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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Freeing the hostage

Here (http://librarylostfound.com/2013/07/09/freeing-the-hostage/) is a piece I wrote for a cool new library site. It addresses the topic of how to have an honest, respectful conversation with someone who is holding your organization hostage -- undermining accomplishment and getting away with it. 

I learned this approach from a wise supervisor who used it on me. I was screwing up on my job, for reasons that do me no credit. In just 30 seconds, she snapped me out of it. And yet I never felt humiliated or mistreated (although I did feel ashamed). She just presented the facts, and gave me the dignity to decide.

I do a lot of talking and listening to librarians. I think this one thing -- the fear of confronting staff over performance issues -- really is the biggest internal factor holding libraries back. But it doesn't have to be a "confrontation." It can (and should) be brief, direct, and authentic.

The rest of the story: of the people I mention in the piece, all are gone now. The odds suggest that it isn't easy to turn someone around. But I think it's also the case that those people wound up in positions where they were genuinely happier. It's no sin to disagree with the direction your organization is taking. People can have honest disputes about the best path forward. But it IS a sin to take money from an organization while you're working to sabotage it. (Obviously, I'm not talking about unethical or illegal behavior on the part of an organization; I'm talking about a lack of sympathy or support of a vision for the future of its leaders.)

At any rate, I hope LibraryLostFound does well! And I'd be curious to know what others think.

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