This month, I have the honor of sharing an interview that was done with Kristi Starr before the COVID virus. I have been saving it for months. Now is an excellent time to share it because we are at the beginning of a new school year during a trying time. Leadership is needed to guide us through this unknown territory. Indeed, we are pioneers searching for an effective way to educate students during a paradigm shift.
When something new needs to be developed, leading the endeavor may feel overwhelming. Throughout the years, I have learned a lot from studying the leadership behaviors of others. I understand that leadership is not about controlling other people. Instead, it should be a partnership that focuses on a shared goal. Leadership does not mean one has to take on the most extensive tasks. Leading small charges can result in tremendous results.
For instance, think about the Grand Canyon. It took millions of years for the Colorado River to carve it. Although it is the result of gradual change, it is beautiful. Steady changes can create lasting impacts. I remember this when I have a seemingly impossible responsibility.
I also realize that leadership means that I may have to lead from the bottom. For instance, there may be a call to action that requires supportive stakeholders. I am not the loudest person, and I have a habit of blending into crowds. Yet, I challenge myself to participate in opportunities to support the organizations and causes that I champion. The personal knowledge that I have made an accomplishment or facilitated a positive change is gratifying. Moreover, when I volunteer, I learn new skills.
From my experience, I have found that one person never sustains an organization. In all, leaders have the wisdom to know when to speak. They know when to listen and strive to understand the needs and desires of stakeholders. Wisdom tells leaders when to take a risk and move forward, when to nudge a little harder, or if one should pull back a little to assess the climate. Without wisdom, change is unlikely to happen in a systematic, sustainable process.
This month, I bring you a leadership story from the perspective of someone that leads in state organizations. Kristi Starr is the school librarian at Coronado High School in Lubbock, TX. She is also the Texas Association of School Librarians’ 2020-2021 Chair. She has gained wisdom by accepting the challenge to lead in various capacities throughout the years. Here are her interview responses.
Do you have a Twitter handle?
Do you have a website?
What was your first volunteer experience as a school librarian?
My first volunteer role/appointment was as a member of the Distinguished Administrator award committee, a Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL) committee.
What other roles have you held in Texas Library Association and other organizations?
Texas Library Association (TLA)
- YART (Young Adult Round Table) Social Media Manager 2015-19
- TASL – Distinguished Administrator Award – Committee Member 3 years (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16), Chair 2016-17, 2017-18
- TASL Talks blog board 2018-19, 2019-20
- Topaz Reading Committee Member 2018-19, 2019-20
- District 9 Chair 2018-19
- TASL Chair-Elect 2019-20
Texas Computer Computer Education Association (TCEA)
- LIB-SIG Vice President 2017-18
- LIB-SIG President 2018-19
- Convention Steering Committee 2018-19, 2019-20
Texas Education Service Center
- Region 17 Library Steering Committee 2016-present
International Association of School Librarianship (IASL)
- 2020 Conference Programming Committee
What is your advice on finding new volunteer opportunities?
If you are trying to get your foot in the proverbial door, don’t be picky about your volunteer opportunities. Nearly all opportunities have a finite term. Once you have some experience and name recognition, you can begin to target specific opportunities that hold more interest for you.
If you are already involved in an organization, look for volunteer opportunities that are best suited to your interests and strengths. Once you have established yourself as a reliable volunteer, you’ll have many more opportunities. Be selective and serve in capacities that you enjoy.
How has volunteering helped your career?
Volunteering in a variety of roles has allowed me to meet people and to see how organizations function. While it has not impacted my campus librarian role significantly, it has allowed me access to opportunities and introductions to people I would not have had otherwise.
What was your journey to your current role?
After hearing about and reading about the Texas Library Association’s TALL Texans Leadership Institute throughout my career, I applied in 2018 and was accepted. The TALL Texans experience is focused on leadership, and the expectation is that if a participant is not already in a leadership position, they will find themselves tapped for service and leadership opportunities. Attending the TALL Texans institute took my involvement to the next level. By the time the week ended, I had been appointed as the district 9 chair. Later that summer, I was invited to serve on the conference programming committee, which I declined. Later that fall, I was asked to be a candidate for TASL chair-elect, which I accepted.
Along the way, I have also had amazing mentors pushing me to be active, to volunteer, and to take risks. Without their encouragement, I would not be even close to where I am today.
What are the benefits of serving in a leadership role?
Voluntary leadership opportunities are also learning opportunities. I get to see others at work, see the great things they do, and the ideas they have. In many respects, leadership is a matter of recruiting and placing others in roles in which they can flourish. Sometimes being a leader is very hands-on. But, at other times, it is about stepping back and giving others the opportunity to take the reins. It is a joy to see my friends and peers excel.
What is your advice for serving in leadership roles?
Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. There are a lot of people depending on you, a lot of people asking questions. Be sure that you can support the mission and goals of the organization(s) in which you serve. Organize well and delegate wisely. Surround yourself with people with whom you can trust and work well and let them do their jobs.
How do you balance volunteering, your job, and life outside of work?
Not very well. At times it has been taxing on my family. I get up early to have some “me” time for exercise, reflection, and Bible reading. I try to have some time in the evenings and on weekends for my family. We always have Sunday lunch together after church.
Sometimes it is a challenge to remember where my focus should be, especially in some volunteer capacities. My obligation is to my paying jobs. I also must be selective about opportunities that require travel.
As you can see, Kristi. Starr is a multifaceted leader that utilizes various opportunities to support state organizations. She is a dynamic leader that has assumed many roles, including being a Google Certified Educator and a school library adjunct professor. I hope her story inspires you to seek your next leadership opportunity.
Author: Daniella Smith
Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently an associate professor at the University of North Texas.