Posts Tagged ‘emerging leaders


2013 Archives Leadership Institute: takeaways

Most of this piece is cross-posted to my Library’s blog, The Learning Library.

From June 16 – 23, I had the privilege of attending the Archives Leadership Institute, a selective, weeklong immersion program in Decorah, Iowa for emerging archival leaders to learn and develop theories, skills, and knowledge for effective leadership. The program is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), hosted at Luther College for the years 2013-2015.

This year represented a complete re-visioning of the program, which featured 5 daylong sessions: New Leadership Thinking and Methods (with Luther Snow), Project Management (with Sharon Leon, The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University), Human Resource Development (with Christopher Barth, The United States Military Academy at West Point), Strategies for Born Digital Resources (with Daniel Noonan, The Ohio State University), and Advocacy and Outreach (with Kathleen Roe, New York State Archives).

ALI has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my career. So much of this program related directly to my work and current role — but more importantly, much of it could be applied more broadly. Enthusiastic participant responses and notes are captured in this Storify story from ALI and also this excellent recap by a fellow participant, but I will attempt to illustrate what I see as the biggest takeaways from the program that could relate to my colleagues.

Each day of the program included introductions and wrap-up by Luther Snow, an expert consultant/facilitator who originated the concept of “Asset Mapping.” Luther’s background as a community organizer provided a solid foundation for his positive leadership strategy, which emphasizes networked, or “generative” methods of getting things done. There are several principles that I took away from this:

  • Leadership is impact without control. We cannot force people to contribute or participate; the goal is to get people to do things voluntarily by allowing people to contribute with their own strengths.
  • Generative leadership is about asset thinking. The key to creating impact is in starting by thinking of what we actually have: our assets. Focus on talent and areas of strength instead of “needs” and problems — avoid focusing on scarcity or pity.
  • Look for affinities. How can our self-interests overlap? Asset thinking helps us find common interests and mutual benefit — we can connect what we have to get more done than we could on our own.
  • Be part of the larger whole. By emphasizing abundance, we can create affinities, which leads to a sense that “my gain is your gain is our gain.” This sets up a virtuous cycle based on an open-sum (think: potluck; network) instead of a closed-sum (think: slices of pie; gatekeeping) environment.

Of particular importance to generative thinking is the fact that semantics matter. In one activity, participants took turns making “need statements” and then turning them into “asset statements.” One example? Time. Instead of saying “time is scarce,” consider saying “time is valuable.” Instead of “we need more staff,” say “we have lots of great projects and so much enthusiasm from our users. How can we continue to provide these services?” Some more examples of language choices were included in Luther’s (copyrighted) handouts.

Building affinity can be difficult, since it is based on trust and recognizing likeness. We can build affinity with stakeholders connected to our assets — emphasize what you have in common, or talk about how your differences complement each other. Relate to stakeholders by focusing on mutual interests, and try to create opportunities to do a project together. Keep in mind: we can do more together than we can on our own.

And now for some highlights from the daylong sessions…

Strategies for Born Digital Resources (with Daniel Noonan, The Ohio State University)

Project Management (with Sharon Leon, The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University)

  • Historical Thinking Matters, a resource for teaching students how to engage critically with primary sources
  • Consider collaborative, flexible workspaces that increase staff productivity: moveable tables, whiteboards, a staff candy drawer
  • Articulating the Idea, worksheets for project planning from WebWise, IMLS, and the CHNM at GMU
  • Leon’s presentation from a different workshop on project management, including guidelines for creating “project charters” that include a scope statement, deliverables, and milestones
  • Share full text of grant projects and proposals with your staff for learning purposes!
  • Recommended PM tools: Basecamp and Asana; … (we are using Trello with some projects in collaboration with IT) — trick is to use these tools yourself to get team buy-in
  • Example from my former institution on positive reinforcement: Dedicated Deacon, which sends automatically to supervisor of person recognized; weekly drawing for prizes

Strategic Visioning and Team Development (with Christopher Barth, The United States Military Academy at West Point)

Advocacy and Outreach (with Kathleen Roe, New York State Archives)

The next phase of my ALI experience includes a practicum, workshop, and group project. I plan to focus my practicum on building and empowering a new team — my current focus as Acting Head of Special Collections & Archives — by integrating asset-based thinking into our projects and strategic planning. Looking forward to continued growth both through my ALI cohort and the valuable leadership tools and resources I gathered from the intensive in June.


An archivist at ALA

Note: this post is duplicated at

After completing my project as a 2009 Emerging Leader (updating the wiki and resources of the Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums, also known as CALM) I was nominated to join the Emerging Leaders subcommittee, which is a big reason why I participated in ALA Annual 2010.

On Friday, June 25, I attended the 2010 Emerging Leader poster session, which included excellent reports from this year’s EL cohort. Final projects have been posted to ALAConnect. The 2010 EL group assigned to CALM created a podcast that included an interview with the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. After the poster session, I joined the hush of librarians that waited patiently for the Exhibit Hall to open.

On Saturday, June 26, a session entitled “Developing a Sustainable Digitization Workflow” was canceled, so I wandered over to the professional poster sessions and discovered a relevant and interesting poster by Melanie Griffin and Barbara Lewis of the University of South Florida’s Special & Digital Collections department. Entitled “Transforming Special Collections: A (Lib) Guide to Innovation,” the poster detailed the department’s creative use of LibGuides to create special collections guides that unify digital objects and EAD into one interactive interface. Here is an example of a guide to graphic arts materials, with a specific collection tab selected. Their MARC (via Fedora) and EAD (via Archon) is displayed in LibGuide boxes using script created by their systems librarian. Perhaps the most interesting result of the experimental project is that statistics show higher hits to collections that were displayed as LibGuides. I am in touch with Melanie and Barbara, who continue their project and are working to create a new stylesheet for their EAD as well.

After lunch, I attended the Emerging Leaders summit, which was a discussion led by current and past Emerging Leaders to reflect on the process and experience of the EL program. I gathered feedback to bring to the EL subcommittee meeting. On Sunday, June 27, I participated in the EL subcommittee meeting (my first experience with ALA committee work). We discussed the EL mentor experience and project development, as well as assessment and managing expectations from both the EL and mentor/sponsor perspective.

After lunch with Atlas Systems regarding the Aeon archives management program, I attended the LITA Top Tech Trends forum. This was my first time at TTT, which Erik explores in greater detail in an earlier post. Cindi Trainor brought up a topic that I thought I would hear only at an archivists’ gathering: after declaring the end of the era of physical copy scarcity, she asked “what will the future scarce commodities be” in libraries. Of course, my ears heard “what will future special collections and archives be?” For the first time, I started thinking that as an archivist, I should be part of LITA.


Blooms Among the LAMs: Early‐Career Professionals and Cross‐Pollination between Libraries, Archives, and Museums

This post was co-authored by Audra of Touchable Archives and Lance of the NewArchivist blog, on which this post also appears.

As the lines between libraries, archives, and museums continue to blur and professional identities become less and less concrete, a question arises on how to best foster collaboration and knowledge‐building between these sectors. In some regards, this question is even more profound for new professionals. In graduate school, there are opportunities to take classes in other disciplines or even specialize in multiple areas. Is this type of education actually bringing together the best of the theory and practice of these disciplines, or merely teaching library skills in one class and archives skills in another?

Furthermore, it can be difficult for new professionals to know which of these identities belong to them. For example, what if you are a graduate of an archives program, working in a library setting, and putting together a few online and physical object exhibits? What are you? What professional organizations do you belong to and what journals do you read? Being new (and most likely carrying a mountain of education debt), we probably have to choose between the SAA, ALA, or AAM annual meetings.

Where does one look to learn more about the issues and opportunities surrounding the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Is there something out there for new professionals interested in cross‐discipline topics and fostering collaboration? If not, what types of groups would suit our needs? The purpose of this post is to solicit answers to some of these questions.

A Little History
The Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (CALM) was established by the American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board in 1970 as a partnership between the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and ALA, with the American Association of Museums (AAM) joining in January 2003. An in‐depth history can be found on the ALA website. The committee consists of fifteen members, five from each organization, as well as three co‐chairs from each organization. There are also staff liaisons and sometimes interns (mostly from ALAbut the committee is largely made up of experienced and well‐known archivists, librarians, and museum professionals. It is clear from the official functions of CALM that it is an administrative, high‐level committee that fosters communication between these three large organizations.
CALM’s official function is to:

(1) foster and develop ways and means of effecting closer cooperation among the organizations; (2) encourage the establishment of common standards; (3) undertake such activities as are assigned to the committee by one or more of its parent bodies; (4) initiate programs of a relevant and timely nature at the annual meetings of one or more parent bodies either through direct Combined Committee sponsorship or by forwarding particular program plans to the appropriate unit or on or more parent bodies for action; and (5) refer matters of concern to appropriate units of one or more of the parent bodies.

Both of us had never heard of CALM as graduate students. It was not until Audra was selected to be a part of the 2009 class of ALA Emerging Leaders that she was introduced to the committee and its priorities. (In case you’re curious, the 2008 EL class created a wiki for LAM (libraries, archives, and museums)‐related issues, which the 2009 EL class updated and supplemented with a page, and the 2010 EL class is working on a podcast series for LAM‐related issues.) CALM was born as a policy‐based group of representatives from SAA, AAM, and ALA. Their willingness to work with ALA’s Emerging Leaders program seems to demonstrate an interest in the ideas of early‐career professionals.

There is potential for CALM to become a major vehicle for encouraging discussion and scholarship about LAM convergence. The OCLC‐related hangingtogether blog as well as the new IMLSUpNext wiki present opportunities for discussion and debate around LAM issues.

A Call for Ideas
So other than getting involved with the big OCLC working groups and the super‐committee known as CALM, what opportunities are there for early‐career librarians, archivists, and museum professionals to be a part of the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Where is the “Emerging Leaders” program for new/young professionals who think and work between the LAMs?

Convergence is an exciting thing. How does this generation of new professionals understand and interact with it? That is what we are asking you. When we were first discussing this idea, we thought that an informal type of group focusing on these issues would be a good start. Perhaps it could have an online access component to foster collaboration and not require travel. We need your help and ideas on filling out this idea and make it into something tangible and usable for us new information professionals. Please leave comments or email us at to let us know what you think!


ALA Chicago musings

I am still trying to figure out my place in ALA. Perhaps it would help to have an iPhone or laptop to keep in touch with folks doing contemporaneous updates…

My Emerging Leaders group’s final presentation in Chicago went really well. Following a long workshop about leadership, we were given the chance to put together our poster boards and prepare ourselves for the small rush of ALA elites on their way to witness our leadership experiments. I took to calling it a science fair.

After the poster session, I was asked to present my group’s project at an informal gathering of our sponsoring committee, the Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (aka CALM). Our project was defined as “ALA/SAA/AAM Combined Committee on Archives, Libraries and Museums (CALM) is seeking to extend its impact in speaking on broad issues of access, preservation, and advocacy for the value of archives of all types,” which we refined with mentor Christian Dupont. The group was really excited that we updated and simplified the CALM wiki and created a delicious page as a source for convergence literature, both web and print. Best of all, I was able to sit in as a guest during the meeting, where I was able to participate in a rather passionate discussion about Preservation Week, Archives Month, MayDay, and the preservation education needs of community-based archives. I also brought my group’s suggestion that CALM consider future projects for EL’s such as marketing LAM issues through 2.0 technologies (my colleagues suggested creating a podcast with guest speakers). The committee was very appreciative of our work.

Other than that, I was able to attend some great sessions on preservation and special collections. In the Exhibits area I was able to get my copy signed of So You Want To Be a Librarian by my friend and colleague Lauren Pressley. Of course, my first trip would not have been complete without a trip to Millennium Park and the Bean, a meal of Chicago deep-dish pizza pie, and a high-rise view of downtown. Good times!


Dispatches from an unfinished Emerging Leader

Kim Leeder’s recent post at In the Library with the Lead Pipe exposes some of the pros and cons of being an ALA Emerging Leader. The program, created by former ALA President Leslie Burger in 2007, accepts about 100 new librarians and is supposed to put them “on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership” (see wiki).

Through a survey of Emerging Leaders who have already completed their one-year experience, Leeder extracts some important feedback about the composition and future of the Emerging Leaders (EL) program. In particular, she touches on the frustration of meeting head-on the large bureaucracy that is ALA and the disappointment some ELs experienced when receiving their project assignments.

As a 2009 Emerging Leader, I was not permitted to submit my thoughts for the survey, but greatly appreciated the feedback from the ELs that did reply. Like many ELs, I was proud and excited to have been selected for the program. I was looking forward to meeting special collections librarians in particular and was hoping for an RBMS or CALM assignment. I strongly believe that my acceptance into the program is what helped me obtain the job I have today (and has helped support my efforts to gain institutional funding to attend ALA, no small feat in today’s economy).

While working temporarily as a metadata technician for the Digital Forsyth project, I was able to talk with some librarians in the area about the EL program. I actually met a 2008 EL working in a library near mine before I attended Midwinter and got my project assignment. Her perspective mirrors many of the results found in the survey and was valuable in helping me adjust my concept of what the EL program would be like.

First of all, the Emerging Leaders program is an excellent idea and is a wonderful way to network and bring positive experience to one’s resume. Many of us in the 2009 class felt a bit lost among a large group of 100 and I know a few individuals that were not happy with their project assignment. Projects (see some of our projects on the wiki) vary widely in scope and depth.

I was given the assignment to continue a project from last year’s EL class — to work on the CALM wiki and help promote the mission of the Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums. Our group, affectionately called “Nirvana CALM,” consists of a public special collections librarian, two librarian/archivists, an academic special collections librarian, a special collections cataloger, and our mentor Christian DuPont (the ALA co-chair of CALM and former RBMS preconference chair). At first meeting, I was curious to see what our geographically diverse group could accomplish and how much freedom we would be given.

My concerns were soon quieted as our group began discussing what we might be able to accomplish beyond a basic update of the wiki once it migrated to the new ALA wiki system. We started talking seriously about ways to bring relevant information to librarians, archivists, curators, and other LAM professionals by way of a useful and easy-to-navigate wiki. One group member with technical experience helped create wiki pages while each of us brought our own perspectives in terms of content. Our mentor was active and responsive every step of the way, participating in group conference calls and bringing our suggestions to the CALM leadership and membership.

Throughout the project, communication, collaboration, and clarity have been of utmost importance. As we explored ways to present research and online resources, I suggested we create a page for CALM in order to represent dynamic online content as well as links to OCLC records for printed resources. Our cataloger created a list of categories and each of us contributed content.

The resulting wiki homepage (currently called the alternative main page) demonstrates our group’s ability to work independently and in collaboration with each other and with the larger CALM organization through our mentor. Our project will be completed in July after presenting during a poster session at ALA in Chicago and will consider publishing about our experience in the near future once we receive feedback from our colleagues and mentors.

While my experience is unfinished, already I can see that I was fortunate to have been assigned an interesting project and involved mentor. Our large, bureaucratic organization cannot be changed overnight but through the ongoing efforts of its members who go beyond the limits of their assignments and ask lots of questions. Perhaps more inspiration by movers and shakers, as suggested by survey respondents, will improve morale. I think that there are a number of things that could improve the EL experience, such as smaller class size, a selection process for mentors and representative projects, and perhaps an opportunity for potential ELs to suggest projects that could be offered by sections/divisions/committees.

Perhaps also, as Leeder suggests, we should “require the organizers of Emerging Leaders, and the ELs by extension, to become more aggressive in seeking out opportunities in which ELs might share their creative ideas with those in ALA who are best positioned to consider and respond to them.” I think as the program grows, ELs will move into positions where they will be responsible for changing the program — and hopefully they will remember the frustrations and challenges of being at the bottom of this large and complex totem pole.