Davidson Hosts College Library Director Mentoring Program Seminar

Over Spring Break, Davidson’s library hosted the annual seminar of the College Library Director Mentoring Program.  This program, meant to provide new college library directors with mentors and a cohort, brought 17 new directors and three seminar leaders to campus.  I also serve as a seminar leader.  The curriculum over two-and-a-half days was intense, focusing on leadership development and big-picture thinking but also meeting participants’ needs for nitty-gritty management advice, too.

The seminar is in a different location each year.  It used to occur just before ALA’s Midwinter conference at a college library in the same city, but the Philadelphia blizzard of 2014 persuaded the leaders to choose times and locations where weather was less likely to keep participants away.  Last year we went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and linked to the ACRL conference.  ACRL meets every other year, so 2016 was the first time the seminar would not be tied to a big library conference.  I volunteered Davidson, thinking that its nearness to a major airport and the presence of hotels and restaurants in close proximity would make it work well for the seminar.  And it did.  One of the co-directors of the program said, “You told us Davidson would be perfect, and it was.”

In recent years, we’ve been asking some administrators from the local college host to talk with the group.  The chief academic officer, typically the supervisor of the library director, is an obvious choice.  The CIO and someone from HR have proven helpful as well.  This year we expanded the speakers list by one, adding the chief financial officer.  The participants were all impressed with Davidson’s team of Wendy Raymond, Rae Clemmons (on her very first day of work!), Ann Todd, and Ed Kania.  Many would have been pleased to take these folks back to their own campuses!  The perspective provided by local campus officials is tremendously beneficial and hard to get any other way.  The new directors could learn how deans, HR, ITS, and the financial people like to work with librarians; they could also ask questions they’d be reluctant to ask on their own campuses.  We seminar leaders sometimes get an almost palpable sense of relief from participants when they get an answer to something that’s been bugging them, from an expert who won’t be involved in their evaluation.

The cohort is another benefit of the program.  Being a library director can get lonely:  there is likely no one else at the same level who understands librarianship deeply.  Each person in this year’s program now has 16 colleagues at different institutions who can listen, sympathize, and offer advice and reality checks.

Hosting the seminar was most definitely a group effort.  Our behind-the-scenes star was Lisa Smith, who handled all the local arrangements deftly and never got rattled; her pre-seminar handout for participants was an information-rich thing of beauty.  Lisa and Denise Sherrill procured the snacks and beverages, and Much Ado Catering delivered delicious lunches.  Many library staff offered directions, information, and friendly smiles.  Participants were especially impressed with the Davidson students staffing the Information Desk.  I also want to thank the staffs at the Homewood Suites and the North Harbor Club for excellent accommodations and opening banquet.  Masters Transportation got everyone to and from the airport and gave us flawless service at a reasonable price.

Next year the seminar will be in Baltimore, the site of the 2017 ACRL conference, but we shouldn’t be surprised if the organizers ask about returning to Davidson in 2018….