It's not difficult
to conjure up an image of the stereotypical librarian. Needless to say,
"leadership" is probably not the first quality that jumps
to mind-and that is something that today's librarians are working hard
Following the lead
of library organizations across the country, the Pacific
Northwest Library Association is currently in the process of creating
a leadership institute for librarians in the Pacific Northwest. Since
the PNLA spans five states and two provinces, creating an institute
from the ground up poses its own special challenges. In order to help
meet those challenges, the PNLA contacted the iSchool for help.
A small group of
students formed and volunteered to research ten similar institutes that
have been established in other parts of the U.S. and Canada. Led by
Lisa Fraser, the student group looked into programs such as the Northern
Exposure to Leadership at the University of Alberta and the TALL
Texans Leadership Development Institute to see how they varied in
length, cost and curriculum. Despite their differences, all 10 programs
strived for the same goal: to empower librarians to be strong leaders
in their communities, local libraries and in library associations.
Lisa admitted that
she was somewhat surprised by the results of the research. "I was
surprised by the number of new leadership programs that have started
in the past five years," she said. "Library associations all
over the U.S. are realizing that there is a critical shortage of leadership
within the profession".
A major factor
contributing to this lack of leadership is the "graying" of
librarianship-which has been a subject of growing concern among librarians
during the last few decades. The number of librarians nearing retirement
versus the number of MLIS graduates coming into librarianship is a source
of worry to many in the industry. Promoting leadership within the profession
is one of the ways in which librarians hope to combat this problem.
skills also has other benefits. "I think it's important to promote
leadership for librarians because many people think only directors can
act as leaders," Lisa said. "
there are librarians at
all levels and in all specialties who are in positions of leadership.
Providing an opportunity for those people to learn skills that will
make them more effective and happier leaders will benefit the whole
On February 21,
three iSchool students traveled to Federal Way to present the results
of their findings in person at a PNLA Leadership Institute planning
meeting. Sandy Carlson, past president of the PNLA, chaired the small
committee which included delegates from Alberta, Oregon, Montana and
The meeting began
with Lisa Fraser's presentation of the research conducted by students
at the iSchool. After her presentation, the iSchool students were surprised
to find themselves actively participating in the meeting as the committee
discussed what should be done next. Where will the institute be held?
Who will provide funding to pay for it? Who will be eligible to attend?
Questions such as these kept the committee busy for the remainder of
By the end of the
meeting, it was decided that the first institute should be a five-day
conference to take place in the summer of 2004. It was also decided
that the target attendees will be librarians with 5-15 years of experience-either
with a MLIS degree or without.
The work of the
committee is far from over, though. After deciding on this format, each
member of the committee will now go back to the boards of their state
library associations to ask for approval before the committee can move
Sandy Carlson hopes
that the Leadership Institute will help to develop the leadership skills
of mid-career librarians-especially those that were never planning on
being in leadership positions in the first place. "Part of what
makes a good leader is a person who believes that they can lead,"