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Last Thursday and Friday I attended a seminar in Washington DC sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries and Coalition for Networked Information called Achieving Strategic Change in Research Libraries. In my experience, ARL programming is first-rate and I was not disappointed.

The opening keynote was by David Shulenberger, formerly Provost at Kansas and now with the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities. He is sort of the godfather of the scholarly communication/open access movement but his talk here was a rather sobering assessment of the future of research universities. He sees them as threatened (as are their libraries) by a shift in national and state priorities away from research support and toward short-term job growth through community college education. He says the U.S. risks a decline in global competitiveness compared to China and India unless this is reversed. Depressing.

The first session on Friday was by Joan Gallos of the University of Missouri-Kansas City but best known to librarians for her work with the ACRL/Harvard Leadership Institute. Her talk was entitled, “Library Leadership and the Courage to Learn: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” The room was full of library leaders in the twilight of their careers who took that news with a big sigh. Her basic message was that leadership is at its best when we embrace the human side. Transformational leadership is deeply personal and demands both the head and heart. Here is good advice for any leader:

Think multiple moves ahead AND relish the unexpected.

Be strategically clear and focused AND open to opportunity.

Deeply self-engage AND deeply engage others.

Be both measured in action AND audacious.

You can be tough and demanding AND compassionate, forgiving, and nurturing.

We were all asked to do some self-reflection and place ourselves on the head-heart continuum. I rated myself 60% head and 40% heart. Don’t know if my ZSR colleagues would agree with that, but it does get you thinking!

Part II later.