Grantee Report: AALL Management Institute

Thanks to a generous grant from CALL, I was able to attend the  virtual AALL Management Institute in March 2021 The Management Institute is a two-day immersion which ambitiously aims to prepare “managers to thrive in uncertainty, confidently navigate conflict, and build commitment to strategic goals.”

After a welcome by AALL Director of Education Celeste Smith, Day 1 began with a presentation by Jessica Swenson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the Responsibilities of Managers Managing in Remote and Hybrid Environments. Because so many of us had spent the last year working remotely, regardless of library type, this topic was one to which many participants could relate. The afternoon’s presentation topic was Understanding and Transforming Organizational Culture. In her presentation renowned expert Maureen Sullivan outlined the attributes of successful organizations, including organizational structure, management processes, and human resource systems. Sullivan’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion on Management in Real Time with Cynthia Brown, Littler Mendelson P.C; Joseph Lawson, Harris County Robert W. Hainsworth Law Library; David Mao, Georgetown University Law Center; Maureen Sullivan, Maureen Sullivan Associates; and Jessica Swenson, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Day 1 ended with a short breakout session and optional social networking time.

Day 2 began with another timely presentation. This one on Overcoming Implicit Bias, Identity Anxiety, and Stereotype Threat from Aya Taveras and Jessica McFarlane of the Perception Institute. Their presentation offered suggestions for creating a more inclusive work environment, such as becoming comfortable with differences as a source of relationships and using clear and fair criteria and protocols so that implicit biases is less likely to determine behavior and inform decisions. The afternoon session of Day 2 commenced with topical breakout sessions followed by Jessica Swensen (Univ. of Wisconsin.-Madison) presenting on Engaging in Constructive Conversations. The Institute wrapped up with further discussion led by Swenson on Professional Development and Planning.

The AALL Management Institute provided a fine introduction in to some interesting topics. The well-thought out handouts are sure to be useful as a librarian navigates her career. However, after listening to 2-days of helpful management advice, I left wondering if that maybe the Management Institute could be made stronger by setting smaller more measurable goals. Here are some suggestions:

  • Provide a singular vision for the institute so that presentations build off each other;
  • Have a wide variety of presenters representing the diversities of the profession;
  • Use breakout rooms strategically and set them up to foster a diversity of viewpoint. Rather than just providing a topic for discussion, provide specific goals or activities. Consider outlining specific rules for how the discussion should be moderated and progress. This may help alleviate long silences or prevent having one or two voices dominate;
  • After breakout sessions allow time to tie ideas together;
  • Networking time can be valuable. Provide a structure to the networking. Putting a large group of people in a call together and telling them to network can be awkward.