Institute Learning Goals

Beginnings of the project

According to the 2017 American Library Association paper, “Rural Libraries in the United States: Recent Strides, Future Possibilities, and Meeting Community Needs,” roughly one-third of all U.S. public libraries serve areas with populations of 2,500 or fewer people. Of these, two-thirds of the library directors have not earned a Master’s in Library Science.

The average Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) member comes from a library with less than three employees and the average salary for the library director is $28,508. The salary, in particular, can have an impact on the ability to recruit and hire staff with leadership and/or managerial experience. In some communities, being the “librarian” pays slightly better than working at the gas station mini mart.

Even when libraries have strong leadership, the small number of staff results in a limited ability to grow new leaders within those rural and small libraries.

The ARSL board has recognized this need and arranged for members to attend leadership institutes offered by other organizations. However, when staff from rural or small libraries have participated in leadership institutes that focus on general, and often much larger libraries, they have reported to the ARSL board that the content and examples often have not directly informed the issues they face in rural libraries and small communities.

Recognizing this need, we designed
Outstanding in Their Field: Leadership Institute for Rural and Small Libraries

Learning Goals

Leading Self

  • Identify and practice their individual, authentic leadership style
  • Cultivate professional peer network
  • Build professional capacity

Leading Others

  • Build practical skills in leading and developing others

Leading the Library

  • Develop skills and confidence to lead a strong library for effective capacity and culture
  • Act as a thought leader

Leading the Community

  • Recognize the importance of participation in broader community initiatives
  • Lead community development

Leading in the Profession

  • Contribute to improving the library profession

This institute uses the Nexus Leading Across Boundaries (LAB) Layers of Leadership across Libraries, Archives, and Museums as the basic framework for the development of an 18-month institute for rural and small library leaders.

The Nexus LAB document  (October 2017) was published by Educopia Institute, Center for Creative Leadership under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License and is available for download at

This ARSL leadership institute and the Nexus LAB are both made possible in part through generous funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS AwardRE-00-14-0095-14; IMLS Award RE-246425-OLS-20)