In attendance: Barbara Ford (Chair), Alistair Black, Harriet Green, Lura Joseph, Joanne Kaczmarek, Richard Tempest, Susan Schnuer, Scott Schwartz, Lynn Wiley, Jen-Chien Yu
The meeting began with brief introductions.
Agenda Items commenced with discussion of Arabella Advisors’ evaluation of the Mortenson Center model and programs.
Arabella, with funding from the Gates Foundation, has evaluated the Mortenson Center’s past 5 years of programs, including the programs’ impact on the careers of the participants and wider innovations set into motion. There will be a final meeting with Arabella Advisors on March 14. The evaluation will be discussed, which will result in an external report for distribution which will include an executive summary. This report will articulate the Center’s goals and impact for the purpose of highlighting accomplishments for interested foundations and future grantors. The meeting will also result in tools for capacity building and future evaluation. Topics not included in the report include the possible influences of the Mortenson Center on the University of Illinois and the State.
Barbara Ford highlighted Appendix B of the report, the Mortenson Center Theory of Change. This evaluation was the result of months of development and interviews with Associates from the past 5 years of programs. Arabella also consulted some of the Mortenson Center’s partners in the international community. Scott Schwartz pointed to the table on page 17 and asked what measures satisfaction? Susan Schnuer explained that the rating system was based on improvement and career development. Jen-Chien Yu went further to explain that the table probably covered average responses to a number of questions.
Schwartz asked if the MC training had any impact on the communities of MC-trained librarians and libraries? Was there a connection between impacts on home libraries and possible impacts on the communities they served? Schnuer replied that community impacts were easier to quantify during long-term projects, like the 6 years the Mortenson Center spent with the university libraries of West Africa. She thought it best to stick with community impacts from a librarian’s point of view, as it would be arrogant to attempt to assess the local communities directly. She agreed this was a weakness in the evaluation, but said it was a question they had to ask themselves, if the energy and resources to measure the MC community impact would be worth expending? The Center’s current focus was primarily on librarian development rather than the wider scope of the training’s eventual impact on the community. Richard Tempest mentioned that this measurement would require uniform standards across all libraries and all countries represented.
When the evaluation period is over, Arabella Advisors will give the Mortenson Center access to the raw data collected and also bring instruments for future analysis to be used at a later date. Of the hundreds of US leadership programs, the MC is on the leading edge of doing program evaluations, and the Gates Foundation is very interested in secondary exposures to Associates’ training. Joanne Kaczmarek asked what Barbara Ford meant by “capacity building.” Ford explained that it meant tools for data collection and analysis to use in the future for long-term program evaluations. Ford also said the Advisory Board could hopefully play a larger role in evaluating the Center going forward, perhaps a subcommittee to conduct some of the exit interviews and follow-up Skype surveys if any of the members would be interested. Jen-Chien Yu would help the Center sort through any raw data collected. Lynn Wiley and Joanne Kaczmarek expressed their interest in joining this subcommittee.
Other important topics discussed were the Center’s next steps and plans for promotion of the evaluation and the Center itself. After receipt of the final evaluation, whom should they notify? How would they go about disseminating the report to the right people? Lynn Wiley suggested partnering with the Rotary Club since it is an international organization with a large network. Joanne Kaczmarek suggested an E-week announcement for getting word out on campus, but Heather Murphy should be brought in on the discussion since she handles library public affairs. It was also suggested that the Chancellor be contacted about the report, and even brought into the final meeting with Arabella Advisors. Inside Illinois and the Chronicle of Higher Education were also suggested as publications to contact with news of the report.
The final item on the agenda was an update on the upcoming 2014 Associates program. The Center received 40 applications; 25 have remained on the list so far. We expect 20 Associates will ultimately attend. This year’s program will be a dual one with the addition of an 8-person contingent from READ Global participating in a “Train the Trainers” program. READ Global will attend a state library program in June for one week as part of their training. This year’s summer program will end in Chicago, at the 2014 Next Library conference hosted by the Chicago Public Library.
Scott Schwartz asked if any of the Associates’ programming fostered peer-to-peer conversations between the international librarians and U of I Library faculty? Barbara and Susan said that their pairing of Library Friends with the Associates every year was supposed to fulfill that need, but the success of the arrangements ultimately lay with the faculty members who volunteered and their commitment to carrying out the duties expected. Susan Schnuer elaborated, saying the programs certainly encouraged discussion and critique, but it was not scheduled or prompted. Associates shared their experiences with each other in an organically-occurring discourse during their off-hours.
Alistair Black pointed out the importance of balance in the participant comments. While most comments were glowing recommendations, some saw one of the program’s down-sides was the exhaustive rigor of the schedule. Schnuer pointed out that because of a sense of loyalty, some of the past program participants were hesitant to critique the program. Black pointed to page 22 of the report, showing evidence of a need for two tracks in Mortenson Center training programs: High-level managerial training and another for more junior-librarian participants. Barbara and Susan said they thought about possibly holding a shorter, two-week training program for high-level library managers. The important criteria for this style of programming are English-language skills and cultural similarities. The Center has held programs for library managers in the past, usually for one country at a time, like Bulgaria or Ukraine. These programs required interpreters, which is cost prohibitive in most instances. Joanne Kaczmarek suggested getting the Library to cover the cost of interpreters. Richard Tempest mentioned that a wide-range of university faculty with foreign language skills could be called upon for some programs as well.
There was some discussion of Center programming subjects, such as new technologies, and how much time to devote to them. Susan Schnuer said the program usually contained highlights of trending technologies and that we could consider narrowing the focus to just a few. A program covering the full spectrum of available innovations would be too much, seeing as how each Associate’s skill level is different. In recent years, mobile technology has been of great interest to many of the Center’s Associates. Topics not currently covered, but might be of interest in the future are academic publishing and research techniques. Schnuer said some of the Associates from Africa had PhDs, though might not be so well versed in contemporary library management. The Center tries to find a balance between theory and application so that Associates could implement things they learned within their own libraries as soon as they return to work. In that vein, the Center staff tailors some of the Associates’ experiences to their subjects of interest by arranging meetings with campus faculty, but that managing expectations is an important part of the process.
Since there are only 4 weeks in the program, Scott Schwartz suggested a reduction of on-site components in favor of an increase in online learning through MOOCs after the program as well as pointing the Associates toward online resources for further information. Schnuer said the Associates often stay in touch with each other after the program, but that the Center did not have the resources or capacity to follow up with additional training opportunities. The possibility of auditing GSLIS classes was mentioned. Barbara Ford said they did arrange class audits for those Associates who expressed interest, but did not offer it to everyone. It would require additional funding if done on a wider scale.
Alistair Black praised the look of the Center’s new design and brochures, but pointed out that there were no pictures of Barbara or Susan or the Center included.
There were no other topics to discuss so the meeting was adjourned.
Minutes prepared by Lindy Wheatley.