Residency Run-Down: Los Angeles Public Library Innovation Leadership Program

I know a lot of you readers are new librarians or current students.  And we all know it’s a tough market for emerging information professionals.  That’s why I’m really happy to be able to share this interview with Dawn Coppin, Director of Foundation & Corporate Relations for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles Public Library has the only public library residency program that I know of.  In this interview, Ms. Coppin describes the scope and goals of the program, as well as providing a few tips for those of you graduating this year or next, who may be interested in this fantastic opportunity to get a comprehensive introduction to working as a public librarian. 

Can you give us a brief introduction to the Los Angeles Public Library Residency Program?

LAPL ILP 2013 cohortThe Innovation Leadership Program (ILP) is a unique approach to cultivating the next generation of library leaders by teaming ‘residents’ who are recent library school graduates with ‘fellows’ who are mid-career librarians. The two-year, full-time, program provides them with resources to develop new library programs and the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to lead the Los Angeles Public Library in the twenty-first century.

Why did LAPL decide to develop this program?

The original planning started in 2010 at a time when the Los Angeles Public Library was experiencing early retirements, layoffs, and a long-term hiring freeze that meant we were in danger of losing a generation of newly credentialed librarians who were dedicated to public service. The ILP is a way for the Library to benefit from the new skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm of graduates *and* develop the leadership skills and experiences of ambitious, talented, mid-career librarians to expand internal capacity to ensure the Library’s succession plan.

What will be the main job duties of residents – do they differ from those of “regular” librarians?

The residents’ experiences will change over the course of the two year program. Initially, they will spend the majority of their time doing usual entry-level librarian duties. However, their location will change every three months as they rotate to different libraries to see how parts of the whole system are the same and different from one another: subject departments and branch libraries; suburban and urban branches; poor and rich neighborhoods; public-facing and back-of-house departments; etc. Residents will also be involved with many ILP-specific meetings, workshops, and interactions with other major cultural and educational institutions.

Are residents paid? Do they get any other special benefits?

Yes, residents are paid full time employees of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles at the equivalent entry-level librarian rate for two years. Health insurance, sick and vacation leave, and 401(k) matching are standard, plus they get a travel allowance for professional conferences and other leadership development opportunities.

What would you tell a potential applicants in order to convince them to apply for the program?

Central Library - LAPLThe Innovation Leadership Program will provide the successful applicant with unparalleled experiences to understand how a large urban public library system operates, to obtain the skills necessary to be in a leadership position, and with networking opportunities that are essential to a long successful career.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants to be an ILP Resident must have graduated with an MLIS from a credentialed school within 12 months of the program start date. They must have a demonstrated commitment to public librarianship and be eligible to work in the USA.

What does the selection process entail? How does it differ from the regular job application process?

The selection is made by a sub-committee of the ILP advisory group that includes that cohort’s fellows. Initial selection is based on the written application essay and resume that show those with the best fit and strongest promise. The next step is an interview either in-person or via video conference, followed by background checks to the top candidates’ references.

Any tips for students? Is there anything they could do to improve their chances of winning a spot in your program?

Be succinct and don’t repeat in your essay what we can see in your resume. Instead, show us your commitment to public librarianship and innovative approaches to the future of the public library; that you desire to be a leader and know why that will make a difference to our society.

When will the next residents be picked?

We haven’t determined this yet but most likely it will be to begin late 2014.

Anything else you want to tell us about the program?

Please check in with the ILP online at or follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@ilpLAPL). We will also be at the major professional conferences, including ALA in Chicago, so stop by and talk with us.

Thank you to Ms. Coppin for taking the time to answer my questions!

If you run a LIS residency program and you’d like to discuss it here, please contact me.  I’d love to talk to you.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Public, Residency Run-Down

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