A network for new and aspiring library professionals

#LAIcdgAGM16 Leadership and Librarianship: a write up by Siobhán McGuinness

On 14th October, Siobhán attended the annual seminar and AGM of the Career Development Group of the Library Association of Ireland.

This year has been an amazing journey for me in librarianship, in June I was awarded the Career Advancement Award from the Leadership and Management Division of the Special Libraries Association.

This was my welcome into the world of Leadership. The award allowed me travel to Philadelphia and attend SLA’s Conference, here I learned a lot about leadership.


Speakers included Siobhan McGuinness, John Lonergan, Kate Kelly (RCSI), Hugh Murphy (NUIM) & Marie O’Neill (DBS). Source:

On my return the Career Development Group (CDG) of the Library Association of Ireland reached out to me asking would I, as a New Professional be willing to present at their seminar in October. The CDG were building their seminar around Leadership, and as I recently won an award from the Leadership and Management Division they were eager for me to showcase my achievements. I thank the committee for such a huge platform to illustrate to New Professionals how even though you are new to the profession you can still lead and build leadership through your CPD.

The seminar Lead to Succeed: a vision for Irish libraries opened with a non – librarian John Lonergan as our first Keynote speaker. Mr. Lonergan is Former Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Dublin Ireland, a very important job, one where leadership would be a key element in all his management practices.

Mr. Lonergan gave an uplifting and insightful talk, as it was early and the morning was wet and miserable he lifted everyone’s spirts. He spoke in a very honest way in how “to get the best out of others”. Getting the best out of others is to remain true to yourself, remember those core values of self-respect and dignity. Treat people the way you wish to be treated, no one is better than you, and especially in leadership you cannot be above anyone.  Don’t gossip, don’t talk bad about others, don’t burden your staff with your problems, be positive and encouraging at all times. See the problem but always have a solution that encourages everyone to part take in.

Moving on from Mr. Lonergan the next keynote speaker was Kate Kelly, Director of Services of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Mercer Library, Dublin. Kate’s leadership style is to have a vison for your library. See the big picture and advocate this goal or mission to all staff. Having a constant vision for your organisation, you instil an ownership in your staff to succeed, your leadership style is to believe in them, and know that the group as a whole will succeed.

This vision is needed now more so than ever within librarianship states Kate. The need to reinvent the traditional library as technology batters down our doors and tries to take our staff, we need to build a vision that incorporates every element, the old and new.

Kate’s idea of leadership with vision is something I believe in, being confident in a new and exciting plan for libraries. This confidence needs to be given to staff so they feel they can survive in this troubled times for libraries, and know their livelihood is safe.

After a lovely break, along with a great networking opportunity we resumed for the afternoon. My presentation led the way, which you can read a review of here.

Next we had Hugh Murphy a Senior librarian at National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Co. Dublin. Hugh always delivers a fun and honest presentation, and he did just that. He began by confessing that he was very reluctant to do this presentation when approached, as he feared leadership as a librarian was something to shy away from. We as librarians are not very good at talking about how great we are, and anyone in power or any leaders we know, know just how great they are. He questioned aspects like; As a manager are you also a leader? As a manager, do you take ownership of the power in your organisation? How do you control this power? What is power? You need to understand this element when in a role that has great impact on your staff and organisation. Understanding power teaches you to be careful and to control this force.

To end our wonderful seminar, we had Marie O’Neill, Director of Dublin Business School Library, and if anyone knows Marie she encompasses everything leadership. Marie is encouraging, positive, helpful, always ready to push you on and congratulate you in everything you do. As Marie pointed out, what are we doing in Library Schools to teach our new professionals about library leaders? Do we showcase the wonderful library leaders in Ireland and abroad? Because if we don’t how can they think that they can go on and be library leaders?

There is no discussion regarding leadership within libraries, unless you join the various library associations that give that aspect. Unless you as an individual want to explore this avenue in your career. Now more than ever we need to showcase how librarians can lead the way, with the many threats to libraries in Ireland and the UK. The only way we can strengthen ourselves as a profession is to sit down and debate the issues that are affecting us, because any good leaders should know what their argument is and be able to defend it. With so many people in powerful positions making decisions for librarians and libraries we need to stand up and have our say.

Each presentation covered many issues and topics, here I have only touched on a few. If you wish to read more regarding the seminar, please access the Career Development Group website.

In addition, each presenter’s slides are available through Slideshare, and there are contact details for each presenter. Any other queries please email the Career Development Group at:

Thanks to Siobhán for sharing her experience with us. Please get in touch if you’d like to share your experience of an event you have attended.


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