When I tell my colleagues I’m running for President-Elect of SLA, some of them ask me, with looks ranging from skepticism to awe, “Why do you want to do this?” A lot of answers have been tumbling out, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question the same way twice. Just a few short months ago, one of the reasons, I thought, was to give back to all the wonderful mentors I’ve had. But I’m finding, really, it is enlightened self-interest. There is truth in the old saying that the more you give, the more you get.
People are so willing to share their insights, stories and vision for SLA. They want me to know how to move the Association forward. They—you—are trusting me with your insights.
It took a huge dose of courage to step up to this election, and to be honest there is a lot of self-doubt that goes into being a candidate for office. It’s akin to what Joseph Campbell wrote about in his epic Hero With a Thousand Faces. Early on there is a key part of every good story called “The Refusal of the Call.” This is where the reluctant hero argues against his logical path of action and tries to back out. It’s where Luke Skywalker basically told Obi-wan, “Look, I hate the Empire as much as anyone, but there’s nothing I can do about it right now.” It’s what I told myself a thousand times. And then…I agreed to place my name on the ballot.
But now, I’m really glad I stepped up—it’s been an honor already. I don’t know for sure how this ends, but I’m going to give it my best. You’ve entrusted me with your support and wisdom. I’m going to return the favor.
It’s really about volunteerism, in a new wordrobe (get it? word-robe! ha!). Maybe it’s volunteerism on steroids. Its not by any means an American trait. It has its roots in Old World philanthropy and noblesse oblige, in what Alexis de Tocqueville called “enlightened self-interest.”
I want to do my part to make SLA “Future Ready” because I believe it’s critical for the organization. It’s also in my own self-interest to make sure we’re ready for the next stage.
So, what’s in it for you? What enlightened benefits are you getting from your participation in SLA?
When asked about her well-known affinity for SLA, long time member Barb Spiegelman told me that every year, when she enters the Info-Expo at the Annual Conference and looks around at the vendors, the buzz, and the attendees, she can’t help but smile. “These are my people,” she said happily.
I know what she means. I find it so energizing that almost every conversation at the Expo is about libraries, about advancing the profession, about how to deliver information at the right time. I’ve been looking forward to the 2009 Conference for a few weeks now. It’s my chance to talk to people with great ideas about the issues of the day, and to feel good about where I fit in. It’s nice to reconnect with the other members of our “tribe.”
One of the great things about the Internet is the way it pulls people together into self-directed groups. We can follow our favorite bloggers, join mailing lists, surf in web circles, and join Facebook groups, all at our leisure. My thinking is that we are searching for “our people” every time we join one of these electronic tribes.
For example, I recently signed up to join a “twibe.” Another tribe for librarians is on LinkedIn. And of course, there are several different communities at SLA. At every turn, I’ve met librarians who share some of my passions, and it feels great!
Seth Godin, marketing guru and keynote speaker at last year’s SLA Annual Conference, has a new book titled Tribes: We need You to Lead Us. He writes that being part of a tribe is something people hunger for. “Tribes are everywhere now, inside and outside of organizations, in public and in private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection.” (p. 8)
Godin says that great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate. “They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them,” he tells us (p. 23). To me, making connections is a key part of leadership, because the more feedback we get from people we trust, the better the consensus we build.
We seem to be living in the Golden Age of Social Networking, where it is possible to search the entire planet for tribes we’d like to join. Of all the tribes that I am actively part of, my SLA membership is the biggest. Being part of the SLA tribe builds professional meaning, exposes us to new ideas and new trends, and challenges our tendency to settle for the status quo.
So my question for you is, what tribes are you a member of? Who are your people?
cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com