I attended the annual Library Leadership Institute organized by The University of Hong Kong Libraries from 22-26 April in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is already the 14th year for the program, and the theme for this iteration was “Library Leadership in a Disruptive World” Today & Tomorrow”.
Being a very well-known program among academic librarians in Hong Kong, many of my colleagues at HKBU have attended the Institute previously, which is held in a different city every year. As the only representative from my institution this year, I was initially very excited but also nervous at the same time. Despite this mix of emotions, I gradually “warmed up” to it and fully immersed myself in the program over the five days. The exceptional logistics arrangements made by the core planning team (from both Hong Kong and Malaysia) was definitely one of the factors that made my stay enjoyable. I was very impressed by their meticulous attention to details and willingness to help. After all, it is not an easy task to organize a five-day program for 46 participants and 5 facilitators from outside of Hong Kong.
Before going to Malaysia, I got to chat with a few colleagues who attended the program in the past. All of them mentioned the unique opportunity to network with library professionals from various parts of Asia. This also happens to be the aspect that I valued the most from my own experience. I had the opportunity to meet so many librarians from the region, including Mainland China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Singapore, and of course Malaysia. There are librarians who have had a few years of professional experience like myself, and also those with many years of experience who already hold very senior positions at their own libraries. It was so interesting to learn about their institutions and their students, hear their personal stories of going into the library profession, and the challenges they face at work.
One observation that occurs to me over and over again is the fact that these stories and experiences shared are so different but yet so similar at the same time. They are so different because each institution has its own uniqueness, which can be seen in their organizational structure, student body, qualifications for hiring librarians, etc. Certain things are done certain ways based on the specific context of the library. However, even with very different institutional contexts, some common themes do emerge. For example: students’ over-reliance on Google for academic information and how it poses a challenge for instructional librarians; and students’ need for more electric outlets in the Library and how library space planning should account for this seemingly basic but important need.
With brilliant logistics and eager participants, the facilitators played the important role of “gluing” everything together. Other than the two facilitators/presenters from HKU Libraries—Peter Sidorko (University Librarian) and Y.C. Wan (Deputy University Librarian)—who have been with the program from the very beginning, all of the overseas facilitators are returning facilitators who have participated in the program at least 1-2 times. Their background and professional experiences are listed on the program website: https://lib.hku.hk/leadership/#Principal_Facilitators.
I learned so much from each of the facilitators. They took turns to speak on different broad topics in the library world and shared specific examples from their own institutions or past experiences. All of the presentations are available on the program website: https://lib.hku.hk/leadership/2016_ppt/index.html
Instead of summarizing everything they said, I just want to list some key takeaways of my own from each of the facilitators:
- Steve O’Connor, Editor of the journal Library Management, Adjunct Professor at Charles Sturt University and the Director of Information Exponentials
Steve was all about showing us the big picture. He provided us a lot of examples of disruptive models in other industries: how the hotel industry was disrupted by Airbnb, how the taxi industry was disrupted by Uber, and the most memorable example of all—how Kodak imaging products industry got disrupted by digital photography, despite the ironic fact that Kodak was the company that invented digital photography. Essentially, for me, the take-home message is the importance of change management, and in order to stay relevant, libraries need to embrace new trends and models.
- Jeffrey Trzeciak, University Librarian, Washington University Libraries
I think a lot of participants would agree with me that the most emotionally-moving piece in the program was the “Documenting Ferguson” project shared by Jeff. It is about building a digital archive of social media content related to the Ferguson riots as the events were unfolding. Among many of the important issues that Jeff talked about, this case study really demonstrated the active role that a Library could play in engaging with its community, especially as important events such as the Ferguson riots unfold. His sharing turned everyone in the room into active citizens. Everyone thought hard about the events happening in their own community and ways that their library could steward, provide access to, and preserve materials (often times born-digital) related to these events.
- Dianne Cmor, Deputy University Librarian, Nanyang Technological University
When it comes to the art of facilitating, Dianne definitely knows what she is doing. Bringing with her a lot of humour and energy, Dianne reminded us to be outward-looking, and that academic libraries can no longer be just about academic libraries. Librarians should stay current with major trends in higher education, and carefully map them to local contexts and priorities. In turn, these would guide the type of initiatives that the Library develops as a result.
Overall, my experience of the program was positive. I got a lot out of it, both in terms of networking with librarians in the Asia region, and also engaging in discourse about our profession.
Finally, as expected, a lot of photo documentation happened throughout the program, and all of the photos are available here: https://lib.hku.hk/leadership/2016_photos/index.html
Text by: Chloe