Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rita Bornstein and Legitimacy

I met Rita a recent event and was struck by how closely she engaged with me. She certainly understands active listening and I can see why she was such a successful fund raiser, amongst other things. I hope I get the chance to get to know her better as I spend more time at Rollins.

When we talked about my plans for the library she recommended her book, "Legitimacy in the academic presidency : from entrance to exit." We have it in the Olin collection at LB2341 .B596 2003, but I have it checked out at the moment -- sorry. It is available at the Winter park Public Library in both print (3rd Floor - Adult Nonfiction 378.111 Bor) and as an e-book.

Reading this book is an eye opening experience for me. I am only part way through, but each page has at least one of what I think of as intellectual depth charges. Ideas that sink into your mind and then explode making links to current and previous experiences and spawning ideas that I am finding really fruitful.

There are so many differences between an academic president and a library director, but they are both leadership positions and as a new director I am finding the points that Rita makes, and those that she quotes from other writers on academic leadership, to be really useful.

I also think this concept of legitimacy can also be a useful lens through which to view an institution like a library. Libraries enjoy an enormous reservoir of legitimacy in academe and in our wider society. There is a reason why everyone and his brother wants to call their newest Internet start up a "library." This institutional legitimacy is something that has been built up over the decades, perhaps centuries, by diligent librarians working in the print environment, building collections and services that met the long term needs of their users. As we move further into this hybrid world of print and digital collections and services, we need to make sure that we retain this legitimacy and built it anew as information providers in the digital environment. As Rita points out it is easy to lose legitimacy and hard to regain it.

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