Being Influential Where You Are!

Image by Paul Wever. Retrieved from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons' licensing.
Image by Paul Wever. Retrieved from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons’ licensing.

My personal  highlight of the recent MEMO Unconference was sitting at a table of eight people with Stephen Abram, talking about being influential. Stephen was the keynote speaker the day before, but I had no idea he would stay throughout the conference, much less lead and engage in this great conversation. Stephen has many claims to fame and I have followed him online for years so I was eager to hear his thoughts.  He is the author of Stephen’s Lighthouse blog, a library trend watcher, fundraiser, innovator, thought provoker, and has held several executive leadership positions in the library field; big names like Gale, SirsiDynix, Thomson, and ProQuest. As promised last week,  I took good notes and will share freely here what transpired around the table. I was happy to see that my strategy in this area mirrors Stephen’s, but the perspectives of media specialists around the table was pretty priceless. Strategies that emerged included:


  • Look across your workplace, and choose innovators and early adopters to help you advance your agenda (consider them your disciples.)
  • Pull these folks together, talk about what motivates you and encourage them to do the same. Begin to think about aligning your efforts with their motivations. You may be surprised at how alike your motivations truly are!
  • If you have a few innovators/ early adapters in a specific department; do a pilot in that area.  Other departments will notice!


  • Your role as media specialist/librarian with your group is that of coach.
  • Scrap advocacy as a term, talk about “what is in it for them.”
  • Your approachability will increase as your group works together, and trust in you will naturally increase.
  • Have the courage to demonstrate your expertise; dig deep,  be fearless with your group of disciples.


  • Talk to your administrators, listen well to what they find problematic. Are they looking for specific solutions?
  • Align, align, align creatively with administrators problems too, which often overlaps with what departments are trying to solve!

This technique involves being a good listener, and thoughtfully understanding  your role in your specific setting. Stephen’s reminder to all was to avoid thinking of yourself as a servant (even though sometimes it can feel that way). Constantly remind yourself that you provide an integral and necessary professional service. By adopting this mindset, your role within the library/media center and/or your district, can become transformative. As we wrapped up, Stephens reminded us that  “without change, there would be no butterflies.”