Monday, December 20, 2010

NELI reflections

I promised myself I would tell you all a bit more about NELI, and so now that I have (mostly) recovered, and re-integrated into society, here it goes.

I was at Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park, B.C. from December 2-7 for the Northern Exposure to Leadership Institute, “an institute by and for Canada's library leaders,” a six-day program to which librarians can apply within 2-7 years of receiving their MLIS degree. 24 librarians exhibiting leadership potential are normally chosen; 36 attended this year’s Institute. NELI’s founder, Ernie Ingles, indicated this increased number of participants reflected the Institute’s response to the current crisis in library leadership, as baby boomers retire and there are not enough people to step into leadership roles.

NELI’s mission is “to motivate professional librarians in order to assist them in developing, strengthening and exercising their individual leadership abilities so that they are better prepared to create, articulate and achieve organizational visions for the benefit of library service, initially, and society at large, ultimately.” The Institute offers an “experiential and theoretical learning situation.” In order not to detract from the experience of future candidates, participants are asked to keep confidential the specific details of the Institute.

2010 NELI faculty included staff of the University of Alberta and a former ALA president (among others,) and 2010 NELI mentors included at least four university librarians, five current or former public library CEOs, and several managers, partners or vice presidents of vendor and associate organisations. NELI sponsors included OCLC, Coutts Information Services, YBP and EBSCO Canada Ltd.

Components of the 2010 NELI program included sessions focusing on networking, teamwork, active listening, leadership, management, giving/receiving feedback, visioning, change management, conflict resolution, and influencing. We also developed our own individual career development plans, in consultation with our group mentors and any other mentors from whom we wished to seek advice or input.

NELI was a transformative experience for me. I learned about my own capability and potential. The connections I made with 36 similarly dedicated and passionate new librarians will support me throughout my career. The wealth of knowledge I was exposed to via the mentors, sponsors and faculty have informed my professional path. Perhaps most critically, the program’s experiential learning approach not only enhanced skills I already had but also helped me develop new skills that will serve me in my entire life.

I cannot even begin to share everything I learned at NELI in a report, in part because the experience is so rich, and also because the experience is so personal. Over the holidays, I will post ten quotes from the sessions and from conversations that took place at NELI. Hopefully, these will begin to capture the NELI experience for outsiders without violating the confidentiality of the participants.

If you are within 2-7 years of receiving your MLIS degree, I would highly recommend considering NELI.

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