AALL Leadership Academy Recap

Guest post by Christopher Collins, Research & Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University School of Law

I’ve recently returned from the AALL Leadership Academy in Chicago. I’d like to share some of my impressions and why you might consider attending. I will also remind you that there is funding to attend.

First, know what the Leadership Academy isn’t. I wish I could tell you that they induct attendees into a secret society, a cadre quietly ruling the law library world from the shadows. But I can’t. Whether I can’t tell you because we truly were inducted into said secret society, resulting in a blood oath to secrecy, or merely whether such an induction never happened, I’ll let the discerning reader decide. But despite not being issued library directorships (or better yet, dictatorships) upon completion, attendees will find much of value to take home and incorporate into their professional lives.

So if the Leadership Academy isn’t a fast track to unfettered power, what is it? In short, it is two days of classroom sessions highlighting the broad strokes of leadership. Leadership, in this context, is not limited merely to law libraries. Its context isn’t even limited to those already in management positions—leadership happens at all levels, even within us as individuals. The sessions, put on by the delightful George Karavattuveetil (pronounced as spelled), underlined skills that leaders should cultivate. George emphasized productive communication (consider especially how you want your audience to feel, not merely what you want it to know); setting reasonable, measurable expectations (as important for the manager as for the managed); and setting yourself and others up for success and growth.

Just as valuable is the chance to meet other librarians. The Leadership Academy is not technically a networking event, but meeting peers is a nice extra perk. Aside from the daily lunches, the time between sessions also leaves room for small chats. Then, of course, there’s the evening revelry where enduring networks build, oiled by the fruits of vine and grain. There is no shortage of opportunity to make connections.

The Leadership Academy is, after all, an ever-growing network. Several alumni joined us for a panel on the merits of volunteering for leadership positions within AALL, regional groups, and special interest sections. Many of us were already involved in various groups, and while you don’t need to attend the Leadership Academy to take leadership positions, it was a timely reminder that service is important (and fun). The upshot was that you don’t have to await some professional milestone to start volunteering for leadership positions—there’s no time like the present, and you’re certain to meet interesting people along the way.

My attendance at the Leadership Academy, and blog post, is the result of a LIT-SIS grant of $1,000. It made my attendance possible, rather than unrealistic. I would encourage anyone considering attending to explore this and any other grants you hear of. I heard about the LIT-SIS grant through an email announcement, and applying for it was simple. So if you’re looking for something to help make up your mind about attending, consider letting your SIS help pay for it.

Research Librarian, Perkins Coie LLP