The Minnesota Library Association Institute for Leadership Excellence (MILE) hosted their sixth biennial retreat for future library leaders from May 12-15, 2015.
Since 2005, future Minnesota library leaders have come together to learn more about leadership styles, library trends, and professional network building at the Minnesota Library Association Institute for Leadership Excellence (MILE). Every MILE retreat is unique, as it is planned by the previous graduating group. Library staff who are interested in participating are required to complete an application and undergo a selection process. The interest and demand for the program continues to grow, so not everyone who applies is selected. Selection is determined by previous MILE graduates.
One program that is typically revisited each year is a session on the book Strengths Finder by Tom Rath. Each attendee takes the StrengthsFinder assessment to learn more about their personal aptitudes. This year’s retreat also included sessions on library advocacy, leading from the middle, and creative thinking. Attendees had the opportunity to learn from experts like Barry Kudrowitz and Jamie LaRue. Participants are also paired with mentors from the professional library community who will help them work toward the goals they have set over the following eighteen months. Those interested in becoming mentors also complete an application. The information provided is used to match the skills of the mentor with the needs of individual mentees.
I had the opportunity to attend the last day of the retreat as a mentor for the program. It was great to see the connections that had already been built between the participants in such a short time. Most of my time was spent meeting one on one with my mentee. I’m excited to build the connection with another person in our state’s library community and expect to learn a few new ideas and perspectives myself. Several graduates from MILE work at our library system. I have seen real benefits of having staff with greater connections in the library world. It can be difficult to build this type of network. MILE achieves this in just four days.
MILE is the brainchild of members of the Minnesota Library Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing library services and increasing public awareness of Minnesota libraries. According to one of its founders, Don Kelsey, the program grew out of a conversation in 2004 based on workshop opportunities offered by the American Library Association. “We wanted to do it in Minnesota,” said Kelsey at a closing session of the conference. “The Foundation looks at this as a way to pay it forward.”
The program has reaped benefits from its efforts. Three of the last four Minnesota Library Association presidents have been MILE graduates. In addition, approximately forty percent of last year’s MLA conference attendees had a MILE connection, according to Kelsey.
It will be another two years before the next MILE retreat begins. Visit the Minnesota Library Association website for more information.