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FROM THE TRANSPORTATION DIVISION CHAIR

In Toronto, at our annual business meeting, I told a story about past-chair Betty Lou Hicks. Of course, it’s a much better story when she tells it herself. But I asked her if it would be OK to tell, because it exemplifies my theme for the year. She said yes.

You see, Betty Lou has always been a problem solver for her employer, Hanson Professional Services of Springfield, Illinois. She has, from the beginning, solved problems for them that they didn’t even know they had.

When Hanson needed to close one of their offices in Virginia, Betty Lou volunteered, because that’s what she does. She sees what needs to be done, and she just does it. The person who sent Betty Lou had no idea that closing the office meant finalizing agreements on leased equipment, nor did he know that the furniture, which he said to just put in storage, was too valuable to just put away somewhere. Betty Lou had a better idea. She rented a truck, had the furniture loaded up, and she drove the truck back to Springfield—just in time for Christmas Eve.

“Make Yourself Necessary” is my theme for the year, inspired by a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay entitled “Considerations by the Way” from Conduct of Life. Betty Lou has made herself necessary to her organization, and this is something we all can do—indeed, it is something we all must do. This is an age—some would say that we have already left the information age—when those who will thrive are those with the vision to see where value is lacking and who will take the initiative to fill that value gap, whether it is a part of their job descriptions or not. In fact, sticking only to the tasks and functions in your job description is a sure way to create your own obsolescence, because the nature of change today ensures that your job description is obsolete as soon as it is written.

What is the benefit to those who make themselves necessary? And, of course, this is an evaluation that must be made by those to whom you have made yourself necessary; it doesn’t count if you’re necessary only in your own mind. It means that you’ll be the last one to go if downsizing should ever infect your organization. It means that you never have to prove your value or justify what you do. In Betty Lou’s case, it means being afforded resources that would make most librarians drool. She’s made herself necessary, and she’s very well rewarded for it.

The theme for the 2006 annual conference in Baltimore is “Where Tradition and Transformation Converge.” The tradition part we have down pat. We know what we have to do to be skilled library professionals, and, as a profession we have done it. Now we must transform. This requires leadership. I know that a lot of people are turned off when they hear about leadership. Their ambitions don’t direct them to want to be in charge. But we now understand leadership to be not about the position that you hold, but, rather, it is about the person you have become. And, as Dr. Covey says, it’s about finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs. It’s all part of making yourself necessary.

Other items from the annual business meeting included welcoming the new division executive board: Betty Lou Hicks, past chair, Matthew Barrett, chair-elect, Lisa Pogue, treasurer, and Rita Evans, filling in for Jane Watson as secretary while Jane recovers from some health setbacks.

Another high point of the business meeting in Toronto was being able to present the Transportation Division’s Professional Achievement Award to Jerry Baldwin of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. See Jerry’s note in this issue.

We’re gathering steam in the Transportation Division. Want to know how you can help us build strength? Send me an email message or give me a call. I’d love to hear from you. Oh, by the way, be sure to have more fun and laugh more while you’re making yourself necessary.

Bob Sweet
bsweet@umich.edu
734 936 1073