Geof Huth 2014-02-10 17:54:25
The Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) began in 2008 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as an experiment in cultivating leaders in the archives profession. Working with archivists who demonstrated leadership skills, the weeklong institute focused twenty-five archivists on the process of becoming leaders for their institutions, their profession, and themselves. ALI had such an impact that alumni went on to apply to the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for a grant to rethink ALI and make the experience even better and more durable in its effects. Charting New Territory That’s what brought ALI to Luther College in the picturesque town of Decorah, Iowa, in June. Participants in ALI@Luther soon discovered this venue was an ideal spot for a leadership intensive. Housed for a week in a series of buildings nestled against a hillside teeming with deer, these leaders learned in a space that supported contemplation. Yet there was so much to do as well. Walking on a log twenty feet off the ground as part of a challenge course. Learning about the archiving of heirloom varieties of plants. Strolling a half mile into town to visit Toppling Goliath, one of the great microbreweries of the Midwest. Yoga. These were some of the benefits ALI@Luther attendees experienced, along with tasty food catered in the classroom. Leadership Curriculum What truly propels ALI, however, is something deeper. The curriculum for the week is stripped down and focused. Each day is devoted to one subject so the participants can learn the essentials of leadership deeply. The focus started with the important concept of leadership thinking and moved to developing electronic records programs, project management, strategic visioning and team development, and advocacy. The topics were dealt with intensively, and participants learned through lecture and active participation, discussion, and group projects. The glue that held these topics together was both the concept of leadership and instructor Luther Snow’s overarching concept of asset thinking. Before and after each session, Snow reviewed what the cohort had learned, put the day to come or the day that had just been into perspective, and guided everyone to think of the assets they had to work with rather than the gaps that existed in their resources. Leadership must have a strong foundation, and ALI taught participants to build on a foundation of assets. Bleakness can be debilitating, and a leader as a bleak specter of dismay drains people of desire to excel. ALI participants learned to use the resources they had and develop those that were needed, but never to worry about the resources that were not yet in evidence. Through repetition and storytelling, the group internalized the process of focusing on assets, in whatever form they revealed themselves. Buildings. Money. People. Knowledge. Archival records. Supporters. And the cohort also Learned more about how to make those assets grow. Continuing the Work ALI@Luther’s program staff and the Steering Committee design, direct, and revise the entire program. Consisting almost entirely of alumni of the Archives Leadership Institute (and one alumnus of the Frye Leadership Institute), this cadre of archivists considered new ways to run the program this year. Each member of this committee also served as a guide to the entire cohort and a mentor to several of the participants. Although this year’s program came to an end on a Saturday morning in June, the work continues. New alumni have begun to work on leadership practicums, most of which are focused on expanding the capacities in their institutions. These real-life projects become the core of attendees’ learning experiences and the real test of the success of ALI. No one need succeed fully in his or her goals to successfully complete the practicum, though. The learning is in the doing. ALI Alumni ALI’s new vision is also focused on developing a more vibrant and interactive alumni community. This year at ARCHIVES 2013, the Joint Annual Meeting of SAA and the Council of State Archivists, the Steering Committee hosted an ALI alumni dinner to bring participants from many years together to share stories. The day after these festivities, the committee held a Practices Workshop to give alumni a chance to talk about how they implemented what they learned at ALI. Part of this event also focused on helping the current crop of ALI alumni work on their practicums. In addition, the Steering Committee designed an ALI Salon so that alumni could carry out conversations about leadership into the future of our profession. How You Can Participate If you check Twitter, you will have a sense of the learning and fun that made this one week in Decorah such a memorable experience for those involved. Look for the #ALI13 hashtag for an easy review, and ponder a bit on what #lutherspeak means. Ask any member of this year’s cohort if you need help. If you have never been a part of ALI before and you would like to develop your leadership skills, apply for the June 2014 ALI. What awaits you is a life-changing experience. No one has ever departed from a week at ALI without growing as a leader, learning a great deal, feeling empowered to face almost anything, and making a number of new friends.
Published by Society of American Archivists. View All Articles.
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