2024-2025 Cohort
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Past Cohort

ARSL Leadership Institute

The ARSL Leadership Institute is a grant-funded pilot program (IMLS Award ID RE-246425-OLS-20) that seeks to provide timely, relevant leadership development opportunities for rural and small library workers.

Why this Leadership Institute?

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.

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 t that the content and examples often have not directly informed the issues they face in rural libraries and small communities.

 Leadership Plan for Participants

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

Learning Formats

Immersive In-Person

  • Two days of cohort building and leadership skill-building

Participatory Online Workshops

  • Blended sessions with experts who coach participants


  • Participants select a project to apply their learning and make change in their library, community, or the profession

Two ARSL Conference Experiences

  • Participate in a leadership track and present Institute projects

Online Anytime

  • Recorded presentations with leading experts in rural libraries


  • Participants build a team of professionals to help develop leadership skills