Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS) has been operating an innovative leadership program  for the past four years.  Spearheaded by Anne Marie Madziak, The APLL Institute (pronounced “apple”, this stands for Advancing Public Library Leadership) is specifically designed for  those who aren’t yet in senior management positions.  Running over 24 months, participants only need to travel to on-site classroom setting twice – once at the beginning of the program and then at the close.  During the intervening months they participate in 12 online courses and discussions.

I’m delighted to be a part of this program as instructor of the Planning course. Anne Marie and I are in the midst of reviewing and redesigning this course. To inform our review Anne Marie contacted graduates of the first 2 programs.  What she heard not only informs this leadership program, but has implications for other management and leadership learning events.  Here’s Anne Marie’s comments:

As coordinator of APLL, I’m keen to understand what the lasting benefits of the program are two years after graduation.  Are there courses that continue to be of relevance?  The 9 APLL leadership practices that frame the program are:

  1. Inspire and hold the vision
  2. Reach for exemplary service
  3. Make intelligent decisions 
  4. Embrace strategic and purposeful change 
  5. Create a learning environment
  6. Cultivate relationships  
  7. Develop individuals 
  8. Sustain a healthy workplace
  9. Navigate municipal and community connectedness 

Are these leadership practices still useful or long forgotten?  Are there particular skills, knowledge or competencies attributed to the program?  With a new cohort beginning the program in the fall of 2012, I want to understand which aspects of the experience have greatest impact so that we continue to grow APLL as an agent of change. 

Discussion was thoughtful as graduates reported on their:

  • new-found confidence in themselves as a leader
  • greater awareness of the big picture and the role of the library in the community
  • new appreciation for the politics of public library leadership
  • need to be adaptive, collaborative and strategic. 

It turns out there were two courses more important than the others, at least for this group of graduates.  Both the Planning course, taught by Rebecca Jones of Dysart and Jones, and Succeeding in the Municipal Environment, taught by Nigel Bellchamber and Fred Dean, municipal experts, were cited as being formative and of lasting significance. 

As these emerging leaders reflected on their leadership development, I was struck by the prevalence of thinking as a key leadership activity.  Whether describing efforts to channel their passion constructively, or time spent pondering the impact of a new direction on service, staff, and culture, they frequently referred to the skills associated with thinking things through, pondering, reflecting, contemplating, predicting, analyzing, and assessing.  The program itself, with its blend of online and face-to-face, and an emphasis on peer learning, was credited with establishing thinking and reflecting as important disciplines.  Kelly Bernstein of Georgina Public Library provided a good example of the impact on her own development:  “two years of thinking about yourself as a leader can’t help but change you inside.  You start to believe in yourself and take yourself more seriously.” 

For more information about the APLL Institute, see the Training page of the SOLS website: