Farewell from Michael P. Butler
In May of 1992, I changed careers to become the Executive Director of OhioNET. I was a little nervous, but overall I felt confident I could handle this new career path. Ohio libraries, including OhioNET, were in flux, with many changes taking place both in libraries and in the information environment. I was brought in primarily to restructure OhioNET's finances and improve the stability of the organization. During this process, I learned a lot on the job. Here it is 26 years later, and I am still learning.
During my initial time with OhioNET, I made sure that the administration of the company was clear and well-defined, and that we were doing the necessary procedural things to help OhioNET move through the times of uncertainty to survive as an organization. With the Board members and key staff support, I laid out new plans that would help the organization move forward. While it was a challenging time, the Board supported this new way of doing business. Over time the rest of the staff realized my perspective on the organization was sound as well, and we were all able to move forward together.
In addition to reviewing and resetting the finances and restructuring the internal working of the organization, my other initial priority was to try to engage the membership differently. My first couple of years were spent travelling around Ohio making sure that members were comfortable with our new direction. I was challenged by our members, and they did not hesitate to ask questions about OhioNET. At the end of the day, once they had an opportunity to see some of the work we were doing, we began to move forward with our membership as well as with our internal operations.
After 20-plus years under my belt, there are a few accomplishments of which I am most proud.
- Collaborating with school libraries for affordable cataloging options. When I came to OhioNET, it was clear that school librarians were left out of the cataloging processes that many other librarians took for granted. OhioNET had a strong relationship with OCLC, and I decided to take a risk and present OCLC with an idea that I thought made sense. The idea was to develop a copy cataloging utility as an affordable way for schools to participate in World Cat. I allocated some funds from OhioNET to help develop this. Through this collaboration, we developed Cat Express. The schools were excited by this new approach to OCLC, and eventually OCLC made this option available worldwide.
- Working with the State Library of Ohio to redevelop Library Leadership Ohio. This has been a wonderful transition for me because I have had an opportunity to share my skills from a business perspective with young librarians who wanted to take a leadership role in our profession. I have been doing Library Leadership Ohio for over 14 years, both as a mentor and as an administrator of Library Leadership Ohio. This aspect of our profession has been very important to me because I can both share and learn. Library Leadership Ohio continues to be a key collaboration project for OhioNET, and I do believe that it will be around for quite a long time to come. This is simply a wonderful program for our profession.
- Developing a broader spirit of collaboration and partnership. Coming from a financial background, collaborating and partnering is extremely important. This allows you to reduce your internal costs by sharing the burden and to benefit from new perspectives from your partners. With collaboration, you can do so much more than you can alone. I truly believe that partnering and collaborating will help OhioNET continue to be a viable institution within the framework of librarianship for many years. It is vitally important that, as a profession, we learn how to share costs without leaving behind our organizational focus. While we have some way to go, I believe we have made some progress, and that we can continue to learn from each other.
There is still so much to learn regarding the library profession, and I feel I am just hitting my stride. I have some ideas that I would like to develop going forward, and I am going to try to work on those things as a citizen of Ohio. I believe that I can still contribute to the profession, even as I retire from this position. I am still involved with the public libraries as a trustee, and that has been extremely important to me. As a trustee, it seems like I learn something new every day, and I look forward to continuing to learn in that role.
So what else comes next?
- I would like to do a little bit of traveling and volunteering.
- I would like to continue to sit on the Delaware County District Library Board of Trustees.
- In my role as a private citizen, I would like to continue to develop ideas on how libraries can collaborate and partner in an effective manner.
I am pleased that OhioNET has given me 26 years to learn the profession, but now it is time for a change. Often, we are apprehensive about change and transitioning from one leadership to another, but I truly believe it is the right time for OhioNET to move in a different direction. While I am pleased with some of my accomplishments, I know there is much more that can be done that can help our organization. The leadership of OhioNET will be in good hands, as the Board has done an excellent job of making sure that we have the right person for the new Executive Director/CEO. I am certain that the community will be pleased with the new leadership of OhioNET. It is a wonderful time for our profession, and it is a wonderful time for change.
I want to thank many people, but the names are too numerous to mention. Over the past 26 years, there have been so many people who have been helpful to me, and I am truly appreciative. I will miss you all, but I must say that I absolutely enjoyed the support you have given me, and I appreciated your patience and understanding as I learned and grew. I am forever grateful. Thank you.