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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.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

From DCL to Director

A few weeks ago, one of our staff committees (the Project Initiative Experience, or PIE) put together a lunch panel discussion. The setup was this: several of the people who used to work for us went on to become directors. They were (in chronological order): Claudine Perrault (who went from the manager of our Lone Tree Library to director of Estes Park's public library), Pam Nissler (who was director before she came to us, of the Bemis Library in Littleton, then worked at Arapahoe, then came to us, now runs Jefferson County's public libraries), Bob Pasicznyuk (who went from our IT director to the director of the Cedar Rapids, IA public library), and Dorothy Hargrove (who had the unique distinction of running our Highlands Ranch Library TWICE, and now runs the Englewood Public Library). At the last minute, Pam had to cancel, although she followed up with some responses to a set of questions I posed (as moderator).

Those questions were:

1.      As you reflect on your time at DCL, what did you learn that prepared you for a directorship? What proved particularly useful?

2.      As a director, what surprised you at your new institution? That is, what leadership challenges or opportunities do you now face that DCL did NOT prepare you for?

3.      What did we teach you that was wrong?

4.      What are you doing to identify and encourage people on your own staffs to prepare them to move up?

5.      What is your current leadership challenge? That is, what are the key issues or projects that you're working on that you consider most important to the success of your institution?

6.      How do you now measure the EFFECTIVENESS of a director?

7.      Based on what you've learned as director, what advice would you now give back to us?

I won't go through all their answers, because you can find them here: 

I was so deeply impressed by all of them. Every single one of them went on from strong successes here to tackle truly significant challenges in their next jobs. And with intelligence, passion, with humor and with optimism, they succeeded again. 

Sometimes people ask me why anyone would want to be a director. The answer is this: because you can make it possible for people to grow. Sometimes, often, they grow far beyond what you imagined, even far beyond you. And that's the reward.

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