July 22, 2010
Of Leadership and Management Institutes
The topic for this post was suggested by a librarian who I chatted with at the AALL Conference. She suggested I look into selections for these institutes. I spent a considerable amount of time researching this and agreed there was something to write about.
In 2008 and 2009 AALL sponsored a Leadership Academy and in 2009 they also sponsored a Management Institute. Both required applications and a selection process. The Leadership Academy was publicized as being for "Law Librarians in the early stages of their careers..." and the Management Institute was publicized as allowing "...new & aspiring managers from all types of law libraries" to "develop the skills to manage with confidence today." Both the 2009 Management Institute and the Leadership Academy required registration fees of $250 with participants also having to pay their own transportation and housing expenses.
Now I have no data on how many applications were received and from what types of libraries. But I do have data on who was selected to attend and yes, once again PLL members were given short shrift. For the 2009 Management Institute the selections were: 21 academic law librarians, 5 state, county and court librarians, 2 law firm librarians, and one other category librarian. Also one librarian who I could not find in the AALL database. That's right. Two law firm librarians. The biggest SIS had 2 out of 30.
On to the 2009 Leadership Academy data. Of the 34 selected: 22 were academic law librarians, 8 were law firm librarians and 4 were state, county and court law librarians. Slightly better statistics but still disproportionate. And the 2008 Leadership Academy? Of the 35 selected: 26 were academic law librarians, 8 were law firm librarians and 1 was a state, county and court librarian. Appalling!
Now as I said I only know who was selected and not who applied. It is possible a smaller number of law firm librarians applied. After all, in 2009 many law firms were not encouraging travel to conferences and the steep cost of this probably discouraged many. The $250 registration fee plus airfare (got to figure at least $300 plus hotel of at least two nights (got to figure at least $400) plus incidental transportation and other expenses (conservatively $150) adds up to $1100. I don't see many law firms agreeing to pay those costs.
And those "new" librarians selected? Well, I don't want to embarrass anyone by naming names but there are present and past candidates for office on the AALL Executive Board who were selected as attendees at these conferences and none of them are what I would classify as being "new" to the profession, or management. And others who, while not candidates for the AALL Executive Board, are certainly not new to the profession or management. For instance, one candidate selected for the Leadership Academy had been a director of a law library for 12 years.
So, why should we care? Because private law librarians are given precious little opportunity for professional development and I don't see AALL reaching out to us to make sure we get sufficient opportunities. In order to get quality programming at this year's conference PLL sponsored its own pre-conference summit and will be doing this again next year. And because the 2010 Leadership Academy lost over $32,000 (which would have paid for the PLL Summit instead of members having to pay a $195 registration fee).
Now this year there were no Academies or Institutes and I understand that the Leadership Academy is now to be rolled into the Management Institute with the registration fee being increased to $525. That will certainly inspire a lot of private law librarians to apply.
I think these programs do benefit the individuals attending and law librarianship as a whole. And I have absolutely no objection to AALL funds being spent on professional development for law librarians, as long as it is spent in a fair and even handed manner. I call upon AALL to rethink and revamp. Why not have this before or after AALL so no additional airfare is required? Why not offer grants for deserving individuals who would not be able to attend otherwise? Allow the individual SISs (Academic, Private and State, County and Court) to choose who attends and allow them the number of slots in line with size so that fair representation is achieved. Individual SISs and chapters could also offer grants to those selected. Let's not waste a great opportunity.
I attended the 2008 Leadership Academy as a law firm librarian. I don't remember how much the total cost was because my firm paid my entire portion, which I know is generous. My firm also paid for both AALL and TRIPLL (Teaching Research in Private Law Libraries) that year. As a former firm librarian, I never felt slighted by AALL or the profession. I went to three conferences that year. Three! (Of course, we all know I got laid off the following year but that is a story for another time.) I don't know how many firm librarians applied so can't say if there were proportionally more or not from the applicant pool as compared to academic law librarians.
In the end, I feel like I have had a lot of opportunities as both a firm and government librarian. TRIPLL is just for firm librarians, although I think there is an academic equivalent. However, most of the time, I have tried to make these opportunities happen without waiting for some external nudge. I'll be honest, I don't sit around trying to figure out which portion of some law librarian pie I get part of in comparison to some other group. I think we are all law librarians and some concerns and opportunities should be looked at holistically. I think the Leadership Academy was an effort to do that on the part of the organization since a need was felt to develop leaders for the future, regardless of what kind of library they came from.
As a government librarian, I now pay my own association dues. Do I complain about this? Not too much. I feel paying them is part of having ownership of my career and how I want to develop myself as a law librarian. Ultimately, it is ourselves that benefit most from investing in our careers regardless of contributions or benefits to institutions or organizations of which we may be a part. I'm not discounting the benefits I both give and receive, but I think I have the biggest stake in deciding the caliber of law librarian I would like to be.
Posted by: Christine Sellers | Jul 23, 2010 9:40:13 AM
I attended the 2008 Leadership Academy and I know a number of academics who didn't make it in that year, but who attended the one in 2009. I believe the lower number of firm librarians in 2009 probably was because of the cost. The price was raised significantly for the 2009 Leadership Academy. In 2008, I paid less than $500 for the whole thing ($150 registration, $200 flight, $90 car rental). AALL subsidized the hotel that year and five meals were provided. I arrived late Thursday night and returned home Saturday before dinner and thus incurred no additional meal expenses. (I believe there was an event sponsor in 2008).
I think the point here is that things are often scheduled at a bad time for someone, and perhaps instead of assuming out group is being given short shrift, we need to work together so that AALL serves all of its members. I certainly see Caren's point about scheduling the Leadership Academy and Management Institute at a time more convenient for firm librarians. The LA is a two-day event covering Friday 8:00 to 7:00 and Saturday 8:00 to 1:00 (or thereabouts). I see no reason that it shouldn't be moved to Saturday/Sunday. This would allow members to fly in after work on Friday and be home Sunday night. Firm librarians wouldn't have to take time away from work and academics with Thursday classes wouldn't feel as rushed leaving.
Also, I don't think that AALL is biased against firm librarians. I just think the association hasn't caught up with the realities of the profession right now. And one of those realities is that firm librarians overall have less money and time to devote to association matters and continuing education. We've had an awful time in SFALL the last few years with participation from our firm and court and county librarians. And most of our programs are lunch meetings and cost from $0 to $15. Three years ago we had a lot of participation, but that was before budgets and staff were cut.
Library associations in general and AALL in particular are not particularly flexible entities. Everyone who is unhappy needs to work together to improve the association, no matter what their affiliation. Academics have as many complaints as PLL members, and I think there is more overlap between those two groups than you think.
Posted by: John Beatty | Jul 23, 2010 7:31:00 AM
See Mike, there is the problem. I am a true blue New York Yankees fan. I will overlook that you are a Red Sox fan and simply say I looked at the data only for the last two Leadership Academies and last Management Institute. You do say academics dominated and I am not surprised. My point is that AALL should adjust to the needs of all its librarians and that includes private law librarians. Make these institutes shorter, over weekends, give grants. Whatever it takes to achieve better balance. I don't think its a matter of assuming the worst about people's intentions. I think its more about taking the time to really consider the needs of each of your constitutencies and making adjustments. Simply saying summer is when most major library conferences are held doesn't cut it anymore.
Posted by: Caren Biberman | Jul 22, 2010 6:56:54 PM
A couple comments: My recollection is hazy, but in 2007 I ran the first AALL Leadership and Management Conference here in Tucson. I thought a management institute was needed so I applied for a grant ($10,000, I believe), it was awarded, and set about contracting with Maureen Sullivan to run the four day program. Tuition free, with some meals. Housing and transportation paid by participants. I don't remember the balance of the attendees, but academics dominated. I was part of the committee that selected participants and most PLL librarians who applied got in, while many academics did not. I don't remember the exact numbers but we worked really hard for a balance. I remember hearing from firm librarians who wished they could be away from work that long, but it was simply not possible.
So, rather than being treated unfairly, at least in this one case PLL librarians had a significant advantage.
We mainly had newer librarians, but also selected a few librarians with significant time in the profession who felt they needed to improve their management and leadership skills. We felt the challenges they faced would also add to the diversity of experience.
So, while I have no knowledge of subsequent years, I do know that AALL keep hitting me over the head to make sure it was a fair process. (I remember being a little frustrated by their "meddling" to make sure it was a fair process - insisting that I had a committee rather than my selecting the group myself. Granted I would have rejected all Yankee fans in favor of Red Sox fans on principle, but I remember thinking, of course it will be a fair process - leave me alone.)
So, if anyone had a reason to complain during my one year of involvement, it was the academic law librarians.
I understand the nature of blogs are to raise issues for discussion, but we seem to always assume - if not the worst - less than the best of intentions of people and especially institutions.
Mike Chiorazzi, lover of law librarians of all stripes, unless they are Yankee fans
Posted by: Mike Chiorazzi | Jul 22, 2010 4:44:31 PM
Disagree about the cost if you wish, but as someone who attended the event, I'm stating what my actual expenses were--under $800 and that includes a car rental. Had I taken a shuttle and public transportation both ways on my home end, it would have been even less. And to be more specific: the registration fee included two continental breakfasts, two lunches, and one dinner. Any extra meals were a small expense.
My point about the time of year was to note that there is always an inconvenience for someone. I know that the July meeting timing is problematic for firm librarians, but unfortunately summer is when most major library conferences are held. AALL isn't making a special effort to make it difficult for firm librarians.
Finally, if you're getting info from board minutes, it would be helpful to cite them in the first place instead of prefacing remarks with "I understand that..."
Posted by: Meg Kribble | Jul 22, 2010 1:01:43 PM
In terms of verification, the combining of the Leadership Academy and Management Institute is straight out of the AALL Executive Board Meeting Books.
As far as $1100 being an inflated cost, I don't agree. I know to go to and from airports via taxis it would cost me at least $200. Airfare another $300. Registration $250. Two nights hotel $400. That is $1150 and it doesn't include any food.
I am sorry mid-October scheduling is less than ideal for academic librarians. Frankly the July scheduling of AALL is less than ideal for private law firm librarians who have summer associates and lots of training going on in the summer months.
And I don't think stating facts (e.g. 26 academics, 8 private law librarians) is griping. I think its letting librarians know what is happening.
Posted by: Caren Biberman | Jul 22, 2010 9:28:16 AM
I attended the 2009 Leadership Academy and I'm an academic librarian who paid for it completely out of pocket. Because Chicago is centrally located and I shared my room, my total cost was closer to $700 than the inflated estimate of $1100. (There are a few meals included in the $250 registration fee, for one thing.) In any case, the Academy was valuable enough that it was worth it.
The annual meeting is so busy and exhausting that I appreciated the Academy not being scheduled in conjunction with it even though my employer might have paid some of my expenses in that case. There was definite value in it happening as a separate, more intimate event. However, given all the gripes about academic bias, I'll point out that the mid-October scheduling was less than ideal for us. A couple of us had to fly directly after teaching, arriving late at night before an early start.
My biggest concern with combining the Leadership Academy and Management Institute has nothing to do with cost, but it hardly seems worth getting excited about until such a decision is actually verified.
Posted by: Meg Kribble | Jul 22, 2010 8:50:10 AM
I attended the 2009 Leadership Academy as a PLL member and firm librarian and found it a great and worthwhile opportunity. I'm sad to hear it will not continue-at least for the time being. I honestly, was pleasantly surprised to see the number of firm librarians there that I did. I thought I would be one of 2 or 3. It is true that some attendees were not very "new" to the profession-but this is all very difficult to speculate on without knowing more about the applicant pool (who applied and how many). I can say that this was my second time applying and from what I heard-I was not alone. I can also say that I've applied to a few AALL committees in the past and now finally was appointed to the CONELL committee and my guess is that my participation in the Academy had a lot to do with it. I do agree with you that grants should be offered for these academies/institutes and that possibly having them prior to or after the annual meeting would boost applications and interest.
Posted by: Janet | Jul 22, 2010 7:49:01 AM