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PALS Leadership Academy Experience

August 21, 2018
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Summer is nearly over, and my students started classes for AY 2018-2019 today. But just a few months ago, I took a few days away from campus to participate in PALS (PA Academy of Leadership Studies) Leadership Academy, thanks to the generous support of CRD.

If you haven’t heard of PALS or the Leadership Academy before, here’s a quick overview:

PALS is a cooperative program between the Pennsylvania Library Association and the Office of Commonwealth Libraries that offers leadership training to librarians of all kinds from across the state.

The Leadership Academy is a 3.5 day workshop for librarians with an MLIS/MLS to develop their leadership skills. Participating Librarians are of any experience level and work in many kinds of libraries and are selected through an application process. Some scholarships are available from PaLA chapters and divisions, like the one I received from CRD.

Participants stay onsite at a hotel for the entire workshop, and learn about leadership styles, how to be an effective leader, how to apply leadership contexts to their positions and in their libraries, as well as career development and advancement. The Leadership Academy participants also agree participate in a PALS group project for one year. Projects vary from year to year based on the needs of the organization, but participants can find a project related to their interests.

During introductions, a lot of people did not consider themselves to be a leader. Few people held positions like manager or supervisor. But that is the ultimate message of Leadership Academy, and PALS in general — you don’t become a leader by being in a position of authority. You are a leader when you choose to lead. I think that is a powerful message. In a previous position, I was a manager, and I tried to be a leader in addition to my supervisory roles. I’m not a manager anymore, but I now can more easily see the ways I am a leader in my library, even if I’m not a supervisor. I can still choose to lead, and now I feel more comfortable doing so.

I appreciated that much of the leadership workshops focused on our individual libraries, positions, and contexts. Leadership is not one size fits all. We had lots of time during each session to think about what we learned and how we could make changes in our own lives and workplaces to be a better leader, and better represent our libraries to our communities and stakeholders.

But it’s not all work! Leadership Academy has time built in each day for fun and team building. We had a great time playing funny board games, bowling, and breaking out of escape rooms. I work in a very large library system, and sometimes it can be hard to meet other librarians who do not work in my system. It was really helpful for me to meet other librarians, both public and academic, so we could discuss the challenges and successes we have in our libraries and communities.

I really do want to be more of a leader in my workplace, and become a leader in PaLA over time. Leadership Academy was a great time to learn more about myself, my leadership styles, and PaLA. I would strongly consider librarians who want to build their leadership skills and grow in the profession to apply. You even get a great totebag!

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