My Lessons in Leadership: California Library Leadership Institute 2016

by Heather Lanctot

I had the honor of applying, and being accepted, to the 2016 California Library Leadership Institute which was held in San Jose, California, from March 9 to 14. There were 32 attendees at the institute from a variety of libraries throughout the state. Each attendee brought a different resume, cadre of experience and point-of-view to the institute, which resulted in meaningful conversations and different approaches to problem solving. This experience was not only empowering, but it also contained a lot of invaluable information about leadership skills and resources.


Brainstorm from the first day: “What makes a good leader?” – first three pages of ideas


Brainstorm continued – we filled five pages!

The institute was facilitated by Maureen Sullivan, former president of the American Library Association, and Kathryn Deiss, the current  content strategist for the Association of College and Research Libraries. Both of these women have a long history with libraries, nonprofits and facilitation of leadership training. Each day of the institute covered a different topic from the following list:

  • Leadership
  • Interpersonal Competence
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Power and Influence
  • Collaboration
  • Community Engagement
  • Innovation
  • Personal Plan

There were two elements of the institute that I found most rewarding and beneficial. First, I benefited from the “Deep Dive” sessions each evening and second, I enjoyed our “Mini Case” group work.

Through our “Deep Dive” sessions, institute participants were able to ask practicing professionals specific questions about their successes and perceived failures in leadership roles. Each speaker was asked questions about their career path, work-life balance, passion for leadership, moments of vulnerability, etc. The “Mini Case” groups were comprised of eight individuals and were conducted throughout the institute. In each group we problem solved case studies from each individual’s institution through the lenses of the different leadership styles and concepts that we learned. These groups not only allowed for practical application of what we had learned, but also afforded us the opportunity to network and connect with institute participants in smaller groups.

Being able to network with librarians and hear about what was happening in other repositories  throughout the state was invaluable. I am grateful that I was able to participate in this institute and I look forward to implementing the skills that I learned throughout my career.


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