Windham Public Library Director, Jen Alvino, will head to Itasca, Illinois in August to participate in Leading to the Future, a four-day leadership institute offered by the American Library Association. Alvino was selected from a highly competitive national pool to be one of 40 participants from around the country.
The institute will be led by leadership experts Maureen Sullivan and Kathryn Deiss. Alvino said the association tries to bring together librarians from different parts of the country, with different professional responsibilities and from different types of libraries to form a diverse cohort.
Alvino attended leadership training led by Sullivan in 2005 through the New England Library Association (NELA). At that time, she said, she was at a very different place in her career. She had not yet attended graduate school and knew she wanted her career to take a different direction.
“At that time that leadership training was a real trajectory for me to go to graduate school, advance my career and take on a bigger leadership role,” she said.
Since then, she has attended graduate school, and had jobs with increasing responsibility leading her to her position as library director in Windham. She was also the president of NELA, and is on the American Library Association council. Her goals in attending this institute are different this time. She said she’s hoping to gain knowledge around how to get out into the community and be a voice at the table. She wants to learn how to hear what the community needs from the library, and how to address those needs.
Windham is in the midst of strategic planning and creating a comprehensive plan. There are many conversations about how the town is growing, and where the town is going, she said. “I really feel strongly that this institute will help me not only address the library needs, but also participate more in those conversations about where the town is going, how we’re growing, and what the community members need not just here in the library but elsewhere in town too. It’s really exciting for me,” she said.
The competitive application process began in April, with a letter of approval from Town Manager Tony Plante. Alvino submitted her resume along with answers to several essay questions about what she was hoping to get from the institute as well as what she could offer to others.
“They create opportunities for you to connect and to keep those connections throughout your career which is really nice,” said Alvino. The connections outside the community bring a different perspective to the work, she said.
Alvino is the only librarian from this region to be selected for this year’s institute. The closest participant on the list, she said, is from Connecticut. “I’m excited to broaden myself that way too, to meet some people that I haven’t met,” she said.