California librarians early in their career have a unique opportunity to build their leadership skills. The Eureka Leadership Institute, a partnership between the California State Library and Infopeople, provides 32 librarians with anywhere between 3 and 10 years of experience, an opportunity to work on their skills by participating in a 6 day residential leadership program held in three parts over the course of one year.
The details of what happens at the Institute are shrouded in mystery. This is so that participants don’t arrive with expectations and so that they see it as a safe place where they can feel free to challenge themselves without being afraid of an official record or recording. To give you a better idea of what is involved, here is a basic outline of activities:
- Homework assignments
- Attend first 2 Days of Institute (meet/work with fellow participants and mentors)
- Write LSTA grant for project (must be responsive to community needs and fit California LSTA guidelines)
- Implement grant project
- Encore event (2 days together)
- Anniversary Event (2 days together)
I have the pleasure of working with a Eurekan (how they referred to themselves) so I interviewed her about her experience so far. Teen Librarian Joanna Axelrod, recognized as a 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, was one of the 32 applicants chosen to participate this year.
Why did she choose to participate in Eureka?
“I wanted to be part of the club”, Joanna says. Everyone she met who had participated in previous years spoke about Eureka with such passion and praise. She wanted the opportunity to expand her professional network and says that the network that results from attending Eureka is “like going to a conference times a thousand.” Eurekans tend to develop close bonds that continue for years to come. The support from colleagues who are just as interested in leadership as you are, and from mentors who take a personal interest in developing you as a leader, make it an unforgettable experience.
What has she learned so far?
Joanna has learned a lot about her own personal leadership style. As an extrovert and someone not afraid to take the reigns, she challenged herself to not be the first person to volunteer for leadership roles in group settings. Surprisingly, she found that not being the official leader or the first voice heard, did not impact her ability to contribute her leadership skills to the group. Also, getting feedback from the mentors and other participants has helped her realize her strength as a public speaker.
What is it like working with the mentors?
Every group of Eurekans gets to work with mentors who are mostly directors from California libraries. Joanna found this experience very beneficial because it gave her the opportunity to see life outside her own library. She got to learn about different leadership styles and what other libraries were doing. It truly broadened her horizons and she was happy to network with these amazing leaders. She also appreciated the honest feedback they gave during her first two days attending the Institute.
Joanna’s project for Eureka is called Pop Up Podcast, a free, after-school activity that provides a fun, creative environment for teens to engage with audio recording technology and explore their own self-expression and presentation skills. Joanna travels to two off-site locations with Digital Services Librarian, Viktor Sjöberg, to teach teens about podcasting. The project is going great and Joanna is looking forward to telling her fellow Eurekans about it at the upcoming Encore event. In the meantime, she is keeping in touch with them and getting their support as the project progresses.
I wish I’d known about Eureka before I reached the 10-year mark in my career. If you’re working in a library in California and are interested in leadership, I encourage you to consider applying for the next Eureka Leadership Institute. The library world can use more Eurekans!