On Leadership is our blog highlighting relevant issues centered on leadership in the library. It is a platform to speak with a variety of current leaders in the library. Working together we can gain insight and start a wider conversation on the future of the library and how to best get there. We’re excited to have Courtney Young as our first featured guest leader. Who better to kick things off than the President-elect for ALA?
Name: Courtney L. Young
Professional Title: Librarian and Professor of Women’s Studies
Organization: Penn State Greater Allegheny
How would you describe your leadership experience in your professional journey thus far?
My experience has been all about taking advantage of opportunities. I have participated in professional activities that interested me, some that fit my skill set, and all of them helped me develop and improve my skills. I’ve also taken risks which have really allowed me to grow as a professional.
As President of the American Library Association, what do you see as the biggest challenges for the next generation of library leaders?
There are a number of challenges for the emerging generation of library leaders. The succession planning has been sporadic. Changing responsibilities and expectations for the role of libraries mean some are not as prepared to take on leadership roles. Being able to say yes to leadership opportunities is also a major barrier.
Did you have a leadership mentor who inspired you and what leadership characteristics did your mentor have that influenced you most?
I have been fortunate to have a number of leadership mentors. Each one of them saw my leadership potential and encouraged me to be a leader. They also encouraged me to say yes to opportunities. My mentors are confident, thoughtful, and value collaboration. They ask good questions and do not assume they have all the answers. They have excellent communication skills, are passionate about their work in libraries, and they know how to have fun.
If you had the opportunity to have lunch with any world leader, who would it be and why?
This is a really difficult question to answer! It would be amazing to sit down with Mother Teresa who led by doing and demonstrated a quiet leadership. I would also enjoy having lunch with Ann Richards who was passionate, had a big personality and a great sense of humor. Finally, sitting down with President Barak Obama would be fun. He represents leadership in the 21st century, a blend of known and new ideas and very accessible.