Super Conference Reflections: Leadership & Advocacy

First in a series of reflections on my Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2012 experience.

The theme of this conference was innovation, which to me is at the core of advocacy and leadership. Some of the speakers whose ideas resonated with me were:

Tom Wujec: Wujec was the Wednesday evening plenary speaker, kicking off this wonderful conference. His focus was on innovation, how it is at the core of economic growth, and how to foster it. He completely wowed us with examples of current innovations in design from many fields. I was particularly intrigued in his thoughts on visualization as a strategic planning tool. He actually got us to make a strategic plan at our table groups using post-it notes, and without speaking. Lots of ideas here!

Jonah Lehrer: A neuroscientist by qualifications, Lehrer connects knowledge about how we tick physically to how we function socially. I was particularly taken with his ideas on “grit”. Creative people combine passion with the drive and hard work needed to realize their ideas. He talked about creativity and thinking. It turns out that our drive to keep our students focussed on learning tasks might be stifling the reflective thinking that’s needed to fuel the “aha” moments.

Stephen Abram: Abram is the guru of environmental scanning for libraries – the importance of basing innovative practices on the contexts of our times and of our library users. Continuing a series begun at last year’s conference, Abrams interviewed a panel of “post-Millenials”, ages 18-22. “Grades 12-15!” What do they want from libraries? More gathering places, digital spaces and collections, multimedia facilities and supports, specialized libraries and collections, help for and connections with 21st century literacies and learning.

Ken Haycock & Wendy Newman: Being very familiar with the work of both speakers, I knew that the “Ford vs. Atwood” title of their advocacy session provided an engaging hook for substantive and useful content. They gave advice about effective strategies for advocacy, based on extensive research and experience. Turns out that alignment, building strategic partnerships, networking and demonstrations of effective practice fuel effective advocacy. Righteous indignation? Not so much. Words of wisdom from the very wise.

Neil Pasricha: Was awesome! How the simplest things in life can bring us the most happiness.

Other Highlights: Leadership & Advocacy in Action

OSLA & OLA Awards: As ever, the passion of award winners and more importantly, their stories of leadership, proved very inspiring. The OSLA’s Teacher-Librarian of the Year, Bernard Dowling of the HWCDSB, told a story of connecting with learners and finding support for his leadership through the freedom and confidence given to him by his principals over the years. Administrator of the Year Helen Fisher of the TDSB is exactly the kind of principal that Bernard was speaking about – one who understands how school libraries move learning forward and then helps make it so. People for Education received the OSLA’s Award for Special Achievement for keeping school library issues in the forefront of the Ontario education debate through their research and advocacy. You are awesome, Annie Kidder and P4E! People for Education Reports: School Libraries in Ontario

The Ontario Library Association’s Media and Communications Award went to Michael Lajoie-Wilkinson, the high school student activist who lead the protest against the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board’s decision to close school libraries, which was reversed by the Ministry of Education, as reported by Global News.


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