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L. Angie Ohler joins the 2023 ARL Leadership Fellows cohort

By December 8, 2023No Comments

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has announced its 2023 leadership fellows, and there’s a familiar name in the mix.

L. Angie Ohler, the associate university librarian for collections and content strategy at the University of Minnesota Libraries, is one of 20 fellows chosen for this competitive leadership program. 

“Good library leaders never stop learning about themselves as leaders,” Ohler said. “It’s really an exciting opportunity and as with all opportunities, it will take work on my part.” 

The ARL, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit comprising 127 research libraries and archives in major public and private universities, governmental agencies, and large public institutions across the United States and Canada. The organization supports research libraries and archives, creates a research and learning ecosystem, and advocates for public policy changes. 

The leadership fellows program began in 2004 with the goal of supporting the next generation of research library and archives leadership. The program only accepts around 20 applicants every two years, and its inaugural cohort included University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, Lisa German, as well as Director of Archives and Special Collections Kris Kiesling. 

“I am thrilled that Angie was selected to be in the 2023 cohort of the ARL Leadership Fellows Program,” German said. “She is an outstanding leader and will be a valuable asset to the cohort as she seeks to gain additional leadership skills.”

The right to read

Ohler, an Oklahoma native, has always worked in libraries, ever since her time as an undergraduate at Westminster College in Missouri, and later as a graduate student at American University. 

As a first-generation college graduate from a working class background, she sometimes felt an outsider in higher education, but the atmosphere of academic libraries helped her feel more comfortable.

Angie Ohler

Angie Ohler

There’s always interesting events to attend — all open and accessible to the wider public, which she values — and there’s always interesting people to meet. 

“It’s been really wonderful to work with so many people who are interested in so many different things and also passionate about providing the excellent services we offer to our campus and communities,” she said.   

After graduating with her master’s in cultural anthropology, Ohler served as an acquisitions assistant and later taught as an adjunct professor of anthropology and American studies at American University. 

Ohler decided to transition into full-time librarianship following the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003. At the time, social scientists in her discipline felt that their expertise wasn’t valued by public leaders, specifically about increasing cultural and racial intolerance. Part of the problem, she believed, was caused by inaccessibility, that their research and scholarship didn’t reach beyond academia. 

She noticed the problem of inaccessibility again during the COVID-19 pandemic, as confusion and misinformation surrounded medicine, science, and public safety. In this economic and political climate, librarians are a necessary safeguard, since they’re deeply committed to sharing knowledge with the public. The right to read, and the success of open scholarship, is essential, she said. 

“Librarianship is the best place to be right now, advocating for the kind of society that values its public institutions, and offering open access to publicly funded research,” Ohler said. 

Giving back to the Libraries

“Librarianship is the best place to be right now, advocating for the kind of society that values its public institutions, and offering open access to publicly funded research.”

—L. Angie Ohler

Ohler’s nearly 20-year career as a librarian took her across the country, from the University of Oklahoma, to the University of Maryland College Park, the University of Arkansas, and now the University of Minnesota. Besides librarian’s dedication to open information, she was struck by how much librarians give back to their profession. 

Ohler, the first in her family to finish college, understands the importance of giving back. She admires the librarians who encouraged her and mentored her throughout every stage of her career. In fact, she hadn’t considered librarianship until a supervisor said, “Hey, have you thought about becoming a librarian? You’d be really good at it.” 

“I’ve tried to do the same since going into the profession, act as a mentor and encourage those who have an interest,” she said. “It’s really rewarding to see those people I’ve mentored do so well.” 

Ohler has only been at the University of Minnesota Libraries for a couple years, where she provides vision and leadership for library personnel who expand and preserve the Libraries’ collections, making them discoverable and accessible both now and into the future. She also advocates for open scholarship. 

Along with those responsibilities, Ohler serves as the president-elect of the Core Division of the American Library Association, which represents library staff members who work in leadership and management, collections and metadata, and information technology. 

Ohler is excited to return to a Big Ten Academic Alliance library, especially with the addition of the University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Oregon, and the University of Washington. The alliance libraries have been “such strong partners” in resource sharing, shared print collection, and cooperative licensing. 

“It’s really astounding to realize that if the original 15 member libraries combined their collections, that would represent the third largest library collection in the world,” Ohler said. “Can you imagine adding four additional large libraries to that mix? It’s wonderful.”

‘Continuous education, it’s in our DNA’

Ever since coming to Minnesota, Ohler has wanted to become an ARL leadership fellow. 

“I’ve always admired how librarians never stop learning,” Ohler said. “Continuous education is a huge part of our DNA.” 

The fellowship program is among the best leadership development programs for future research library leaders. Based in social learning theory, the program allows fellows to learn through observing and modeling others within a cohort. It also pairs fellows with a mentor in the field, who shares their experience and knowledge, and over time can become a sponsor, invested in the growth and advancement of their protege. 

“I’ve experienced coaching in a cohort on a short term basis, and I found it deeply rewarding,” Ohler explained. “I knew I really wanted a longer-term experience with more time to explore how to lean into my strengths while building experience in areas in which I need growth.” 

The program is a 13-month hybrid experience, with each cohort guided through a curriculum of self-assessments and career coaching, monthly virtual sessions on different leadership topics (like DEI, managing budgets and assets, fundraising, internal politics, etc.), guided individual learning, peer mentoring with four-person teams, institutional site visits, and more. 

The program officially began this month. The fellows met virtually for the first time on Dec.4 and will have an in-person event in mid-December. She’s looking forward to developing a lifelong community of colleagues who support and encourage one another. 

“I’m so thrilled and excited to learn a lot with a very talented cohort,” she said  

Adria Carpenter

Author Adria Carpenter

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