Trainers as Leaders


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Presentation was delivered at the American Library Association Annual Conference (Washington, D.C., June 2010) under the auspices of ALA's Learning Round Table; event featured formal presentations, a panel discussion including a few of those interviewed (Louise Whitaker, Maurice Coleman, and Sandra Smith) for the forthcoming ALA Editions book "Workplace Learning and Leadership:
A Handbook for Library and Nonprofit Trainers" (May 2011), and included discussion between panel and audience members.

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  • You really take on a lot when you agree to tackle a topic like leadership while staying in Washington, D.C.—even if the level of leadership we’re discussing is far less daunting than what usually comes out of our country’s capitol. On the other hand, we would be missing an obvious opportunity if we didn’t note the lessons to be learned from the venue in which we’re presenting today. Leadership, after all, is something which is positively explosive. When it is effective, it lights up skies, draws people together, creates collaborative opportunities and results which are not achieved in any other way.
  • We may not need to lead soldiers into combat, but we do need to act in ways which draw our colleagues along with us. After all, much of what we do involves change, and we all know that those who don’t see the need for change are not going to adapt the changes we are promoting and supporting.
  • We do not have to deal with the issues of a country divided, but we do have the ability—and the responsibility—to help our colleagues develop and maintain the skills they need to resolve conflicts, provide an ever-changing array of services which our customers expect us to provide.
  • And we certainly don’t have to deal with world-shaking conflicts with the entire world looking over our shoulders.
  • Let’s face it: we’re in a business which is meant to be service oriented, not confrontational. We’ve been trained to help people, and all too often we forget that helping people sometimes requires addressing conflicts and problems directly rather than…well, you get the picture(s).
  • Leadership, for most of us, doesn’t mean we have to be bombastic. It’s the day to day incremental efforts we make that lead to long-term and sustainable changes within our organizations, and that’s what our colleagues seem to appreciate most from us.
  • When Lori Reed and I starting working on a book for ALA Editions a year ago, we began by documenting how trainers are, more and more, assuming leadership roles within libraries and nonprofit organizations. We didn’t find a one-size-fits-all model, nor is that what we expected. Interviewing colleagues from the ALA Learning Roundtable ( and from other organizations across the country, we found a group of very passionate, creative, and dedicated people doing what they thought was right. Even though Lori couldn’t be here today—the library for which she works is facing challenges and she couldn’t get away to join us for this discussion—we are lucky to have a few of the people who have been guiding us, and they’re going to share a little of what we’ll be dealing with in the book.
  • Starting with the themes of collaboration and community, we have Maurice Coleman, Technical Trainer for Harford County (MD) Public Library. Maurice’s T Is For Training podcasts draw colleagues from across the country together every other week to discuss workplace learning and performance issues and solutions; they provide a first-rate forum for the exchange of ideas and have been instrumental in further developing a community of learners among those responsible for developing organization-wide communities of learning.
  • Introducing the theme of effective evaluations, we have Louise Whitaker, Training Coordinator from Oklahoma’s Pioneer Library System. Louise, questioning whether consistently high ratings for the courses and workshops offered at Pioneer, completely revised the way evaluations are conducted in an attempt to obtain more useful information from those evaluations.
  • Moving to the heart of library trainers as leaders within their own organizations, we have Sandra Smith, Training and Development Manager from the Denver Public Library system, to get us started with an example of how she helped shape and implement workplace learning and performance programs. Sandra consistently works to be part of the decision-making process in terms of designing and offering learning opportunities for staff at Denver Public rather than simply implementing what others ask her to implement.
  • As you’ve heard from our presenter/panelists today, we each have a leadership role to play in igniting the sparks which brighten our workplaces and make them a better place for all they serve. We hope that the simple—and not-so-simple acts of leadership they’ve described give you some ideas on what you can do with and for your own clients and customers, and we look forward to seeing what our own community of learning helps inspire as you return home after the 2010 ALA Conference.
  • Here are a few resources for those who want to explore the themes we’ve discussed today.
  • Trainers as Leaders

    1. 1. Trainers as Leaders A discussion with Paul Signorelli, Presenter/Moderator Maurice Coleman Sandra Smith Louise Whitaker Presenters/Panelists ALA Annual Conference Washington, D.C. Sunday, June 27, 2010 10:30 am – noon Sponsored by the ALA Learning Roundtable
    2. 2. Leaders are Inspirational
    3. 3. Leaders Find Creative Solutions to Insurmountable Problems
    4. 4. Leaders Are Not Afraid to Tackle Difficult Issues
    5. 5. And They Don’t Ignore What They Are Facing
    6. 6. We Don’t Need to Be Flashy
    7. 7. Sometimes the Quiet Reflective Moments Mean the Most
    8. 8. Collaboration & Community: Maurice Coleman, Harford County (MD) Public Library & T is for Training
    9. 9. Evaluation: Louise Whitaker, Pioneer Library System
    10. 10. Working With Decision-Makers: Sandra Smith, Denver Public Library
    11. 11. Creating Sparks
    12. 12. A Few Leadership Resources
    13. 13. Credits <ul><li>(Images taken from photostreams unless otherwise noted): Fireworks over Washington D.C., from Tsraveling’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Washington Crossing Delaware, photo from Lindsinnewyork’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Photo of Abraham Lincoln from Library of Congress American Memory Online Digital Project. </li></ul><ul><li>Obama and McChrystal, from mcxc2006’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Ostrich from Mchll323’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Ducks from Bill in STL’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Volcano, from Emstrur’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Library of Congress Main Reading Room, from Gumper_11’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Denver Public Library photo from Andrei Portugues Rosa’s photostream at </li></ul><ul><li>Sparkler, from Miller foto+grafik’s photostream at </li></ul>