In one study and report after another, we learn that leadership is needed in the library profession. Yet in our many discussions of the need for better, more effective, or new-style leadership, it becomes clear that the term is not commonly defined. We all know what leadership is when we see it (or better yet, experience it), but it is terribly difficult to define.
Over the past several years, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has tackled some aspects of leadership development. In so doing, we have called attention to the need for a greater awareness of trends and directions in higher education and scholarly communication. We have also emphasized the need to identify individuals prepared to work with the contributors to the academic enterprise to create a new system that allows scholars to create knowledge more efficiently and effectively and that enables students and other researchers to make maximum use of that knowledge.
The Frye Leadership Institute and the Scholarly Communication Institute-both successful and important programs-are designed to foster leadership development; even at these sessions, however, the personal qualities that produce leadership have been little discussed. This set of essays by three leaders in librarianship was commissioned to delve more deeply into the personal qualities of the leader.
Certainly, different individuals have vastly different styles of leading-and what they accomplish depends upon the fit of their particular skills with the needs of the institution in which they work. We asked the authors to write candidly and personally about how they developed an understanding of their own strengths and styles, what they believe leadership is, and how they apply that self-understanding to their daily responsibilities.
Selecting authors for this publication was extremely difficult, for our profession today has many outstanding leaders. Rather than attempt to identify the “best” leaders, we simply asked individuals whom we believed would be willing to help us think through the issue of leadership in truly personal terms. Each of the authors has taken a distinctly different path in fulfilling his or her leadership mandates, and all three are recognized for bringing new visions of librarianship to their work.
I am deeply grateful to these authors for their willingness to reveal themselves in this way. I believe that there is much to be learned in examining how each of them understands the role of the librarian in an institution of higher education. My hope is that these essays will result in greater self-reflection for all of us.
Deanna B. Marcum