The HBCU Library Alliance and Brown Library receive IMLS grant for Leadership Development Program

Cultural sensitivity and organizational healing will be integral facets of unique partnership program to foster leaders at HBCU libraries and Brown University

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] The HBCU Library Alliance and Brown University Library have received a $100,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program to create a transformational leadership development program: Stronger Together, Leading through Community. This two-year program for emerging library leaders is the first such program to intentionally unite two distinct communities of practice, HBCUs and Brown University. The curriculum and immersive exchanges of this intensive program will develop core leadership competencies such as change management, fundraising, and collection stewardship. The program will also focus on the leader’s role in promoting organizational healing from the disruption of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in ensuring that libraries are sites of intentional social justice work.

Mutually Beneficial Partnership

The HBCU Library Alliance is a consortium that supports collaboration across the libraries and between information professionals dedicated to providing an array of resources designed to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities and their constituents. This grant award marks the first project to be undertaken as part of the formal partnership between the HBCU Library Alliance and Brown University Library. The HBCU Library Alliance welcomed Brown University Library into its community of practice in February 2020 as its inaugural invited, non-HBCU affiliate member. This partnership is based on deep relational work that acknowledges and actively counteracts the historical power imbalance between HBCUs and the Ivy League. It is built with respect and investment in each other’s communities with the shared focus of mutually beneficial partnership activities. Sandra Phoenix, executive director of the HBCU Library Alliance, looks forward to working with Brown to foster strong, culturally sensitive library leaders: 

Collaborating with Brown University to support leadership development and to continue our mission to strengthen HBCU libraries and their staff sets the stage to advance our work together. We are grateful to IMLS for funding the Stronger Together, Leading through Community leadership development initiative. It is our goal to share skills and talents with Brown University, create and cultivate a diverse space for mutual teaching/learning/healing experiences and develop high-calibre library leaders to meet the needs of our communities.

Both the HBCU Library Alliance and Brown University Library have a long history of successful partnerships, which have laid the operational foundation for this pilot project to succeed and grow into a sustainable program that will deeply influence the trajectory of leadership development in libraries. According to Monika Rhue, Director of Library Services and Curation at Johnson C. Smith University’s James B. Duke Memorial Library, and HBCU Library Alliance Board chair, the grant-funded, partner-run program is well positioned to develop library leaders with expertise in social justice:

The program’s pilot will include a most-essential social justice component, where we will focus on leadership development from the lens of community members engaged in civil/human rights. There is such potential to learn, to share experiences, and to advance the development of leaders with this critical perspective. Thanks are due to Brown University for this opportunity to engage and to IMLS for funding this very timely initiative. Our transformative work continues!”

The program will break new ground in library leadership development by prioritizing two guiding principles:

  1. Equitable Partnership: Intentional, respectful, and mutually beneficial partnerships across communities are essential for advancing the mission of academic libraries to serve as core resources for socially-engaged scholarship.
  2. Unique Value of HBCUs: HBCU Libraries are uniquely positioned as educational institutions that steward and preserve African American history and culture. It is the responsibility of all research libraries to support this work and advance the status and reach of HBCU libraries, thereby amplifying the cultural, social and scholarly value of African American history.

Emerging Leaders Cohort

The pilot’s cohort of emerging leaders is purposefully designed to be small, including a total of six participants drawing from HBCU Library Alliance member libraries and Brown University Library. The size will ensure deeply personalized attention to the participants, and the program directors — Sandra Phoenix, Executive Director of the HBCU Library Alliance, and Amanda E. Strauss, Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, Brown University — will be attentive to how the unique qualities of this program can be scaled for broader impact.  

Program activities will include:

  • Personalized Leadership Development Plans: Each member of the cohort will have support to create a personalized leadership development plan.
  • Formal Mentorship during the program and beyond 
  • Virtual learning and coursework: The cohort will have access to a unique leadership curriculum specifically designed for this program.
  • Cohort connections in-person and virtual
  • Immersive Exchanges: Each emerging leader will participate in a multi-day, immersive site visit at either an HBCU library or Brown University Library. These exchange residencies will be tailored to individual leadership development plans created as part of the curriculum.
  • Leadership Symposium: The program will culminate in an invitational leadership symposium wherein the emerging leaders cohort will partner with the instructors and curriculum designers to share their learning outcomes with 30-50 colleagues drawn from HBCU libraries and Brown University Library. 

“The support from IMLS is a wonderful recognition of our partnership and the goals we share for advancing the next generation of academic library leaders,” said Joseph S. Meisel, Joukowsky Family University Librarian at Brown. “Combining the distinctive strengths of the HBCU Library Alliance, its member institutions, and the Brown University Library on the basis of genuine reciprocity is a very exciting prospect.”

IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program

The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) supports the development of a diverse workforce of librarians and archivists in order to meet the information needs of their communities by enhancing the training and professional development of library and archives professionals; developing faculty and information leaders; and recruiting, educating, and retaining the next generation of library and archives professionals.