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Reflection – Management Lessons I Learned as DC/SLA Chapter President

Reflection – Management Lessons I Learned as DC/SLA Chapter President

By Lyle Minter, Past President of DC/SLA

Plan your work—work your plan.

When I started my year as Chapter President, I met with the President-Elect and Past President, and we planned our programs for the entire year. The President-Elect was in charge of programming and I shared with her all the evaluations I had collected the year before when I was managing the programs. This gave us good ideas of what had worked, what hadn’t, and what members wanted to see in the new program year. We also planned the major agenda item to be covered at each of the monthly chapter board meetings, for example, budget in January. That way board members and advisors could think about the issue to be discussed and prepare questions and requests.

Be inclusive and consult with others.

As we were planning our programs, we tried to make sure of a balance between lunchtime and evening activities, free and for-fee events, and in-town and suburban locations. That way we hoped to make chapter activities accessible to the greatest number of members.

Put first things first.

Board meetings had gotten very long in the busy years before I became a leader as the Chapter flourished and grew. Many people regretted that the board meetings could last from 6:30 to 10:00 p.m., with new business considered after all the reports–when we were tired and eager to get home on a work night. So the year I was president we reversed the agenda, handling new business first when we were fresh and had everyone’s undivided attention. After we had dealt with the budget, or the strategic plan update, the awards nominations, or our major decision item for the month, we turned to hearing our reports. Board members appreciated this streamlined approach and we got through the reports efficiently enough to make an early departure. I think our longest board meeting that year was 90 minutes! People appreciate that we’re organized and value their time as well as our own.

Stay in touch.

Since the internet was still an academic domain, I spent a lot of time on the telephone. I spoke at least weekly with the President-Elect and the Past President, to hear about what chapter members were saying and to make sure we were staying on target with our plans. I also talked to members who had volunteered for a task or who had asked a question at a program. Keeping in touch with people shows them they are important, and there’s no better feeling in the world.

Reach out to partners.

The year I was President-Elect and the next as President I met with the District of Columbia Library Association (DCLA) in the summer before the DCSLA program year began. We shared program ideas and set the dates for our annual joint programs, the holiday party that hosted both groups and the Joint Spring Workshop. That way the groups had two shared events in the year, one a social event and the other an education and training event. Then throughout the year as we set program dates and particulars, we shared them so as not to set up possible conflicts for members.

You can’t do it alone.

I learned to delegate to other board members and committee chairs/members. It’s just impossible to stay on top of all the details of membership, programming, hospitality, finance, etc., all alone. I had a tremendously capable group of colleagues to help with all these tasks. So I set goals and deadlines, and checked in frequently to make sure everything stayed on track. It’s hard to trust others this way, but it surely works when you do try it. Of course you have to accept that there is usually more than one way to complete a task, and sometimes force yourself to relax as you let others try it their own way!

Say thank-you.

When I was Chapter President I tried to say thank you as often as I possibly could–in board meetings, at Chapter events, in newsletters. I sent holiday cards to each board member and committee chair to acknowledge my great appreciation for their work. It’s wonderful to receive positive feedback, and it’s just as gratifying to give it out.

Our DCSLA chapter is a strong and proud organization that has been helping us grow as information professionals for more than 75 years. The lessons I learned working with other SLA leaders carried over into my work as a librarian in the Department of Defense and at the Library of Congress. I am deeply grateful for that!

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