Training the 21st Century Information Professional

Posted by jlubans on May 12, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

“Leading from the Center: Training the 21st Century Information Professional”

Pilot proposal. Comments welcome.

Background: My proposal is based on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s model of conductor-less music making. (The book includes a chapter on Orpheus). I have worked with Orpheus for over a decade in studying their group decision making and each musician’s taking full responsibility for a performance. Doing so, Orpheus produces some of the finest music, often, if not always, exceeding in their own way, conductor-led performances.

When Orpheus began in the mid-90s to coach student orchestras at the Juilliard and the Manhattan schools of music in the Orpheus way of music making, I asked myself: Why not offer library school students self managing experiences, ones rigorous and challenging enough to transform and inculcate students in how to get the best from professional groups? And, if we are indeed becoming more collaborative in how our libraries are run, then gaining experience in self management, leading and following seems a sensible thing to do . Library schools ought to offer an opportunity for those who are interested in the challenge of working without executive oversight.

A student’s getting a job, after graduation, on a self managing team, while nice, is less important than the student’s self growth and, through the experience, gaining skills and awareness on how to bring about positive work place change in any setting.

The pilot class idea was first discussed at an August 2009 conference in Bologna, Italy*. And, I brought the notion up again at a November 2009 conference in Zagreb, Croatia. Also relevant to this discussion is my Chapter 17 in the Leading from the Middle book: “Peer Coaching for the New Library.”

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Photo: The street sign for the Via Urbana set high into the ancient wall of the Collegio di Spagna in Bologna, Italy suggests an enduring past(since 1488) and an accommodation of the modern. The battered inaccessible door, set high above the street, might symbolize the entry through which we leave the hierarchy and settle into more democratic organizations. (Taken by John Lubans, Jr., August 22, 2009)

Each time I mention the idea at conferences and to colleagues, I come away with a better sense of how to introduce the concept of leading from the middle and how to allow new librarians to actually give it a try. That is why I am putting the idea up on the blog. Please give me your ideas.

Originally, I termed the pilot class the “peer coaching institute”; My colleague Kate Wittenberg suggested the new title, one that speaks directly to what we are trying to do – to create a new model for working in libraries, a model that is less reliant on hierarchy and more dependent on self management to inspire new programs and to improve existing services. The new title recognizes it is not just about coaching each other – not a bad idea in itself - it is also about group work and taking turns at leading and following.

What then does this have to do with leadership in the library? For one thing, the pilot class likely could provide a response to the question: What does a leader do in an organization of self-managing teams? Students who participate in this pilot should be able to speak about what they learned and what it means for them in the new library organization, the post departmental library. (BTW, the post departmental term was given me by another colleague, Ilene Nelson.) I would expect these students to help clarify the role of the leader. I see the pilot class as a circle within a circle. The inner circle is the experiment – the laboratory - the external circle is the observatory, in which we learn about what a successful self managing team needs from managers and leaders.

In order to make the best collaborative decisions, we have to have groups of people who work well together, who disagree at times and yet move forward, who communicate clearly, who take turns leading, who produce under stress and engage conflict in productive ways.

The Leading from the Center Self Managing Team Project

Who? A dozen or so library science students work independently for credit with a sponsoring faculty member (possibly the one who normally teaches the required library management course) and a practitioner librarian coach. The students select a semester long research project topic for study and presentation of outcomes. The practitioner coach oversees and facilitates the project, including its evaluation.

What? A semester long self-directed team project – about a real problem or question - conducted by a self managing team of students with an end of semester deadline. The design of this project is based on the immersion model of team development practiced by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in how they work with the student orchestras. The student orchestra, working without a conductor, selects, rehearses, interprets and presents a musical performance.
The library group’s independent study project will need to be as meaningful for library science students as an end-of-semester live and conductor-less musical performance is to the student musicians.

The research outcome will be presented to peers, faculty, and others at a public forum. While the topic is chosen by the team, here are some to illustrate potential scope and content:
A new way of doing something.
Leading the new library.
Developing a way to channel information seekers to the library web page when starting research.
A library web page that draws users to use library resources.
A marketing plan for a library to become the go-to for information needs, engaging stumped Googlers.

Where? Based at one or more participating library schools, the pilot uses existing space and resources: class rooms, meeting rooms, media equipment, library staff and resources.

The project is semester long, for academic credit, starting with an organizational meeting of interested students, a faculty sponsor and the practitioner coach. The latter will work with the team of students regularly throughout the semester to the public presentation.

How? With guidance from the sponsoring faculty member and the practitioner coach, the student team will first go through a several day workshop with training on group dynamics, communication, team building, leadership/followership and conflict management. An experiential component might include outdoor team building activities. Following this introduction the students will choose their research topic and prepare an action plan from start to finish.

Budget considerations:

Travel and accommodation for the practitioner coach.
Team budget, including facilitator costs for introductory workshops, meals and lodging.
Allocation for inviting Orpheus musician coaches from NYC to talk about non-musical applications or for library students to attend rehearsals in NYC to observe how Orpheus coaches and trains the student orchestras.
A travel and food allocation for use by the team, as necessary, throughout the semester.


*Lubans, John. “Peer Coaching for the New Library” in Strategies for Regenerating the Library and Information Profession ed. Jana Varlejs and Graham Walton (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2009): 126–36. The proceedings for the IFLA satellite conference “Moving In, Moving Up and Moving On: Strategies for Regenerating the LIS Profession” CPDWL/New Professionals Discussion Group, Aug. 19, 2009, the University of Bologna, ex-Convento di Santa Cristina.

Fulbright award

Posted by jlubans on May 09, 2010  •  Leave comment (6)

I have had the good fortune to receive a Fulbright Scholarship Lecturing Award beginning February 2011. My five month placement will be in the capital city of Riga at the University of Latvia, Faculty of Social Sciences.

I will be giving lectures, seminars and workshops in library management and leadership for students and practitioners in the Department of Information and Library Studies and at the University of Latvia Libraries.

In addition, I will be undertaking research on post-Soviet leadership in Latvia. I’d like to refine my understanding of Latvian leadership practices and how those practices and applications differ from the American model.

Along the way, I do hope to get better at speaking the Latvian language through classes and daily use.

Women as leaders: The Latvian Connection

Posted by jlubans on May 06, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)

Gloria Moss’ latest book includes an intriguing and engaging discussion about women managers in my native country of Latvia (1). She and her co-authors (David Farnham and Caryn Cook) point out that in 2006 about 41% of managers in Latvia were female: “the highest proportion of women managers anywhere in the European Union.” Latvia’s numbers exceeded those for Sweden, Ireland and Germany by 9, 11, and 14 percent, respectively.

Professor Moss and her co-authors ask several questions: How did this high percentage of women leaders come to be? Are there differences between male and female leaders? Do female leaders get better results? What cultural obstacles still exist in Latvia for women leaders?

The authors make a persuasive case, through 27 interviews with Latvian managers, that women differ from men in their transformational style of leadership, one possibly native to women. Latvian men lead differently: theirs is more a transactional leadership. Roughly, I would equate transformational to Theory Y (participatory) and transactional (directorial) to Theory X. Getting the job done is more important to women than a title on the door, a carpet on the floor and a corner office. A manager quoted by Moss concluded: “… women are always thinking about results not power.”

While I tend to believe the way we lead is based more on our conditioning than on our gender, I find their argument fascinating.

Reading the Moss’ research I was reminded of a column I wrote about a three day workshop in 2006 for Latvian library directors, all women (2). Here is an excerpt:

What did I learn:

Several things stand out from those three days at the University of Latvia:
Helping others. Perhaps unique and predictive of this young leadership culture, was how participants helped each other, even when competing.

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Photo: Some observers were so engaged by the team effort, they helped the team they were observing build, even though they would shortly be building their own “pyramid.” This picture has my non participant student assistant (in jeans) helping! I saw enough of this collaborating spirit to conclude these library directors help each other out whenever and however they can.

Spontaneous collaboration is something I encourage, but rarely observe. More often, a clever participant tries to trick me with some lawyerly worded interpretation of the rules in hopes of short circuiting an activity. In my experience, American groups do not collaborate to gain maximum success. I recall an exercise at one university where the point of the activity was for four teams to cooperate in order to achieve the greatest customer satisfaction. Even after I made several overt suggestions, nods, winks, and other blatant hints, the teams did not cooperate. Each team studiously ignored the other three and went on to post miserable levels of customer satisfaction. At least they were consistent!
What happened in Riga was a first for spontaneous collaboration. It also represented a first for participants not abiding by the printed instructions. Like the New York Times observed: “Rules? What rules? Riga, cultured, energetic and young, is making them up as it goes along.” Just like they did when it came time for the one-on-one feedback from observers to builders, at least one group of observers chose to give feedback to the entire team instead of individuals.
While not excelling in all activities, the Latvians achieved some remarkable successes. Not only did they have strong enthusiasm for engaging and enjoying the planned activities they also expressed an advanced understanding of the underlying meanings. The Mirage exercise was not just leaders verbally sharing their “vision” of a geometric drawing so teams could replicate in a drawing what they heard. Their analysis focused precisely on the challenges in any leader’s communicating their true vision, of being heard, and on how they individually could be better communicators.

One activity did result in a best ever effort. A team produced, in ten minutes, the tallest (over 3 meters) freestanding structure in my using this exercise in dozens of venues over several years!

1. Gloria Moss, David Farnham and Caryn Cook, (2010) “Women Managers in Latvia: A Universal Footprint for the Future?” in Profiting from Diversity: The Business Advantages and the Obstacles to Achieving Diversity, edited by Gloria Moss. Basingstoke (England); New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 91-116.

2. John Lubans Jr. (2007) “On Managing: Learning to Lead: A Trans-Atlantic Perspective.” Library Administration & Management 21:145-147.)

More basketball

Posted by jlubans on May 02, 2010  •  Leave comment (0)


While we are still out on the hardwood, here is a thumbnail of an original (10"x12") paper cut created for me by Beatrice Coron ( to go with my free verse from when I was writing about a women's basketball team:

Book Ends

Like an image on a Greek vase,

Beneath anachronistic bands of nets and balls
Two athletes lean back-to-back
Touching, sensing each other’s warmth,

They’re sidelined on the scorer’s table,
Each a leg extended, ice calming
Stressed knee, ankle.

Symmetrically, in black on Athenian red, each turns to the court
Exhorting the practice players,
Adding their voices to the play.