experience, but one of the most valuable parts of the day for me was Matt Hamilton’s presentation on Libraries and Innovation (download the presentation for his full notes). We’re in a time of great change in my community and at my library, and as Matt spoke about, that presents a terrific opportunity for innovation. One of the most difficult things in a time like that is for the big idea people, those who are often most excited about and impatient for change, to take the time to let change incubate. The other side to this is that even if it’s not earth-shattering or revolutionary, an idea given time to take shape allows people to see the process, to know that it’s okay to try new things and see what happens. This freedom to take chances can open up a whole new culture in your organization, one that will hopefully follow the vision the big idea people have laid out.

One notion about leadership that came up throughout the entire day was the concept of pushing leadership down the org chart. An empowered staff is a productive staff, and the more independent (in whatever way that takes shape in your organization) staff are, the more opportunity there is for innovation and for neat things to happen. You have to have trust in the people you work with.

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