You may know a thing or two about the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) from Tanya’s blog post, but I want to summarize my experience for you as best I can. First of all, the road to ALI for me was long a windy in more ways than one! I applied to ALI multiple times and wasn’t sure I was going to be a successful candidate. Acceptance is highly competitive and the application asks you questions like “how do you want to change the world?”…not an easy answer. So when I was accepted to the 2018 ALI cohort, I was excited and relieved to finally be a part of the hype! So I packed my bags for a quick flight and an immersive week in Berea, Kentucky! Until my flight was cancelled. And the gate agent told me “I’ll put you on any flight you want, you’re not flying to Kentucky today.” So, I rented a car! And I drove with two other stranded ALIers from Charlotte to Berea, and the adventure began!

We hit the ground running on Sunday night during dinner with icebreakers, energizers, and self reflection. Let me stress to you that all of these activities continued through the following Saturday morning when we had our last session. Here are some examples of topics we covered over the five days of ALI.

Strengths Based Leadership

During this session led by Mark Nigro of Berea College, we evaluated our own individual strengths based on the Strengths Finder assessment that everyone in the cohort did prior to arriving in Berea. Everyone in ZSR is familiar with the Strength Finder book, but we were given the Strengths Based Leadership Book and evaluated our Strengths Insight Reports which is personalized not only to your strengths, but also to our specific answers to questions on the evaluation. The combination of these tools, as well as exercises to interact and learn about other people’s strengths, was very informative. It was an eye opening opportunity to think about my strengths and how I can leverage them to be a better leader. In addition, using the exercise of learning about other people’s strengths allows me to think about and have conversations with people about how they want their leader to interact with them based on their own strengths and the leader’s strengths.

Self Leadership

What is important in your life? What did you do today? Was it necessary? Wasteful? These are the types of questions that started our self leadership work. These are not easy questions to answer, and it is certainly not easy to rate the eight most important areas of your life. Now take those important areas of your life and rate how much of your time was spent on that today. For example, one of the most important things in your life might be your family, but you may not have spent a lot of time of that today. We talked a lot about balance, priorities, planning, communication, assessment, and adjustment.

Project Management

Part of the ALI application process includes drafting a practicum project to explore during your time at ALI and eventually complete. As varied as the cohort is, you can imagine how varied the project descriptions were. To help us plan and execute our practicums, we spent a day with Sharon Leon, Associate Professor of Digital History at Michigan State University, who guided us through project management. Each person followed Sharon’s lead to fill out worksheets to articulate the idea, identify audiences and key constituencies, and to assess resources. We continued the day developing a project charter and summary description, followed by scoping and scheduling work based on deliverables. This day gave each of us a jump start on our projects, a chance to discuss other’s priorities, and also break down project management to a granular level. The goal is to continue working on our practicum projects independently and discuss them again when we meet up at SAA in August.

Exploring Identity

Dr. Kennaria Brown of Berea College led us through a morning of social identity negotiation and development. Here’s our ice-breaking exercise, give it a try.

  • List your social identities that you see playing the largest role in how you see yourself.
  • List the social identities that you think are the most relevant in how strangers perceive you.
  • What do these two lists have in common? How do they differ?
  • How have these lists impacted how you see yourself and interact with others?
  • How might these two lists impact how you do your job?

Cultural Competency

Our afternoon of “Cultural Competency Moving Through the Archives: Interrogation and Inclusion” was led by Stacie Williams of Case Western Reserve University. We broke up into groups and went on an “Accessibility Scavenger Hunt” throughout the library. We measured, observed, asked questions, and took notes thinking critically about how people use and experience the space. We considered how the following individuals would have trouble accessing the physical repository as well as the digital and web-based materials: a person with mental health issues, a person who uses a wheelchair, a person with physical fatigue issues, a blind person, a deaf person, a person with communication differences, a person with a very visible physical difference, and a person with an invisible disability. This was an enlightening experience and one we should consider doing for our physical and online spaces, especially as we plan for major renovations.

Ethical Leadership

Our afternoon of Ethical Leadership was one of my favorite days at ALI. Led by Chris Barth of the United States Military Academy, the cohort was read a case study in increments and asked what decisions we would make if we were in the same situation. The case study “The Harding Affair Letters: How One Archivist Took Every Measure Possible To Ensure Their Preservation” was written by our own Tim Pyatt. It tells the story of an archivist’s questionable ethics in regards to ensuring the preservation of important historical documents. We had a lot of laughs considering our own morals and ethical baselines while also listening to a crazy story of archival subterfuge. I recommend reading the case study and considering what you would have done in the same situation.

Final Thoughts

Believe it or not, this is just a sampling of all of the activities and sessions we had at ALI. I didn’t even mention the strategic visioning session, or the leading teamwork exercises.  I could tell you about broom making, or group bowling, sing the praises of Berea College, or all about our lunch with bell hooks!!! Needless to say, we packed a lot in and I am only scratching the surface with this blog post. If anyone wants to discuss more about my experience at ALI, I am happy chat or share my resources. I do want to thank the Dean’s office and specifically the Provost’s Office for funding this experience, I am forever grateful and changed.