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Mission Bell Media publishes print and digital media for the library market with a focus on leadership. Publishing authoritative and empowering leadership content for libraries worldwide.


On Leadership

NEW! Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership

Rolf Janke

MBM is proud to announce the publication of Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership, our first title in the Peak Series.  More importantly, we’re honored that Steven Bell signed on as editor for this first title; Steven has assembled an amazing collection of library leaders to write about their formative experiences.

Crucible Moments: Behind the Inspiration
By Steven Bell

Think about some particularly memorable events in your career. Focus on the ones you recall as being true tests of your professional abilities. Was it that time you were put on the spot in a meeting and all eyes were on you? It may have been the decision that looked like a sure disaster but somehow you made it work. Perhaps it was a personnel situation that really did lead to a failure. When we reflect on these events in retrospect we know their impact is profound. They shape who we are and how we think of ourselves as leaders, although we might be unable to define exactly how so. One thing we feel certain about is that these occurrences, cumulatively, have somehow tested us and forged who we are as leaders.

These moments can leave us mystified, unclear on their purpose in our professional lives. Some of my own involved difficult personnel situations or failures to meet expectations. Others emerged from being put into a new and unfamiliar situation, one in which there is no real way to prepare, for example, needing to make a quick decision involving an ambiguous set of factors. In these moments leaders must place faith in their accumulated skill and experience. What I wanted was to make sense of these moments. I sought to enhance my ability to choose the right path. It would help to have a philosophy for thinking through them and learning how others managed to cope with and leverage their most difficult career challenges.

Inspired by an article, and the book upon which it was based, I began to understand that all leaders face these situations. The good leaders know how to use them to become even better leaders. Crucible moments. That’s what they were called. Anyone of these crucible moments can contribute to our success or failure as leaders, testing our leadership qualities. Whether our response to the test is good or bad, right or wrong, what’s more crucial is how we emerge from it, what we learn and how we use the experience to shape ourselves as leaders.

While there is little we can do to prepare ourselves for crucible moments, we can work to develop the leadership qualities that will guide our actions so that hopefully we are ready when faced with a crucible moment. One way to develop the right qualities is to study and learn from the stories of leaders who have experienced crucible moments, survived them and gone on to lead their organizations and colleagues to great achievements. That’s what led to the inspiration for Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership, a new book for which I have the honor of serving as editor.

My first foray into leadership writing was my Library Journal column, Leading From the Library. I had written a few leadership oriented posts at other blogs, but this was an effort to commit to share with librarians what I was learning about leadership. As I said in that first column, I’m no leadership guru. I enjoyed learning about leadership and wanted to share that with colleagues. After two years of monthly columns I thought, why not a book about leadership? As with my other projects, my goal would be to bring a different perspective to a familiar topic. But write about what? Librarianship was hardly in need of another book on the mechanics of leadership. Leadership advice? That’s for gurus and the Internet is full of them. Though I wasn’t entirely sure what I had in mind I knew it had to be something different for librarianship.

One of the ways I enjoy learning about leadership is from the stories of success and failures told by leaders, primarily from business but from other sectors as well. That inspired me to develop a book that would compile stories from library leaders as a way of offering inspiration to developing and aspiring leaders. That’s what makes Crucible Moments a different leadership book. It neither claims to teach the reader how to be a leader nor what leaders do. It is a book about why librarians become leaders, and it offers the lessons of leadership through the stories of leaders at different phases of their careers. Throughout the book contributors share their own crucible moments and how they used those experiences as learning opportunities on their path to leadership positions of increasing responsibility.

Two things in particular made editing this book a better than expected experience. Book projects can sometimes feel as though they are dragging on endlessly. Not this one. First, working with a fantastic group of contributors made this a dynamic project where I looked forward to reading each contributor’s story, and then working with that author to fine tune their chapter for a desired fit to the book’s qualities. I am proud to bring together this great group of leaders and their leadership stories. Second, working with Rolf Janke and the team from Mission Bell Media was by far my best experience compiling a book. I am extremely honored to have my name on the MBM’s first book project. I believe the pride that MBM takes in their books is reflected in the quality of their product and attention to details. I am also extremely proud that the book is reasonably priced so that it is affordable to any librarian. Additionally, the contributor agreements are author friendly, which makes working with MBM a pleasure and another reason to be proud of an association with this press.

I recently received an advance copy of the completed version of Crucible Moments. From the inspiring front cover artwork to a thoughtful back cover observation and comment from Sarah Pritchard, I am truly pleased with how it all turned out. Readers will be both inspired by the stories of these librarian leaders and they will hopefully be influenced to seek their own leadership path. Other leadership books can give librarians information about skills for leading library organizations. Crucible Moments gives librarians a reason, a purpose for choosing to lead. It does so by sharing the moments that forged librarians as leaders.

From the Librarian's desk: African American Leadership

Rolf Janke

At the recent ALA Conference in San Francisco, we were delighted to meet Simmona Simmons, Services Development Librarian at University of Maryland at Baltimore County and see her enthusiasm for the publication of African American Leadership. We're thankful for her willingness to share her insight on this title from a librarian viewpoint. 

Name:  Simmona E. Simmons

Professional Title: Services Development Librarian with Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)

Favorite online spots: Library Journal and Schomburg

African American Leadership is a single volume, A-Z format reference tool that is an obvious fit for reference collections. Do you feel that this topic and content would also be a fit for the circulation section?

Simmona:  Yes, this A-Z reference tool is a timely publication that addresses a need in this subject area. The expert contributors have provided a huge range of articles from Abolition Movement to Scientific and Technological Leadership. Within the encyclopedia, it covers several components of leadership.  The enumeration includes Academic Leadership, Artistic Leadership, Business Leadership, Leadership in Faith Communities, Organizations and Institutions, Political and Social Leadership, and Scientific and Technological Leadership. 

Editor, Dr. Tyson King Meadows notes that the many celebratory narratives about the President’s victories in 2008 exalted him as the harbinger of a “new” African American leadership paradigm.  He reminded the readers about Jessie Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination.  He also calls attention to the New York Democratic Representative, Shirley Chisolm, who was the first African American woman elected to congress.  She was a pioneer when she received the nod and became the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972. 

When guiding students doing research how would this title and it’s specific topics and themes be an asset in their research?

Simmona: Often, librarians recommend that students consult a specialized encyclopedia for an overview of a particular subject. This work provides general overview of numerous topics on leadership.

The Leadership Glossary of essential terms is a bonus to the students seeking research in this area.  The author acclaims that Leadership studies is a still-developing field, one applicable to and drawing from numerous disciplines. The author further notes that the glossary includes terms in the core base of knowledge as well as terms from related areas. The editor notes, “This contemporary, informative and authoritative supplemental text covers more than 975 essential leadership terms from an interdisciplinary perspective.”

In many cases, students will need to establish a broader context or build a backdrop for their topic and describe what is going in the news.  The chronology highlights many major events beginning with 1619 and moving the reader on the time journey to 2015.

This timely and relevant resource contains valuable information from scholars and thought leaders on this topic. I highly recommend this source. We have purchased two copies, one for the Reference Collection and the other for the Faculty Publications Collection since we collect faculty publications we commend Dr. Tyson King Meadows and his research partners on doing such a splendid job.

    Thank you, Simmona for your thoughtful insight!   


Thank you, Simmona for your thoughtful insight!


MBM Peak Series

Rolf Janke

We are excited to officially announce and launch the MBM Peak Series, career-enhancing titles created for the library community. Going beyond the prescriptive how-to, each of our titles collects creative, smart voices offering authentic enrichment for all librarians.

The Peak Series came about organically from our starting point as a library publisher with a focus on leadership, matched with a passion for creating quality content. These elements naturally led the way to building professional development content for leaders within the library market.

Our goal is to make these titles something a little different than the usual fare. The Peak Series brings a fresh, approachable and honest voice that honors and celebrates the librarian profession. We set out to champion the leaders, innovators and those brave enough to navigate a new path.

It's fitting that our inaugural title, Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership (January 1, 2016) is edited by Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services, Temple University. As many can attest, Steven is the epitome of a modern library leader.

Steven has collected stories and insights from some of the best library leaders in the field to encourage and empower those wanting to lead and those seeking to be a better follower within the library. 

With a roster of great Peak Series titles slated for 2016, along with new reference offerings, we’re thrilled to expand our world over here at MBM. We hope you join us on this journey of creating great leadership content. 

#MBMleadership #peakseries #cruciblemoments

From the desk of the CEO

Rolf Janke

Greetings from MBM HQ. It’s been a busy summer for the MBM team as we market our newly published reference works and work on the editorial development our exciting 2016 titles. We are also happy to share that this month our reference titles went live on the CREDO platform — so we’re now up and running with print and digital formats for our titles.

The publishing industry continues to navigate the challenges of what format is best, print or digital.  The current conversations within the industry lean heavily towards the long-term benefits of a digital strategy. These talks always end with speculation about when and if print will become quietly non-existent. 

While format is key, what deserves equal merit is championing creative, innovative and quality content.  As for format, publishers have rallied to satisfy all markets and consumer demands — across the spectrum. There are price tags on producing sustainable formats. However, to shape the ideas and thoughts that translates to someone putting down their tablet/book/hologram and say, "that was a damn good read" is priceless.

It's hard to believe that Mission Bell Media started just a year and a half ago. Thanks to your support and for spreading the word. We continue to grow and expand our vision for the library market. There is excitement building over here as we gear up to launch our career enhancement series aimed at all library professionals — we think you’ll find them to be a “damn good read.”


Rolf Janke

Dr. Jim Reese on Sports Leadership

Rolf Janke

We’re happy to introduce the first post from one of our general editors. First up to bat is Dr. Jim Reese, co-editor of Sports Leadership: A Concise Reference Guide. Here, Dr. Reese gives us an insider look at the reference work and sports leadership issues in academia, research and pop culture. It’s an exciting time for sports management and leadership programs, which continue to grow at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Name:  James T. Reese Jr., Ed.D.

Professional Title: Associate Professor

Organization/University: Drexel University

How significant is the topic of sports leadership in the academic curriculum for sports marketing and sports management programs?

The topic is so important that we have courses in sport leadership built into the curriculum at Drexel University in all of our programs including the undergraduate, graduate, and graduate online. Students in our programs are the future leaders in sport. Exposure to the topic of sport leadership could inspire students to consider leadership positions in a variety of areas such as professional sports, interscholastic athletics, intercollegiate athletics, sport governing bodies, non-profit organizations, or even positions in youth sports.

Looking at Sports Leadership A Concise Reference Guide, in what ways is this work a valuable research tool for academic libraries?

Sports Leadership A Concise Reference Guide will definitely be a valuable resource tool for academic libraries since few sport related reference tools currently exist. There is a very useful online resource called Sport Discus that contains a combination of periodicals and academic journal articles. SportBusiness Journal and SportBusiness Daily are also great resources available for a monthly subscription fee. Sports Leadership A Concise Reference Guide contains approximately 100 articles written by 80 different authors focusing on sport leadership in the areas of ethics, leadership among athletes, coaching and managing, sport business, sport organizations and sport education.  Many contributors to the book are experts in their field of study. It is rare to find so much sport related expertise located in one publication at an affordable price. Public or institutional libraries would provide sport management students, or anyone interested in researching sports, with an abundance of valuable information located in one resource.   

What directions do you see sports related academic coursework at the university level moving?  

In my opinion, top sport management programs across the nation, that haven’t already done so, will begin focusing on sales courses in the near future. At Drexel University, we have designed our curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels to incorporate classes to prepare students for careers in sport ticket sales. The reason is simple. Most of the entry-level jobs in sport are either in ticket sales or have a sales component. Some sport management programs have been focusing on ticket sales for years. Those that do not adapt their programs in the near future to include ticket sales training will find themselves left behind.

In the contemporary sports arena who do you think is the epitome of sports leadership today? Why?

In my opinion, Adam Silver is currently doing a fantastic job in his capacity as commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was recently named Executive of the Year at the 2015 Sports Business Awards. This past season, from a business perspective, the NBA set a number of league records. The recent NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors was the most watched finals since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the 1998 Finals. In addition, in his first real test as the new commissioner, his handling of the Donald Sterling controversy earned him universal praise and support, not just from the NBA community, but nationwide.  So far, Silver seems to be doing everything right. 

Thank you, Dr. Reese for your time, expertise and insight. 

Lead the Way: ALA 2015 San Francisco

Rolf Janke

Heading to San Francisco? We’re excited to welcome you to our home state at ALA Annual 2015.

Be sure to stop by the Mission Bell Media booth (#2308) and pick-up a complimentary copy of Lead the Way: San Francisco, our insiders guide on the best eats (and drinks) in the city.

Consulting with SF locals, we assembled a quick list of hottest spots right now for dinner, brunch and cocktails in the city by the bay.

At the MBM booth, you can also enter to win one of five $50 Amex gift cards — so you can enjoy a cup of Stumptown Coffee, bacon beignets or zucchini cakes on us. Grab a guide, enter to win and take a peek at our four debut reference titles.

Mission Bell Media is proud of our focus on leadership and innovation and all the places that concentration will take us across an interdisciplinary landscape. We’re a small publisher with a big vision and we’d love a chance to show you what we’re up to at Booth #2308.

#alaac15 #MBMleadership #leadtheway 

Be sure to check out our full list of library leaders and innovators. Who should we feature next? Come by the MBM booth and let us know! 

Exciting Times at MBM

Rolf Janke

A note from Rolf Janke, CEO:

It’s been a hectic and exciting spring for the team at MBM as we sent our first reference titles to press! I’m very pleased to say that that all four titles will be published the week of June 15th, just in time to bring to San Francisco for ALA. 

If you’re crossing that golden bridge in a few weeks, please come see us (booth #2308).  If you won’t be attending ALA, do let us know if you have any questions regarding our titles – you can contact me directly at

We continue to be committed to our focus on leadership and innovation and all the places that will take us across an interdisciplinary landscape. Our first four titles are just the beginning, as we work on our 2016 reference list it’s been an exciting discovery to see where this journey takes us.

Also, be sure to keep an eye on our blog for a major announcement on the launch of a new and innovative series for librarians written by librarians. Every week, Leah, our Director of Marketing, inevitability asks me, “Are you still having fun?” and the answer is always an enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Thanks again for all of your support in this new venture, it’s been a wonderful first year.  



Hey, Portland! ACRL 2015

Rolf Janke

After debuting at ALA Midwinter in Chicago, we’re excited that MBM will be also be at ACRL this week in Portland. Come see at tabletop booth #186. One of our favorite things is having conversations with you about library leadership and innovation.

Our debut reference collection is just a few months from hitting the shelves and cyberspace. Due out in June, our first four reference works will add value to any library collection. These titles are all great starting points for students doing research in ethnic, sports and related leadership topics. We’re proud to announce the following titles:

Stop by our booth at ACRL (T-186) and receive a free copy of our Leadership Glossary. Covering 750 essential leadership terms from adaptive leadership to zero defects, it's a go-to research tool and some even mentioned it's a good read!   

Mission Bell Media is proud of our focus on leadership and innovation and all the places that concentration will take us across an interdisciplinary landscape. We’re a small publisher with a big vision and we’d love a chance to show you what we’re up to. See you in Portland!

Leading Voices: Tracey Mayfield

Rolf Janke

We’re so happy to catch up with the ever popular and ever busy Tracey Mayfield from CSULB to get her take on leadership in the library. Her thoughts and perspectives are definitely worth a read. Be sure to check out her favorite leader! 

Name:  Tracey Mayfield

Professional Title: Associate Dean

Organization:  University Library, California State University, Long Beach

Many librarians are leaders without realizing it or wanting to claim that role, they view themselves as "followers" or good managers. What are your thoughts as to why these librarians may not embrace that they’re truly leading?

Wow, that is a loaded question. First, I think there needs to be a distinction between managing and leading. They are two different skill sets. Often you have wonderful managers who are not leaders and vice versa. I think in any profession you have folks who rise up to be good managers and leaders without trying, they just ARE, and therefore they rise up naturally. I don’t think most people in our profession go into it to manage or lead. They become librarians or information professionals to help people and help spread knowledge. Management and Leadership opportunities are a development that come along as a consequence, not something that you started out to accomplish. Therefore, I think a lot of folks can be uncomfortable with it.  In addition, in some libraries there can be a “frosty” relationship between the management and the librarians/staff, so some folks can be uncomfortable being seen in that light. Others could just be uncomfortable being seen as the main decision maker, or the center of attention. There could be all kinds of reasons…..

Should there be more leadership training in your profession and more leadership studies taught in MLS programs? Why? Why not?

Absolutely. I think there are many in the profession who wish to pursue leadership, and are not given the opportunity. I was very lucky that before I even entered an MLIS program I had a wonderful orientation to the profession from a mentor who designed a program that allowed me to glimpse all the different areas of librarianship. What I remember very clearly was the management exercises. Having an inbox with all sorts of personnel problems and all kinds of higher-level problems to solve. Several of the people in my group were freaking out, but I was on fire! I knew from that moment that I wanted to go into Library Management. I say management because at the time, I didn’t understand the difference between management and leadership. 

The program I graduated from did not have a management component, so I kind of created my own. I took whatever courses I could both inside and outside of the program to gain some management experience, but of course, the best experience came from watching good and bad managers.   

There is a part of me that says all the management and leadership training in the world won’t matter if you don’t have it in you innately to be a leader, but I do think for those who want to develop those skills in our profession, there should be a component in MLIS programs to help develop those traits and skills.

As a leader in your library tell us what part of your profession are you most passionate about?

I have three areas that I am passionate about. The first is the ethical use of information. It absolutely fascinates me how people use information based on their own personal situation at hand. I have seen professors tell students not to plagiarize but then brag about showing them something on illegally downloaded software. I have seen folks not understand what happens to their own intellectual property. It is all very interesting to me. I have spent the last 2 ½ years on my campus and at sister campuses when invited helping to educate anyone who will listen about copyright and intellectual property issues as it relates to instructional materials, simply because I am passionate about it.

Another area I am passionate about is mentoring of new Library and Information professionals. Not all of us will be able to give endowments to the schools we graduated from, or do anything substantial financially within the profession monetarily.  But we can make a huge difference in the lives of those new to the profession and those just getting started in the profession who truly need guidance and mentorship. I created an internship program at my home campus and when we hire new Librarians I try very hard to encourage new librarians to apply and learn through the application process. I love working with new Librarians. It is exciting and energizing and my gosh are they smart!

Lastly, I have always been kind of obsessed with how Librarians are portrayed in film. As a profession, we are often portrayed as older than rocks and water and senile or mean (even in cartoons!) and it drives me up a wall. 

If you could meet any leader or innovator past or present, who would it be? Why?

J.K. Rowling. I’m not sure if she fits your description of a leader or an innovator, but to me, she is the consummate of both, and I will explain why. When it comes to innovation, the woman reinvented Children’s Literature, and got people reading who wouldn’t have picked up a single book (let along 7 giant tomes) before. She uses her celebrity wisely, she is a philanthropist, and she is a wonderful example for working women and mothers. She is who I would love to meet. 

Thank you, Tracey. We loved hearing from you. Be sure to check out our full list of library leaders and innovators. Who should we feature next? Let us know!


Leading Voices: Erin Smith

Rolf Janke

Mission Bell Media is pleased to connect with Erin Smith, Director of McGill Library and Associate Dean of Library & Information Services at Westminster College. Our CEO, Rolf Janke, an alum of Westminster College, holds a special appreciation for small college libraries. For Erin, leadership and innovation are essential for building a strong library that supports both the campus and the wider community.

Name:  Erin T. Smith

Professional Title: Director of McGill Library, Associate Dean of Library & Information Services

Organization: Westminster College

What are the opportunities and challenges of being a leader in a small college library?

I think the major challenges faced by leaders of small college libraries are no different than those faced by other academic library leaders. We face the challenges of limited resources, staying relevant to our campuses, and demonstrating our value to our administrations. But I do think that small college libraries are uniquely equipped to meet these challenges.

Leaders at small college libraries are accustomed to working with a tight budget. Most of us have never had the luxury of buying every quality resource on the market just in case. We have always worked closely with our faculty to make sure we were using our limited budgets on resources that directly support our curriculum and the work of our faculty. Those close relationships we cultivate with faculty also help us stay relevant to our campuses. Not only do our collection development policies ensure that we have the resources our students need to complete their assignments, but they also increase the likelihood that our faculty will make information literacy instruction part of the prelude to giving that assignment. And, finally, things like high usage statistics for resources and learning-based outcomes assessments related to the information literacy sessions we teach are quantitative evidence we can use to demonstrate our value to our administrations.

In 2013 you and a colleague were awarded the ProQuest Innovation in College Librarianship Award; can you share with us your innovative idea?

We won the award for our innovative approach to the old library tour. A few years ago, we were looking for a way to introduce first-year students to the physical space of the library that didn’t involve a traditional tour when Jamie Kohler, our fantastic Collection Management Librarian, came up with the idea of an indoor miniature golf course. We wanted something that would make students want to see the library and to discover all of the different spaces and resources available to them.

For the past three years, we have shut down regular library service on the first Thursday night of the fall semester and turned the library into a four-story indoor miniature golf course. We contract with a local party supply vendor that provided golf clubs, balls, fairways constructed of particle board and two-by-fours. Our course, which is staffed by upper class library student workers and faculty in our first year experience course, ensures that new students would see the entire building and important service points.

And as first year students play the course, they are asked library-related questions at each hole, such as “Where can you go for help on a research project?” and “What two collections are housed in buildings other than McGill Library?” Students record their answers, along with their golf scores, on their scorecards. At the end of the night, scorecards with correct answers to all of the questions are entered in a drawing for an Amazon gift card. The library also donated a book to the collection in honor of the winner of the drawing (the winner selected the title and was named on a specially-designed Library FYO Prize Winner bookplate).

You will be presenting a paper soon at ACRL on organizational change in libraries. Can you give us a glimpse into your thoughts and perspective?

My colleagues and I are going to talk about the inclusive, affirmative process we used to completely reorganize our library, based on our assessment of the current and future needs of our liberal arts campus. In 2011, our small liberal arts college found itself in a unique situation when four of our nine full-time employees – including the library director - announced their intentions to retire over the next two years. We took the opportunity to go through the dual process of deconstructing all current librarian and staff job descriptions and identifying new library services and tasks.

We’re going to talk about the honest discussions we had about what we were actually doing and the value of those individual tasks to the larger campus community; the brainstorming sessions we had about things we were not doing, but needed to initiate in order to stay relevant and connected to our patrons; and the heated debates we had about the things that we had to stop doing in order to make time for the new tasks and initiatives that would provide the best experience for our patrons. The end result of our process was a radical restructuring of our staff and a reimagined set of priorities for our library. In one year, we evolved from an organizational structure devoted primarily to resource acquisition to one that gives information literacy initiatives top priority.

We know that needs and priorities will vary from campus to campus, but we firmly believe that the process we used, which involved cross-organizational participation and an “everything is on the table” approach to restructuring, could be employed in any library to result in a better and more strategic use of human and financial resources, happier staff members, and a better and more strategic alignment with our college’s mission and vision for the future.

Fast-forward ten years — what innovations would you like to see in your library?

I want every Westminster graduate to be information literate, regardless of program of study. I want the library to provide just-in-time access to any resource needed by any member of our campus community. I want students to think of the library as their all-day, all-night academic resource. I want to see increased collaboration between the library and IT departments so that the library becomes the major service provider for both finding information sources and for using information technology resources. In general, I want everyone on campus to regard us as the smartest, most helpful people on campus—and for our resources and services to be so popular, we’ll have to hire more staff and an architect to design an addition to the building, just to meet all the demand.

Be sure to check out our full list of library leaders and innovators. Who should we feature next? Let us know!

ALA Midwinter 2015

Rolf Janke


Blizzard conditions couldn’t cool our excitement for Mission Bell Media’s first conference at ALA Midwinter in Chicago. As first time exhibitors, it was great to have the chance to connect directly with librarians from across the country and see the interest in our forthcoming reference titles

chicago snow
 It was great to see librarian rockstars Rosalind Tedford and  Steven Bell .

It was great to see librarian rockstars Rosalind Tedford and Steven Bell.

 ALA President,  Courtney Young , stops by the MBM booth. 

ALA President, Courtney Young, stops by the MBM booth. 


The sincere appreciation for our commitment to leadership and innovation validated our mission to create stellar reference titles for both the library and the librarian.




Through our Shout Out! Promotion in partnership with Credo Reference librarians told us about leaders that are making a difference — it was touching to hear a MLS student emotionally share how her mentor was leading her students, aware that she herself wasn’t clear on what the future library will look like.


Please let us know if you are attending ACRL and/or ALA Annual. We would love the chance to connect, to share our vision and hear yours — we can't offer more snow, but maybe some rain and fog if we're lucky.

Be sure to check out what Courtney Young and other leaders have shared here on the blog.

Leading Libraries: Founders' Library

Rolf Janke

Along with highlighting individual leaders, we are excited to announce the addition of featuring library teams here on the blog. Our inaugural team is from Founders’ Library at Northern Illinois University. We asked the same question to leaders from various vantage points within the library. I think you’ll find their varying perspectives interesting and enlightening. We give a big thanks to Patrick Dawson for introducing us to your amazing team. 

Library:  Founders’ Library

Location: Northern Illinois University

Leaders: Patrick Dawson, TJ Lusher and Roseanne Cordell

From your unique vantage point, what are the most important leadership and/or innovation characteristics needed in the library today?

Patrick Dawson, Dean, University Libraries

Education Week released its grade for education in the U.S. and individual grades for all 50 states.  The grade was C for school finance. This is significant as it reflects the real trend existing in education and the libraries that support education.  There is decreasing public support and even less forecast for the future.  Libraries are caught in this and are also currently facing a huge shift in how a library functions, including modes of delivery of information, funding challenges and changing expectations and needs of patrons.  The traditional library still exists, which is the repository of printed information, yet the library now is also a disseminator of digital information of various formats and an evolving workshop for how space is used.  Libraries are also critical players in and supporters of teaching and research.  In short, there are many issues and needs that demand addressing simultaneously in the 21st century library.

So, what characteristics are currently needed?  First data informed planning, evaluation and resource planning is a must.  This is not new to the business community, but is still somewhat new in the area of libraries.  To reach this, a few things are needed.  You need people you can trust and rely upon to move the mission and vision of the library forward, people who share the common mission and vision of the library and the institution. This may take time to build and develop.  You also need flexibility and adaptability. Don’t panic, but collect as much information and input from all as you are able to be able to make informed collaborative decisions. Do not be so wedded to a course of action that you are unable to develop an alternative course, which will reach the same end.  Strategically plan to align with your resources; set your priorities and budget for those priorities.

You also need to be an educator, to be able to educate your administration and stakeholders on what is going on in libraries, what is needed in libraries, how libraries are critical to the mission of the institution and what the return on investment in libraries is. Philanthropy is a focus that needs attention. Traditional funding sources for libraries are not going to produce new revenue, so alternative and innovative funding sources need to be cultivated and developed. The time is over when libraries were able to claim that they are in the common good, as fiscal stress has negated this argument. Libraries need to be bold and dynamic and advertise their necessity and value.

TJ Lusher, Associate Dean, Technology Initiatives and Support Services

A leader is an intangible mix of experience, skills, knowledge, and personality in a given situation. A leader in one setting, may be a follower in another. Leaders operate at a multitude of vision levels – organizational level, division level, department level, unit level and team level. Leaders are not necessarily the individuals with administrative, supervisory or team responsibilities.

To achieve the label of leader, you must be a visionary while remaining cognizant of the realities of your organization – head in the clouds, feet planted on the ground.  You need to be a translator of university and library administrative speak in a way that others around you understand how their efforts will help meet university and library strategic goals while benefitting them.  A leader will be a proponent of adaption, growth and the evolution of ideas, projects and services. As a leader, embrace opportunities to traverse the fuzz edge of the future.  Notice what is not being asked or talked about. Celebrate success but relish failure and the lessons learned. Either help hire or hire individuals who bring new perspectives, skills and knowledge and encourage these individuals to think about their next career move. Finally, do the unexpected -- rock the boat.

Rosanne Cordell, Associate Dean for Public Services, Northern Illinois University Libraries

A leader in an academic library today needs to be brave enough to evaluate the way we do things objectively and to lead frank conversations about where we need to go and how we are going to get there. Leading open discussions means leaving ego behind and looking at how even excellent libraries and librarians might be able to improve. We might occasionally feel nostalgic for "the good old days", but we need to be willing to plan for the future and leave behind the practices that don't fit our users and our resources anymore.

It also takes some faith in the ability of your faculty and staff to adapt for a library to abandon legacy practices and redesign spaces that were well used in the past. An unshakable belief in the enduring value of libraries and their centrality to the education process are necessary to see change as opportunity and not threat. Faith in the value of what we do is essential to face and work through the budgetary and political pressures libraries face today.

Thank you for your time and insight. We look forward to talking with more leaders in the library at ALA Midwinter (Booth #1829), come by and tell us what you think are the most important characteristics needed for the present and the future. 

Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.  


Leading Voices: Mike Sweet

Rolf Janke

We’re pleased to welcome Mike Sweet, CEO of Credo Reference, to have a conversation on leadership. Mike’s career has been built on his passion for providing solutions that benefit both the library and their patrons. His perspective from the business side of the library market brings a unique point of view to “On Leadership.” 

Name:  Mike Sweet (find him on Twitter at  @_Mike_Sweet)

Professional Title: CEO

Company: Credo Reference (Twitter: @credoreference)


As the CEO of Credo Reference, your company must face leadership challenges with the rapidly changing economic and technology factors in the library market. How do you keep your company focused on its mission?

We are certainly facing a lot of change in the library market. At Credo we pride ourselves on looking for the opportunity in challenges, which helps us to stay focused on our mission even during turbulent times. We believe change provides us with great opportunities to help establish new ways of doing things. This philosophy is in keeping with Credo’s history of innovation, which, not surprisingly, is one Credo’s five core values. Credo’s other core values are service, humor/humility, responsibility, and teamwork.   

Maintaining our entrepreneurial spirit is essential to keeping innovation alive and strong. We never take anything for granted in our business and believe we need to stay hungry to exceed our library customers’ expectations if we are going to continue to grow during challenging economic times. 

Keeping the articulation of our mission fresh is another way to keep people focused during turbulent times. When changes occur it provides a company with the opportunity to reexamine its purpose and to actually evolve and expand that purpose to better meet the new environment. 

You have huge exposure to librarians, top decision makers and leaders in our industry. In regards to leadership, what’s been the biggest take away of late from those conversations?

I feel very lucky to work with so many thoughtful leaders in and around the library industry. Unfortunately, I see that many leaders I speak to are having a very difficult time developing a compelling vision of the future toward which they are leading their organizations. I hear about scarcity, which often leads to fear-based thinking. It is hard to achieve anything truly great when you first can’t imagine something great.

I also experience a lot of short-term thinking when dealing with leaders of other library vendors. They are under a lot of pressure to deliver strong business performance and often feel forced to make decisions that make sense in the short-run, but in the long-run are unlikely to lead to a healthy and growing library market. As leaders, I see it as a primary responsibility to expand our horizons and enroll people towards an exciting future for our industry. I don’t experience this in enough of my conversations. 

We talked with librarian Steven Bell about approaching the library with a business perspective. What insight can you share with library leaders from your corporate based point of view?  

I recently attended the Charleston Conference where Anthea Stratigos, CEO of Outsell, delivered the opening keynote. She gave a very good presentation about the need for libraries to become better strategic marketers. This involves carefully analyzing how and where your library delivers value to those you serve. As part of this, you have to be willing to accept what you learn. If those you serve don’t experience value in the way you deliver it, you have to reevaluate what you are doing and make the required changes. In a business context, you will be out of business very quickly if you don’t do so. On the positive side, resources always seem to flow to where the most value is being created.

In the specific case of libraries, we’re seeing a lot of changes in the way people find and utilize information, whether for academic, professional or personal reasons. People have certain information needs – especially around how to navigate and assess the vast amount of information out there – that haven’t been fully addressed yet. Business success comes from having a finger on the pulse of the market and being able to respond to people’s needs; libraries thrive when they can do the same. 

I would make sure you spend a significant portion of your time on the larger and more strategic issues you face. Stephen Covey famously described these as the “big rocks,” versus the smaller, more trivial tasks, which can be described as “sand.” If you get too caught up in the minutia, you wind up losing time that could have been applied toward accomplishing your most important priorities.  Library leaders can figure out very quickly what the big rocks are on campus just by spending more time talking to the other leaders across their institutions.

One last question:  Which leader do you admire most? Why?

I admire a lot of leaders and I try to learn and incorporate ideas from as many as I can. I see it as a mistake to try to model my leadership too much on another’s style, but I find many attributes by which I am inspired. I work hard to borrow from people that are much smarter and more experienced than me.  

If I had to pick one leader I admire most it would be Theodore Roosevelt. He wasn’t afraid to take risks and he stayed true to what he believed. Further, he was able to see beyond what others could see at the present time. Perhaps this ability is at the very essence of what it means to be a great leader. Many people don’t know that he experienced a lot of sickness as a child, which is surprising when you consider the way he is often portrayed today, as a cowboy and vigorous leader. 

Thank you, Mike! Looking forward to seeing you at ALA Midwinter. 

Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.  

Leading Voices: Jessica Moyer

Rolf Janke

It was a pleasure to recently chat with Jessica Moyer for On Leadership. When we first met Jessica back at ALA Annual 2014 we were struck by her passion for leadership, specifically for the newest generation of librarians. Here, Jessica shares the challenges new librarians face and also gives her take on the concept of "leading from the middle."

jessica moyer

Name:  Jessica Moyer (find her on Twitter at @jessicaemoyer)

Professional Title: Assistant Professor

Organization: School of Information Studies,

We know that you are passionate about the leadership challenges in the library – in your experience so far, what are the most important challenges faced?

The most important challenges newer librarians face is attempting to lead without being a leader and I think this is one of the biggest barriers that new professionals face when entering the field.  This is something I’ve struggled with; I know it has been a challenge for my peers and my students as well. It takes a lot of continued effort and personal drive to become a part of the field when it has to be done outside the regular day job and with your own funds.  As we all know, entry-level librarians aren’t the best paid positions, and trying to participate in the profession at the national level can require sacrifices that not all are able and willing to make. 

I wrote my first book on evenings, weekends, and while working extra weekend supervision shifts.  The money I earned with that job, plus the advance from ALA Editions, is what helped me fund my conference travel.  If I hadn’t been able to travel to and participate in conferences early in my career I would never have met the many inspirational librarians and leaders that I now work with on my many projects. 

Anyone who meets me quickly learns that I have no hesitations in recruiting anyone I know to contribute to my many projects. I like to think that I’ve contributed to the next generation of library leaders by having a new voice and taking risks on unknown librarians. Taking risks and asking new voices to be speakers, presenters and writers is another challenge to leadership. Next time you need to hire someone for a professional development workshop, or book a speaker for a conference program, I’d like everyone to consider trying a new voice, not just ones that are well known. It’s definitely a risk hiring the unknown, but I think it will pay for both libraries and leaders. 

In your LIS classes - do you discuss the concept of leadership with the students? How difficult is it to approach this topic with students who probably never figured that leadership or management would be in the LIS vocabulary?

Oh yes, we absolutely talk about leadership in all of my classes.  Whether it’s foundations of LIS, reference services and sources, or readers’ advisory, leadership comes up every semester.  This isn’t too difficult a topic to broach with my students as many are enthusiastic and excited new professionals who want to be part of and contribute to the profession.  From quite early on, they realize that leadership is part of being an active member of the profession. As we learn more about professional jobs and current library issues, it becomes clear that leadership is an important component of many types of jobs.  I like talking about leadership because it’s one of the few topics that easily encompass all the careers that my students are considering, from systems librarians to archivists, school media specialists to information organizers. 

We hear from many librarians that they have become experts in "leading from the middle." Can you comment on why this is so?  

I covered this a bit in the first question, in talking about being a leader without holding a leadership position. “Leading from the middle” becomes a bigger issue for librarians working in management.  It seems like no matter what the job is, it’s somewhere in the middle.  Public library directors have to report to their local authorities or board of trustees, academic library directors report to the provost or chancellor, and even school media specialists find themselves in the middle between teachers, students, and the school administration. Libraries are embedded within their communities and almost never stand completely alone, thus we have responsibilities to those both above and below.  Without learning how to lead from the middle, it’s hard to ever become a successful library leader. 

If you could meet any leader past or present, who would it be? Why?

This is so hard! I teach history of LIS as part of my foundations classes and through that I’ve learned about so many amazing leaders in our field. 

Historically, I’ve always been fascinated by Melville Dewey – he did so much in the founding of our profession. Despite getting a PhD in Education, he’s still the person I first think of when anyone starts talking about Dewey (educators, I later learned, are all talking about the unrelated John Dewey) but he also sounds like a rather difficult colleague. I’m sure we would have a great conversation, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to work with him. 

When I was just starting out, I was a great admirer of Joyce Saricks and Catherine Ross for their work in readers’ advisory.  Getting to meet them made me realize that librarianship is an accessible profession in which (almost) everyone nurtures and encourages new leaders.  Joyce was kind enough to introduce me to her editor at ALA Editions, which led to my first book and really kicked off my career. The one person who was important in the readers’ advisory renaissance of the 80’s and 90’s, whom I’ve never met, is Betty Rosenberg, the creator and editor of Genreflecting (a reference sources for librarians working with readers). I’ve read and used the 4th, 5th, 6th, and now the 7th editions in my classes and research and I’d love to talk to her about how she got this amazing project off the ground.  

Thank you, Jessica! Keep on leading the way.

Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.  

Leading Voices: Lucretia McCulley

Rolf Janke

It is a pleasure to connect with Lucretia McCulley from University of Richmond. Lucretia is not only a leader within her library, but as the librarian liaison for the Jepson School of Leadership she has frontline insight into modern leadership studies. 

Name:  Lucretia McCulley

Professional Title: Head, Scholarly Communications and Access Services

Organization: Boatwright Memorial Library, University of Richmond

As the librarian liaison for the Jepson School of Leadership at the University of Richmond you play a key role for a renowned institution. The topic of leadership is broad, what is your process for determining appropriate reference works for Jepson? Do you see leadership as an evolving discipline? What are some current leadership "hot topics"?

Choosing appropriate reference works in leadership has always been a challenge, because for many years there were very few available that focused explicitly on leadership. I have served as the liaison librarian for the Jepson School of Leadership Studies since 1992, when the school was founded, and there were very few reference books that focused on leadership at that time. However, in the last ten years this has changed dramatically as the discipline has evolved and we now have many titles that focus on particular aspects of leadership, such as political leadership, environmental leadership, gender and leadership and so forth.  The ability to search and use these sources online has also made a difference with leadership research. I also work closely with leadership studies faculty on reference works that they often recommend.  For example, we have several faculty members who work within philosophy and ethics and I recently purchased several ethics handbooks and encyclopedias. As a multidisciplinary studies area, faculty and students are drawing upon many disciplines to study the wide range of leadership-related issues.

Leadership Studies continues to evolve and as we bring new faculty into this discipline, they are shaping its future.  We currently have faculty members who study leadership and followership in video gaming, an emerging field of scholarly research.  Other faculty are focusing on local leadership issues, such as the history of power and structure of Richmond city government and leaders. Still others focus on leadership within historical movements and literature.  Several of the social psychologists are experts on group dynamics, negotiation and conflict. The Jepson School is unique in that it has a rich and varied faculty that bring their particular perspectives and interests to the study of leadership.

In my work with students, I have found that recent hot topics often focus on social justice issues, such as public education, immigration rights and gender rights. Students are also very interested in researching how various groups work together effectively and the role of followership in organizations. Many students regularly volunteer or engage in internships with NGOs or nonprofit organizations, so there is a keen interest in nonprofit leadership.

Has your relationship with the Jepson School influenced how you work within the library as both a leader yourself and with other leaders in the library?

Reading and exploring the literature of leadership has certainly piqued my interest in using some of their research results in my work and community life. I am also the liaison librarian for Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS), so the literature of women’s leadership has been very interesting to me. I have read widely in this area and reflected upon how I might adjust my leadership style as a female.  I’ve been particularly interested in reading about biases and stereotypes of women leaders.

I am involved in several leadership positions in the Richmond community, so the research of social justice/community leadership has also been very helpful to me.  I have relied on reference works, such as Political and Civic Leadership: A Handbook and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: A Reference Handbook, for many issues and situations. In addition, I not only learn about leadership studies from the faculty, students and readings that I encounter, but I also regularly attend lectures and programs at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies that feature outside speakers on various aspects of leadership.

Can you name one or two leadership resources in your library that are widely used, year after year?

The Encyclopedia of Leadership is used consistently, both in print and online.  I use this source to help students get started on their topics, to find definitions of theories and models, and to identify other sources in the bibliographies of the articles.  Students are always very excited to discover this source.  I just hope it will be updated in the future because it is now ten years old! I also regularly use the Gender and Women’s Leadership: A Reference Handbook with both WGSS students and Leadership Studies students.  Faculty often use this source for class readings as well.  Of course, I may have a bias with the Sage leadership handbook series.  I served as a consulting editor for the series and developed many of the ideas for the handbook topics.  It was an exciting and rewarding experience.

If you could meet any leader past or present, who would it be? Why?

I have a keen interest in government, politics and social justice issues.  Richmond’s proximity to Washington, D.C. has afforded me some wonderful opportunities to meet some of our nation’s leaders.  During the 1992 presidential election, the University of Richmond hosted the first “town hall” presidential debate and I was able to meet Bill and Hillary Clinton very briefly. Then in 2010, my across-the-street neighbor was chosen to host one of President Obama’s “backyard chats” and my husband and I were invited to be a part of that conversation. That encounter was probably one of the most exciting days of my life.  So I have been fortunate to meet some of the leaders that I would like to talk with!        

Beyond those mentioned above, I would like to meet and talk with Gloria Steinem.  As a college student who first encountered women’s history and women’s studies in the early 1970s, Gloria Steinem has always served as a role model and inspirational leader for me.  I’ve also read most of Steinem’s books and I have been an avid reader of Ms. Magazine for decades.

A big thank you to Lucretia for her time and insight. 

Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.  


Leading Voices: Katina Strauch

Rolf Janke

We appreciate the wonderful Katina Strauch taking time to talk with Mission Bell Media in the midst of her busy preparations for the Charleston Conference, November 5-8 (well, you can see below that Katina seems to always be busy!). Cheers to another successful conference!

 Thank you, Katina! 

Thank you, Katina! 

Name: Katina Strauch

Professional Titles: Founder and Convener, Charleston Conference and Fiesole Retreats, Editor, Against the Grain, Assistant Dean Technical Services and Collection Development, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston, Chair of the Board The Charleston Advisor

Organizations: College of Charleston, Charleston Information Group, LLC, The Charleston Company


You must be both amazed and proud to see how the Charleston Conference has grown over the years into a major event for librarians.  As the leader and visionary for this event what are some of the challenges you face as it continues to grow?

The Conference has truly grown in an amazing way. This is because the scads of people who help run it have very creative and innovative ideas and the energy to make things happen. Going forward, there are issues with size as well as content. The Conference can’t get much bigger because of space limitations and philosophy. We want it to remain informal and relatively small. Because of the ongoing changes in scholarly communication, the content must develop and expand. We have begun to conduct new seminars and workshops. Other innovations are in the works.

Your conference attracts many leaders from libraries, publishers, vendors and consultants of all shapes and sizes. Is there any one characteristic that you see that these folks have in common?

Flexibility and creativity and a sense of humor and fun are all important characteristics. Also a willingness to embrace new ideas about programming, content, and whatever else comes along. Believe me, there are plenty of unexpected and unpredictable issues that surface all the time.

Spanning away from the conference – can you share a standout moment or two from your time as a librarian at College of Charleston?

Just one? The building of the Addlestone Library in 2000 has made it a centerpiece of the community and the state, The expansion of the College as a major research venue is happening right now with our partnership with the South Carolina Historical Society and renovation of the building in 2014. When I came to the College in 1979 it was a sleepy, small, unknown venue with 150 faculty and 4000 students and three masters degrees. Now we have close to 500 faculty and 10,000+ students with a growing number of graduate degrees and the real possibility of doctoral degrees.

One last question: If you could meet any leader past or present, who would it be? Why?

Hmmm. There are so many people. I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet Bill Katz. He was an amazingly creative, energetic, kind and unassuming man. I wish I could have had more time with Ed Holley who could have told us more about library history and its relevance to today. Historically, I would have liked to have met Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) who I understand was a librarian for a small time. I am also a huge opera lover and wish I had had a chance to meet Maria Callas who was Greek and loved all kinds of books.

Here's to a great time in Charleston and Katina, thank you for making it all possible. Be on the lookout for Mission Bell Media CEO Rolf Janke at the conference and tell him his Santa Barbara crew says hello!

Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.  


Leading Voices: Sarah Pritchard

Rolf Janke

We are pleased to have Sarah Pritchard from Northwestern University join the leadership conversation.  In her role as Dean of Libraries, Sarah is no stranger to the significance of leadership in today’s library and we hope you enjoy her candid insights.

 Thank you, Sarah!

Thank you, Sarah!


Name:  Sarah M. Pritchard

Professional Title: Dean of Libraries and the Charles Deering McCormick University Librarian

Organization: Northwestern University 

As the Dean of Libraries at Northwestern University, what does leadership mean to you in the sense of how you navigate a large library system through all the challenges that academic libraries face today?

Leadership to me is a combination of several elements.  It means being attuned to the big picture of your institutional context (where is the university going and what do the current academic leaders care about), to the new opportunities emerging in one’s own profession (a combination of drawing on one’s own past expertise plus staying abreast of innovation in libraries, technology and publishing), and to the unique “anthropology” of the library organization where one is working at the time.  These factors all have to be blended so one then is able to fix on what needs to be done, what it will or will not be possible to do, and how to orchestrate the steps.  Leadership requires the ability to translate these ideas and goals into two kinds of language, language that means something to the external stakeholders and language for one’s library colleagues, and these are never quite the same! Every leader is a filter or translator or hinge between the internal and external, the present and the future.  One has to at the same time push the boundaries out and coax the group to come along; one has to translate and align well enough to secure resources and commitment from the stakeholders while at the same time reallocating those resources internally to sustain ongoing work and foster new initiatives.  Shifting the resources (whether dollars or people or space or time) is the only chance to shape new directions but the leader also has to explain why this is good, help the organization reprioritize its work, set a shared tone and reassure people that they can tackle the change.  Sometimes you just sound like a cheesy salesperson – “trust me!”  It takes a certain amount of nerve and courage.

 Tell us about your perspective on the next generation of leaders in your library.  What characteristics would your “perfect candidate” need to have?

Flexibility and a can-do, problem-solving attitude are essential!  And although we want new leaders to come with some particular professional strength and skills, we also want them to be able to understand all parts of the operation, to be able to take over new areas if needed, and to have strong team-building and communication abilities.  The caveat I would make is that new leaders need to learn patience and compromise.  It is easy to get frustrated either with one’s colleagues or one’s institution when you feel you can’t move fast enough or get full support.  There are so many ways to move an idea forward if you phase it or pilot it or try some temporary approaches or take a chance on a person you hadn’t previously viewed in that light.  Project management, assessment, strategic planning and professional writing are skills that in many ways are more important than library science once one is in a leadership position; other team members can be the source of technical know-how but the leader needs to put these wider organizational skills into action.  These skills are the kinds of things that everyone thinks they know how to do, but that can actually require solid training in order to do well.  (Including writing administrative documents!)

Can you take us back through your career and give us an idea of any significant leadership practices, resources and/or people that enhanced your desire to be a library leader?

I never thought I wanted to be a director or a leader, but it sort of dawned on me along the way, certainly with the guidance of a variety of peers and mentors.  I started out at the Library of Congress in public services and collection development, and thought that I wanted to aim for a chief collection development officer sort of role – something I have not ever achieved!  I began to want more control over my own work – not more control over others – and thought about whether to pursue a PhD, but opted for the “bird in the hand” and sought a promotion at LC.  I realized I wanted to be in an academic library and that transition proved to be a little more difficult to accomplish, so I applied for the management internship offered by the (then) Council on Library Resources.  This was a real turning point for me; even though I had been active in ALA and ACRL, I really had never seen how library directors got things done via organizations like ARL and OCLC/RLG, and how directors interacted with donors, foundations and external boards.  Emerging from that, I was nominated for a position at the Association of Research Libraries, another transformative experience and one that I never would have thought to pursue if it weren’t for good advice from a mentor.  One learns a great deal spending a few years in a “meta library” organization like a consortium or a vendor, even if ultimately you return to a library as I did.  I will say that over the time I worked at ARL we were having some of the worst years of the serials crisis and I thought, all these directors are so depressed, I would never want a job like that!  My first directorship, at Smith College, was actually a nod back to my original subject specialty in women’s studies; but I found I had no time to explore research projects in the collections, I was too busy with management and technology and consortial planning and campus advocacy.  All of which, it turned out, were fascinating and energizing to me.  That set me on the path to where I am today.  When people ask me about mentors, what I’ve realized is that you need many, many people to help you, in different ways at different times.  You can seek special experiences and be open to learning from people without getting into a rigid model of expecting one person to fulfill your expectations of a mentor.  And even once you are an experienced director, bad and difficult stuff happens and you can’t share it with your staff, you have to go seek out personal advice, often cautiously and indirectly; you need to know where you can turn.  In my experience those may be other library directors, or it may be a faculty member or an administrator from another part of campus; once again, it’s about trust.

I think there is a strong connection between leadership and trust, and it is needed because there is also a direct connection between leadership and risk.

One last question: What leader are you keeping your eye on right now? Why?

Tyler Walters, dean of libraries at Virginia Tech, and just appointed as the first director of the SHARE initiative (a joint project of the ARL, the AAU and the APLU).  Tyler has been a very innovative library director focusing on new roles for libraries, libraries as publishers, and models for digital scholarship.  The SHARE initiative, which has been under development for some time, has the potential to be a real game-change not only for libraries but for faculty and universities overall.  It establishes a new model for university collaboration, library repository sharing and the management of access to research results.  It was established in response to the new U.S. government mandates for public access to data and publications from research funded by Federal agencies, but ultimately it will be transformative of the entire network of research repositories and data archives.  See more at  

Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.  

Leading Voices: Steven Bell

Rolf Janke

Our goal for On Leadership is to highlight relevant issues around leadership in the library. Today, we’re thrilled to feature Steven Bell and find out his take on the future of the library. Steven writes two popular columns for Library Journal, Leading from the Library and From the Bell Tower, as well as serving as a librarian at Temple University. Read on to find out about Steven’s philosophy of merging business leadership with librarian leadership and how he’s arrived at a place where his real passion is giving back

 Steven Bell

Steven Bell

Name: Steven Bell

Professional Title: Associate University Librarian

Organization: Temple University


Columns: Leading from the Library, From the Bell Tower


Steven, you are recognized by many as a popular resource on the topic of leadership in your profession. Can you share with us some of the steps/highlights of your journey?

When great leaders in the world of librarianship come to mind, I feel that I am still learning to understand and working to acquire the leadership skills and qualities I admire in those individuals. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that others might consider me a resource on the topic of leadership. I’d like to think that other librarians, in formal and informal positions of leadership, are joining me on a journey of discovery in which we learning together how to be better leaders for our colleagues and communities. While I’ve learned a great deal about leadership during my career, I still aspire to be a student of leadership. I take to heart what Kouzes and Posner have said about the best leaders realizing it’s a process of endless learning.

I’ve held different leadership positions over the last 25 years, including middle management and library director – and a few things in between. Those years include attendance at a variety of leadership training programs, such as a two-week stint at the Harvard Leadership program for academic administrators. Yet the most important things I’ve learned about leading evolve from crucible moments. These are the events that test us as leaders and force us to really live our values, make the tough choices or work through difficult conversations. Readers can learn more by consulting the seminal article on this topic by Bennis and Thomas or get a copy of Thomas’ book based on the article, Crucible of Leadership. I realized I experienced these crucibles in every leadership position I worked, and that each one contributed to my growth as a leader. It was truly a learning process.

Earlier in my career, like many academic librarians, I published articles and did presentations that were based on library projects (e.g. “how we did it good”), sharing information about a program, technology innovation or research results. It was a more academic style of communication. Around 1995 I decided that I wanted to do more than just write these technical pieces. I was looking for new challenges, and decided to move in the direction of writing thought essays or opinion pieces and designing presentations around topics that would be less technical and more inspirational. This transition took quite a few years. There were more than a few rejections. I believed that expressing my thoughts and opinions was a form of leadership in that I was articulating, on a small scale, a position that readers could choose to follow or reject. It also seemed more valuable to get beyond just sharing information and instead try to make a real difference for other librarians by challenging them to take action, think differently or try something new.

Starting ACRL’s ACRLog blog in 2005 was an important step in helping me find my voice as a leader.  As an academic librarian writing about higher education, I wanted to bring the issues of the day to the attention of my academic library colleagues and get them thinking more deeply about how it affected their library practice. The experience strengthened my confidence in communicating what was on my mind. It was an opportunity to take some risks with provocative topics, and then have readers take me to task with their comments. While that definitely helped sharpen my writing, I also learned to not take myself so seriously. Sometimes it’s better to write with spontaneity and worry less about getting it just right. If I get it wrong, the readers will let everyone know.

Fast forward to 2011 when I decided to do more writing and speaking specifically about leadership. In part I wanted to challenge myself to try something totally new to see if I could succeed, but I also believed I had something to contribute to the profession. I wanted to make it clear that I was not presenting myself as a leadership guru, an expert who would tell everyone else what they should do or believe. My aspiration in delving into the world of leadership communication was to share ideas, discuss leadership fundamentals and point to good resources to help other aspiring library leaders, at any career level, learn to become a better leader with a cause – to make the library a better place for community and staff members.

I’m incredibly appreciative of the editors at Library Journal who responded positively to my proposal for a new monthly column called Leading From the Library. In my first column, which appeared in April of 2012, I shared my rationale for why I wanted to write about leadership and what I hoped to accomplish with the column. So far I think the response is mostly positive, and I hope the column has been of benefit to library leaders at all levels of the profession. I’ve been fortunate to give a few talks and lead some webinars on leadership topics. It’s an entirely new challenge for me, and I get great questions and ideas from librarians in the audience – which sometimes leads to a new column. 

If, as you state in your question, I am a resource for others to learn about leadership, the philosophy I bring to this role is that it is a shared journey. Id like to think that those who read my columns or attend a talk are learning about leadership right along with me as part of their personal leadership journey. And speaking of journeys, Im definitely closer to the end of my own than I am at the beginning. Looking ahead, Im hoping to leverage more opportunities to share what I know with early and mid-career colleagues - to practice some giveback librarianship and make the rest of the journey about creating learning experiences for the next generation.

You focus often on the connection between "business leadership and librarian leadership." How can librarians learn from today’s business leaders? Vice versa?

If you’re a reader of my leadership columns, you know I make references to business leaders and make use of examples from the world of business. Expect mentions of new ideas from the world of business as well. My experience is that business and librarianship tend to clash. There is a reason many of us went into librarianship and not real estate, or left retail bookstores for libraries. Many librarians have a natural distrust of the corporate world, and it’s not uncommon for librarians, when taking an anti-business stance, to emphatically state that libraries are not a business. Perusing a recent issue of Library Journal, I was not surprised to read a letter to the editor expressing a negative reaction to an article that referred to libraries as an “industry” and advocated marketing. The letter writer found it “disturbing”. Fortunately, another letter writer, shared a completely different perspective on why it’s important for libraries to practice marketing.

One thing you need to know about me, to better understand why I connect with lessons from the world of business, is that I was a business librarian for many years. Initially I worked in a consulting firm – a really fast-paced office environment - where I’d be doing research on different industries and business practices on any given day. It was a great learning experience, and I leveraged my business research expertise to land a job in academia. I worked at the Lippincott Library at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School for nearly a dozen years. It could be a high pressure environment because the students and faculty are reluctant to take no for an answer, and they really push you to be exhaustive. Excelling in that situation requires you to have real passion for business and a desire to constantly improve your knowledge of finance, management and leadership, marketing, entrepreneurship and more. This may help you to understand why I want to share my passion for business with my library colleagues. If you are going to promote the value of taking advice and learning from the lessons of business – and that means learning from the mistakes as well – you can expect some pushback from librarians. I’ve come to anticipate that.

I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed that libraries and higher education should be run like businesses, or corporatized as some like to say. As organizations, we have different priorities. That said, I do believe there are things we can learn from the world of business, practices that we can adopt or emulate, theories we can apply to our own organizations that could allow our libraries to better serve community members. That also applies to how we function as leaders, and there are good lessons library leaders can take away from business. To the librarians who say we have nothing in common with business, I ask, have you looked around your library lately? Do you have self-check machines? Thank the success of ATMs for that. Do you use virtual chat service to provide online help? Where do you think that practice and technology originated? Corporate call centers. Are you using e-commerce solutions to allow for online payments? Those are just a few examples of how libraries borrow from business and adapt the practices to their environment. It’s shortsighted to deny there is value in learning from the world of business.

When I discover a business leader who I think librarians can learn from, I’m likely to share that in a Leading From the Library column. For example, I went to a lecture on my campus given by Karol Wasylyshyn (pronounced WA-SA-LISH-IN) in which she was sharing her experiences in coaching corporate executives. Wasylyshyn’s professional expertise is psychology and I thought her research blending it with leadership analysis was really fascinating. Based on her studies of corporate leaders she developed some useful knowledge on the characteristics of what she calls the remarkable leader. Since I thought it was worth sharing I wrote a column about it, and I think her advice for leaders would be applicable to any library environment. But if you immediately wrote off any idea coming out of business as something to avoid or ignore, you’d truly be denying yourself a good opportunity to learn how to be a better leader.

Librarians can learn lessons of value from the world of business, but they need to be open to the possibilities – and they need to delve further into the literature of business. Give it a start by subscribing to the RSS feed for the Harvard Business Review blogs. Many of the blogs cover workplace interaction, human resources, work-life balance and many other good topics all leaders need to know. Pick up a copy of BusinessWeek or Fortune. Discover a new trend. Once you get past thinking that business is solely about greed, exploitation and destruction, you might learn something new.

Vice-versa? That’s a bit trickier. But if we can modify that slightly to say “How could higher education leaders (or civic leaders…or school leaders) learn from librarians, I think there are definitely some librarianship lessons we could offer. Quite simply, we’re masters of resource sharing, and when business, political and non-profits leaders are looking for new efficiencies for the new normal, I think they could learn more from librarians. One of the ideas I’ve promoted is the value librarians bring to their organizations as grassroots leaders. In this capacity, librarians are proactive about leading change on their campus or in their community. Grassroots leaders don’t wait to be asked to get involved, they see a need and take action. The opportunities to lead lie where there are gaps between what people want or need and what they currently have. Non-library leaders could learn a great deal from our grassroots movement to reform scholarly publishing. Are corporate CEOs likely to start paying attention to academic librarians? Probably not, but I suspect we can do better in taking our message out to politicians, college presidents and other non-profit leaders. There are so many smart, hardworking people in this profession who have great things to share with their communities. Good leaders should always be looking for new and different places to learn about leadership. Why not libraries?

If you had five minutes to describe the importance of leadership to a roomful of recent MLS graduates, what would you say?

I would definitely advise them to become students of leadership, even if they currently are averse to that possibility. If they entered this profession believing it to be a safe haven from critical decision making, the challenges of managing and leading others, and the need to have a voice for taking positions on different issues, I would portray that as a misperception and establish a rationale for the need to lead.

The problem with learning about leadership and management in library school is that we typically enter the profession with a position that offers no or little opportunity for leadership responsibility. By the time you find yourself in that position, what you learned in library school is probably going to be of little use. But if they are self-motivated to learn about leadership, the necessary resources are out there.

I’d encourage them to express an interest in exploring leadership opportunities, so that when opportunities arise to attend a local leadership institute or webinar their supervisor will be better positioned to support it. I’d tell them not to underestimate the value of joining professional associations for the leadership opportunities they offer.

My message would emphasize the significant challenges facing librarians working in all sectors of the profession. As we have observed and learned repeatedly, we only advance as a profession and in our ability to advocate for our community members when courageous leaders step forward as idea champions to create change in their libraries and communities. Newcomers to our profession need to know it’s not too early in their library careers to start grooming themselves for leadership roles, both for their own advancement and the advancement of our profession.

For all this I might need six minutes.

What leader/s are you keeping your eye on right now? Why?

Two in particular, Roger Martin and Tony Schwartz.

Martin is the Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. I’ve been following his work since I read his 2009 book The Design of Business. His theories about how mysteries evolve into heuristics and then algorithms – and why settling into algorithms can be problematic and that we must continually explore new mysteries – really resonated with me. It’s also a great book about design thinking which is topic I’ve been interested in since co-authoring a book about it in 2007. The reason I’m keeping an eye on Martin now are the ideas generated by his more recent book on strategy. I really like how he takes a much more simplified approach to developing an organization strategy, and the ways he explains the differences between strategy and planning. There’s much to learn here about moving away from more traditional approaches to strategic planning, such as streamlining the process and focusing on where you want to improve or create new services and determining how you get there. When the pace of change is greatly accelerated, the value of a 3-year or 5-year plan is diminished. I think Martin’s approach to developing strategy makes much more sense for positioning the library to take an “emergent” approach in order to take advantage of opportunities and new technologies that fit into the strategy.

One area of leadership where my own practices could use improvement is work-life balance. My position as an AUL at a research library already requires many hours, and I tend to make things harder by writing columns, taking on speaking engagements, serving on professional committees, serving as a journal editor (portal), answering requests for advice or participation from library colleagues and more. It all adds up and more often than not the scale tips in favor of work instead of life. Schwartz is the CEO and founder of The Energy Project. I first started reading his HBR blog columns, but more recently he is writing longer pieces for the New York Times and other publications. His area of expertise is helping leaders improve their work-life balance and creating better work environments for their staff. Schwartz is a firm believer in the importance of creating and sustaining a healthy work place where employees want to be. His range of topics includes pieces about getting enough sleep, eliminating distractions in life or understanding why people hate their jobs. While I may struggle in this area, I always look forward to new columns and posts from Schwartz because they always inspire me – and I think any librarian will learn good lessons from Schwartz.

Many thanks to Mission Bell Media for inviting me to answer these questions. I greatly appreciate this opportunity to share my thoughts as a student of leadership.

Follow Steven on Twitter at blendedlib

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ALA Launch Party: Las Vegas

Rolf Janke

Last night, Mission Bell Media raised a toast Las Vegas style during the ALA Annual Conference. CEO, Rolf Janke, hosted a penthouse cocktail party at the Bellagio to celebrate the launch of Mission Bell Media.

Colleagues, librarians and friends came together to support the vision of MBM and our first titles slated for Spring 2015 release. As a company focused solely on leadership, it was wonderful to be surrounded by such a great group of leaders from the publishing and academic library industry. 

 The Mission Bell Media team.

The Mission Bell Media team.

 New ALA President Courtney Young with Rolf Janke.

New ALA President Courtney Young with Rolf Janke.

Leading Voices: Sue Polanka

Rolf Janke

On Leadership aims to highlight relevant issues centered on leadership in the library. We are pleased to welcome today a librarian and leader, Sue Polanka. Sue’s popular blog, No Shelf Required focuses on the issues of electronic reference in the library.


Name:  Sue Polanka

Professional Title:  Interim Associate University Librarian and Head of Reference and Instruction

Organization: Wright State University Libraries

Blog: No Shelf Required

As a recognized leader of the business of ebooks in the library, can you comment on what challenges librarians face with the growing number of business models for ebook purchasing?

Libraries are challenged with finding a sustainable business model that provides access with few barriers. Due to the variety of publishers, aggregators, and licenses available, this can be a difficult task to achieve.  Often they must give up something (unlimited use, ILL, other resources) in order to pay for access to the content needed. Most libraries also did not receive a pot of gold in their budget to pay for this new format so many are juggling with decreasing or flat budgets to pay for ebooks while maintaining access to other book formats and material types.  Business models are just one of the many challenges librarians are faced with regarding ebooks.  Marketing, accessibility, preservation, multiple interfaces, training, compatibility with devices, cost, discovery, ILS integration, and a host of other issues arise when working with ebooks. 


In your new position as Associate University Librarian at Wright State University Library (congratulations!), what leadership aspects are you most looking forward to in this new position?

One of the tasks I will complete in my role is updating our strategic plan.  I’m really looking forward to learning more about the planning process, working with colleagues to do an environmental scan, and aligning the library’s plan with the university’s strategic plan.  I also will serve on a newly formed assessment team.  Our team is conducting a data audit and will use this information to help us decide how to share data with stakeholders and determine what new data we should collect to measure the success of our goals and objectives. We hope to launch several studies in the next couple of years – building use and faculty use of/satisfaction with the library are just a couple of ideas.  I think the strategic plan and assessment plan will be key tools to help the library move forward.

If you were to mentor a newly minted LIS graduate coming to work in your library, what would be the first piece of advice you would give to them?

 Thank you, Sue!

Thank you, Sue!

Fail often and recover quickly. That’s advice I usually give everyone.  I think it shows you are open to exploring the full range of opportunities that libraries can offer and willing to accept when something isn’t working and change the situation. When you fail, (and you will), accept the blame, learn from your mistakes, and move on.  I might also tell them when someone says, “we’ve always done it this way” (and yes, they will hear that A LOT in libraries) to challenge it. 

What leader are you keeping your eye on right now? Why?

There is not one particular leader who receives my full attention.  So many people have leadership abilities so I tend to watch how leaders interact in their environment and learn from the positive and challenging things they do.  I do that with public speakers as well!  I can always add more to my tool kit, so I just keep my eyes and ears open for those opportunities to learn.  


Want more? Check out a round-up of all our leaders and innovators here.