UC San Diego Library Awarded Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant to Build On Conference on Academic Library Management

Funds will support narrowing gaps in the academic library professional development landscape

As the administrative sponsor of the Conference on Academic Library Management (CALM), the UC San Diego Library has been awarded a grant in the amount of $104,818 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21). The award will support an in depth examination of the state of management training and professional support in the field of academic libraries.

The grant is one of 31 projects to receive this year’s LB21 Award, which promotes the development of a diverse workforce of librarians to better meet the changing learning and information needs of the American public.

UC San Diego’s grant will directly support the “Identifying Gaps and Opportunities in Professional Development Support for Managers Project” associated with CALM. This initiative will bring together management researchers, practitioners, and existing professional organizations to identify the professional development needs of academic librarian managers. It will also serve as an opportunity to explore how the field can meaningfully engage in developing management as an ongoing and communal practice.

As a collaboration between librarians from a range of institutions, including NYU Libraries (Shawnta Smith-Cruz, co-PI), George Mason University Libraries (Maoria J. Kirker and Kat Bell, co-PIs), Gonzaga University (Heather James, co-PI), University of Houston (Veronica Arellano Douglas, co-PI), and Winthrop University Dacus Library (Diann Smothers, co-PI), the Identifying Gaps and Opportunities two-year planning grant will support this group as they strive to:

  • Gather information on the state of academic library management education and training through a syllabus and course review, as well as through surveys of academic library managers and workers
  • Host a national forum to imagine a future ecosystem of support and training for library managers
  • Create a sustainable and equitable set of recommendations to facilitate opportunities for professional development in person-centered management practices

“CALM has created an annual space for conversations about practical and person-centered management, but there is a clear need for deeper, more sustained, and ongoing professional development around management,” said Dani Brecher Cook, Principal Investigator (PI) and Co-Founder of CALM; Associate University Librarian, Learning and User Experience at UC San Diego.

CALM began as a social media conversation between two Twitter acquaintances in 2020 and grew into a group of over forty volunteers within three months. In 2021, it delivered its first full-scale virtual conference, wholly funded by academic library institutions with the aim of making attendance free to participants. The first conference reached its capacity of 1,000 conference seats in a little more than one day. In the second year, it reached capacity in under nine hours. 

In each of the three years of soliciting conference presentation proposals, CALM has received nearly 200 unique proposals, with an acceptance rate of approximately 20%. In the 2023 post-conference survey, 97% of respondents said they would recommend attending CALM to a colleague, and 96% plan to attend CALM again. A significant number of attendees commented that they wished there were more national, accessible opportunities for conversations and training around library management.

“Thanks to the grant from IMLS, CALM will be able to precisely define the professional development needs related to management for academic librarians, including aspects such as scalability, accessibility (in terms of cost, geography, and disability), and sustainability,” said Maoria Kirker, one of CALM’s Co-PIs and Lead for the University Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Team at George Mason University Libraries. “This will have wide-ranging impacts across the profession.”

Members of the CALM Steering Committee will lead the work of the grant to explore the broader needs for management professional development. This group includes the co-founders of CALM, members who have been with CALM since 2020, and highly engaged volunteers who joined the group in 2021 and 2022. 

After two years, the intended deliverables include a white paper with recommendations for expanding management education and training in the field of academic libraries; a series of infographics to visualize the collected data and its implications; informational webinars to share project results; presentations at applicable academic library conferences; and a sustainability plan that outlines how the ideas generated throughout the grant can be implemented at a scalable level.

As a person-centered organization that aims toward developing more just and inclusive management practices, CALM has a strong commitment to diversity. The co-PIs intentionally include library workers with a variety of intersectional identities, including racial/ethnic backgrounds, abilities, gender identities, sexual orientations, age, body size, religion (or lack thereof), geographic locations, educational attainment, and caregiver status. All aspects of the grant work will continue to center diversity, equity and inclusion, including the next phase of this work which is to employ a diversity consultant who will consult on accessibility, inclusive language, and culturally inclusive practices as well as help to plan the national forum. Suggestions for potential consultants can be sent to calmconference@gmail.com.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant RE-254898-OLS-23.

About Conference on Academic Library Management

Founded in 2020, the Conference on Academic Library Management (CALM) is a fully volunteer organization, whose conference activities are fully funded by the sponsorships of academic library institutions. The direction of CALM is set by the Steering Committee, a core group of intentionally diverse volunteers. The Steering Committee is supported by over 30 committee volunteers and 60 reviewers who represent almost 100 institutions. CALM’s mission is “…to fill a gap in the academic library professional development landscape by focusing on practical management skills and concrete practices.”

About Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov.