The Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership and Career Development Program (LCDP) just recently completed the capstone institute for the 2018-2019 cohort. As a member of that cohort, called “The Disruptors,” I wanted to showcase the program. First of all, it was a year-long program that consisted of an orientation, two institutes, a visit to my career coach’s institution, and a capstone institute.
The Disruptors included librarians who hail mostly from ARL member institutions from all over the country and Canada. The program is intended for librarians of color who are mid-career and are interested in leadership development. The ARL LCDP was an eye-opening experience – one that gave me perspectives from my cohort that I would have never gleaned otherwise, one that allowed us to learn from each other’s challenges and successes, and one that has given me a cohort that I can always rely upon as I go through my professional journey.
I’ll start from the beginning. The orientation in Washington DC was an opportunity for the 24 of us to get to know each other, to establish learning expectations for ourselves and each other, and to plot our journey as a group. We listed topics that we’d like to explore together (i.e. strategic planning, open access, fundraising etc.), and explored the idea of leadership together. Mark Puente, the Director of Diversity and Leadership Programs at ARL, and DeEtta Jones moderated this and many of our discussions (in person and online). What a fantastic duo Mark and DeEtta were – they make facilitation and instruction look easy!
The first Leadership Institute was hosted by The Ohio State University Library. Ohio in the middle of December was a truly invigorating experience. I learned a great deal about all kinds of management issues, including emotional intelligence and conflict resolution, and had opportunities to hear from library leaders such as Damon Jaggars, John Cawthorne, Jose Diaz, Deidra Herring, and Alexia Hudson-Ward. We also received a fantastic tour of their newly renovated flagship Thompson Memorial Library. This library reminded me of the Roman god, Janus, with two faces – one that looked to the past and another that looked to the future. One side of the library had a more traditional façade, consistent with the campus’s more stately frontages, and the other side had a modern look, built primarily with concrete, metal, and glass. What an amazing building that seamlessly combined their vibrant traditions with ambitious modernity. My career coach, Eileen Theodore-Shusta, from Ohio University, even drove up to meet me for dinner in Columbus, Ohio! What a treat it was to have met my career coach so early in the process! The company and the food were fantastic. It was such a hoot to have frozen custard in the middle of winter!
The second Leadership Institute was hosted by the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Canada. What a lovely sight to see the Canadian plains in full bloom during May. Interestingly too (since I had never visited Canada at this time of year), the sun didn’t set until 10:00 pm! That was a slightly crazy insomnia-inducing experience. This Leadership Institute was facilitated by Kathryn Deiss and Melanie Hawks. As one of the founders of the Minnesota Leadership Institute, Kathryn shared her experiences and thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusivity. We also learned a great deal from University of Alberta Libraries’ University Librarian, Dale Askey, and his professional journey. Preparation, perseverance, ambition, and risk-taking. All those words, and some more, crystallized my impression of that conversation.
The stand-out experience of this institute, I believe, was the Kairos Blanket exercise. This was an immersive exercise that the entire cohort participated in. We began with a full house and quickly saw members of our group expelled from our respective lands either by death, disease, or governmental mandates (of course this was all pretend, but it was still quite striking). The group also read out loud the past experiences of First Nation Communities. To hear these stories of resilience against systematic violence and loss uttered by voices from the cohort members, was stark and emotional. This link provides more information about the program. The Kairos Blanket exercise, along with revelations on the Canadian government’s approach towards reconciliation with First Nation communities (aka Native Americans in the US) were deeply informative.
There were several highlights in the program beyond the events that we attended. Each LCDP Fellow underwent a Leadership Practices Inventory, a 360 assessment of our leadership skills. This assessment involved our reporting officer, our colleagues, and our direct reports. This was an incredibly enlightening experience, as many of us had not undergone such a review of this detail before.
Also, each LCDP Fellow was paired up with a Career Coach – a librarian in a leadership role – who provided us insights into leadership and administration. As part of this program, the Career Coach would host their fellow at their institution. I had the wonderful opportunity to be paired with Eileen Theodore-Shusta of Ohio University. As the Director of Planning, Assessment, and Organizational Effectiveness at Ohio University, Eileen provided me valuable insights into library administration and management from a Human Resource perspective. What a fantastic visit to the beautiful Ohio University campus as well. I visited their Archives, Special Collections, Digital Archives, and even perused their Southeast Asia Collection.
Another integral piece to the LCDP experience was the Equity Toolkit. In between the institutes, we had webinars and lessons from the Equity Toolkit, created by DeEtta Jones and Associates. This Toolkit included modules on Cultural Competence, Bias in the Workplace, and The Inclusive Manager. Using a combination of videos, text, quizzes and reflections, the Equity Toolkit was chock full of information and revelations. Also, this portion of the program included webinars where LCDP fellows and their career coaches were invited , as well as their supervisors, and the up-line administrators. The objective was to not only “preach to the choir”, but to include allies and influential voices in the discussion.
At last, the Capstone Leadership Institute in Washington DC, was the finale as we said our goodbyes. The Capstone was also a new beginning as we adopted our moniker, The Disruptors. We attended the ARL Directors’ evening reception and sat alongside library directors in the Fall ARL Association meeting. Jennifer Garrett, Director of Talent Management at North Carolina State University, eloquently highlighted the ARL LCDP experience to these Library Directors, and Elaine Westbrooks, the University Librarian of UNC Chapel Hill’s Library, spoke about her time as a career coach and perfectly bookended the speech with her memories as a former ARL LCDP fellow. After all the celebrations, we reconvened, reminisced, and planned for the challenges and opportunities before us.
How do we continue this journey? One step at a time. With each other.
Thank you to my former dean, Catherine Quinlan at the University of Southern California, and Duke University Libraries for your support and encouragement. It is on the shoulders of giants (and forward thinking institutions) that I see the world of great challenges and opportunities before me.