After reading Cheryl Norton’s If you want to lead, start with a vision in Inside Higher Ed about why leaders need to create a vision, I started thinking about the vision that I wrote for Special Collections last fall. I wrote the text by myself, and shared it with my colleagues. I didn’t ask for feedback, which is unlike me and my leadership style- I try to be as inclusive as possible. I decided not to ask for feedback, because unlike a strategic plan or annual goal setting, this vision is personal to me. It’s a statement about where I think we need to be to remain relevant and of value to our parent organizations- the libraries and the university- and to provide services to our users.
The text reads: “The Special Collections Division strives to be a welcoming destination for our faculty, students, and the public. We facilitate research and are active partners in developing new knowledge by fostering scholarship, experiential learning opportunities for students, and engaging programming for our community. Our spaces provide opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaborations, which draw on the expertise of faculty and staff that they bring to this work through their deep knowledge of archival practice.”
I wrote this statement on a giant post it note and put it up in my office on a wall that faces the chair where visitors to my office typically sit. Those visitors include the faculty and staff in our division, administrators, students, campus faculty, as well as community members and donors. I like that this statement is one of the first things people see when they walk into my office. I hope it helps to set expectations about how we work and what kind of environment and services we strive to provide.
However, as Norton explains in her article, a vision is only a starting point. I have found that since I put up the post it and shared its content with my faculty and staff there hasn’t been a magical transformation. Rather my vision is what we’re striving for and it should be- and is- used to guide our long-term and short-term planning. I try to live my vision in each conversation I have with stakeholders, in each division meeting, and to use the words and phrasing in my vision statement in those conversations and in the emails I write.
Do you have a vision? If you do, how do you live your vision? If not, what are some steps you could take to create one?