Thoughts on the Minnesota Institute
This past July the 7th class of the Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians met at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis, MN. The institute began in 1998 and has been convening every two years since. Participant Leo Lo has generously agreed to share his thoughts on the Institute.
Some Thoughts on the 2010 Minnesota Institute
This summer, I was very fortunate to be selected to attend the 7th bi-annual Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians from Traditionally Underrepresented Groups. This unique leadership institute is specifically designed for minority academic librarians who have been in the profession for fewer than three years. While there are several programs out there to recruit librarians from underrepresented groups, it is important to know that recruiting is just the beginning of the process. Retaining high quality minority librarians is equally important and just as difficult. The purpose of the Minnesota Institute is to help our profession retain librarians from underrepresented groups by training them to become leaders.
The 2010 cohort arrived in Minneapolis on Saturday. A friendly meet and greet with the Dean of the Libraries and many other people from the University of Minnesota gently eased our way into what was going to be a very intense program. The program proper began on Sunday 8am – 5pm. It was full day everyday until the end of the program on Friday. Leadership was the main topic, led by our two knowledgeable and inspiring trainers, DeEtta Jones and Kathryn Deiss. Some topics we discussed were emotional intelligence and communication.
Of the six full days of training, two were devoted to grant writing. When the program first started fourteen years ago, one of the main focuses was on technology. But as technology becomes mainstream, other areas demand more attention and education, such as grant writing.
Overall, the Minnesota Institute was an excellent program from which I have benefited so much. I would highly recommend any eligible librarians to consider applying. The week-long format helps make the discussions and exercises a lot more substantial than at other shorter programs. Twenty-four to twenty-five participants are chosen for each institute. After seven Institutes, there are now over 170 graduates. Most of us keep in touch through our own listservs (one main one, and one for recent grads), and of course through Facebook.
What made you interested and want to apply to this institute? I was interested in the institute because it was the only leadership program specifically designed for early career academic librarians of color.
What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned from the institute? One of our discussions was focused on our strengths. For me, I learned the importance of focusing on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. I also learned about the different leadership and communication styles. Also, the grant writing workshop. I am planning to write a grant proposal for an undergraduate diversity internship project that I am initiating at K-State Libraries.
How have you applied the information learned from the institute to your career? Focusing on my strengths helped me to better understand my potential, and made me more confident as a professional. One part of the program that I found especially stimulating was the envisioning of the future of libraries, which was a challenging exercise, but particularly applicable to my position as the R&D librarian. With my screenwriting background, I also enjoyed discussing the storytelling techniques used in leadership communication. While it takes a lifetime to master dealing with the different styles, simply being aware of the differences has allowed me to be more perceptive in my work environment.
What would you say to encourage early career librarians to apply to the Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians? First of all, the cost of attendance is an absolute bargain for a program of this quality. Secondly, it is a small program. Only 24-25 people are selected for each institute, therefore the organizers and trainers can get to know you and give you the personal attention that you would not get in larger programs. Thirdly, you will make friends. And this network of like-minded colleagues is priceless. I particularly liked the opportunity to bond with everyone in the cohort. We all stayed in the same hotel, two to a room. We got to hang out in the evening, got to know each other in a relaxed setting, and developed genuine friendships in a short period of time. I was highly impressed by the quality of my fellow participants. This friendly network of smart, ambitious, and friendly colleagues might perhaps be the most valuable thing I had gained from the Institute. Finally, Minneapolis is wonderful city (especially in the summer) – good food, cool architecture, and a gigantic mall. I would highly recommend any eligible librarian to apply to the Minnesota Institute.
Leo Lo is the Research & Development Librarian at K-State Libraries. Lo is also a specialist in cultural diversity who works toward the vision of recruiting and retaining talented students and professionals from underrepresented groups for the library profession. He is the New Leader’s Representative on the ALA Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) Board of Directors and is the Chair of LLAMA’s Diversity Task Force. Lo holds a M.S. in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University, and a M.F.A. in Screenwriting from Hollins University.
Assistant Professor/Research & Development Librarian
Kansas State University