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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

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!