Magazine article American Libraries

The Color of Leadership: Spectrum Institute 2001

Magazine article American Libraries

The Color of Leadership: Spectrum Institute 2001

Article excerpt

ALA's Spectrum Initiative, launched in 1997, has become widely recognized as an effective means of fostering the development of a more diverse workforce in U.S. libraries. Starting in 1998, about 50 people of color have received scholarships each year, enabling them to pursue library-related professional studies. A key to their success has been the Spectrum Leadership Institute, which caps the scholars' formal learning experience with several days of mixing and mentoring that provide them with the perspective they need to make best use of their new knowledge.

One of the initiative's goals is to provide the scholars with leadership skills that will enable them to create change in the communities they serve. The Spectrum Leadership Institute creates an atmosphere in which they can focus on those skills, rather than the more traditional skills of librarianship, by sharing experiences among themselves and with those who have gone before them. The result is a deeper understanding of what it means to be a minority librarian and, often, a broader network of friends and colleagues.

The institute, like the Spectrum Initiative itself, has evolved significantly over its short life. When the first institute was held, its program consisted mainly of speakers who talked about leadership and diversity. Now, three years later, Spectrum scholars get a lot more than talk about leadership. The institute of today has been reshaped based on feedback from Spectrum "graduates." The keynote speakers bring a wide range of learning to the scholars, but they are unified in their commitment to diversity of all kinds.

This year's institute, held June 11-14 in San Jose, California, included a career-options fair for scholars, and Spectrum grads were invited back to help the current scholars make the transition from library school into their new careers.

The power of inspiration

Some institutes feature presenters reading verbatim from PowerPoint slides, but the Spectrum Leadership Institute uses a different sort of power--called inspiration--to help participants grasp key concepts.

The opening reception this year featured the Tezkatlipoka Aztec Dancers, who initiated a powerful session in which the scholars shared stories of struggles, hardship, and triumphs in life. …

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