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leadership institute FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the NCLA Leadership Institute?

The NCLA Leadership Institute is an intensive four-day residential leadership training program for staff from North Carolina libraries.

2. How will participants benefit from the Leadership Institute?

Participants return from the Institute energized, empowered, more self-aware, and self-evaluating. They will develop a broadened perspective on the challenges and issues facing the libraries of the future with a clearer understanding of their role as future library leaders.

3. Who can attend the Institute?

The Institute is designed to be most beneficial for library staff and librarians who have between 3 and 15 years of library experience; however, anyone in their career journey can apply. Participants must be a member of NCLA, employed by a North Carolina library, and endorsed by their library for admission.

4. Do you have to be employed by a library in order to attend the Institute? I'm an unemployed librarian/library school student/independent consultant.

Yes, you do have to be employed by a North Carolina library in order to attend the Institute. There are several reasons for this requirement, i.e.: you must be endorsed and supported by a library; you must implement a project within a specific library context; you need to be within a library to practice the leadership behaviors you will learn at the Institute.

5. What is the selection process?

Selection is through a competitive process involving a written application that includes submission of a resume, two letters of recommendation, and answers to essay questions.

6. How many people can attend the Institute?

Around 24 (twenty-four) applicants will be chosen to attend the Institute.

7. Is the Institute open to all types of libraries?

Yes, it is open to employees from any North Carolina library.

8. When is the next Leadership Institute?

The next Institute is scheduled for September 10-13, 2024.

9. Where is the Institute held?

At the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, NC -

10. Are the agenda and materials from the Institute available online?

No, the agenda and Institute materials are shared only with participants and mentors at the retreat.

11. Who are the mentors?

The mentors are graduates of previous leadership institutes and are library leaders who are willing to give their time to this process in order to nurture future leaders.

12. Can current library directors apply?


13. If a library director applies, who signs on behalf of the library?

The director can sign.

14. What is the project element associated with the Institute?

Each person admitted to the Institute must, in consultation with their library administration, select a project to work on over the course of the year following the Institute. It does not have to be identified before the retreat. The project should be something that demonstrates the library’s response to a specific, documented community need. It can change over time, as needed.

15. Are there limitations on the number of people who can apply from any given library?

No. Every effort is made to balance Institute participants to insure equitable distribution geographically within the state. 

16. Can two people (from the same library) work on the same project?

Two people can submit the same project idea, and may ultimately end up both working on the project, but we cannot guarantee that both will be selected to participate in the Institute.

17. If a library had one or more participants who attended a previous Institute, will that count against them if they submit more applications for the next Institute?

No, each application will be judged on its own merit. 

18. Can my dietary restrictions be accommodated?

Yes, Blue Ridge Assembly can accommodate dietary needs or restrictions. Please indicate any dietary restrictions in the application.

19. I have physical limitations. Will that be a problem?

Blue Ridge Assembly is an accessible facility that is ADA compliant. Please indicate your accommodation needs in the application.

20. Can I bring my spouse/significant other/child?

No, the Institute leaders are firm in their insistence that there be no spouses or other extra people at the Institute facility. This restriction will be strictly enforced.

21. Will I be able to keep in touch with home or work during the Institute?

There is limited cell phone service and WiFi connections at Blue Ridge Assembly. It is best if you plan to be unavailable while at attending the institute.

22. What type of personal items should I bring? Is there a dress code?

Business casual and outdoor gear are recommended. There will be indoor learning and outdoor activities alike. Keep in mind that temperatures at Black Mountain are usually cooler than the surrounding area and will vary from one day to the next, layers are recommended. You may like to bring a reusable water bottle, coffee mug, flashlight, hat or sunscreen for hiking opportunities.

23. I have an important appointment on a date during the Institute. Can I be released to attend it?

No, you must be present for the entire time of the Institute. You should either reschedule any commitments or appointments, or wait for the next Institute.

24. If I am unable to attend the Institute this time, will it be held again?

It is our intent to offer the Institute every other year (on even years), which places it exactly halfway between NCLA Biennial Conference years (odd years).

25. Will there be proceedings or some other record of the Institute?

This type of event does not lend itself to proceedings. The nature of the Institute is highly interactive, built primarily around small group work. A key element in the leadership institute is the creation of a "brave place" for participants to explore themselves and to try out leadership behaviors within a supportive framework. 

26. How is the NCLA Leadership Institute different from other multi-day trainings or conferences?

The Institute is designed to be a transformational experience. Pre-reading is expected to be completed prior to the Institute and each segment of the multi-day curriculum builds to make a final impact on the last day. There is a very high level of intensity, self assessment, and group bonding unlike traditional multi-day trainings or conferences.

27. Why is the application process so involved?

Due to the investment of time, money, and effort for the participants, their libraries, and the Institute planners, the application process has been designed to identify participants who will derive the greatest benefit from the Institute. The effort required on the part of the applicant is to help the selection committee identify those candidates who are interested enough in attending that they are willing to demonstrate it by putting forth the effort to complete the application.

28. What happens after my application is submitted?

All applicants will be notified regarding whether or not they were selected for the 2024 Institute by late May. Applicants who are not selected may contact the current Chair, Joel Ferdon at

29. Who is responsible for a participant's success at the Institute?

The ultimate responsibility for a participant's success, both during and after the Institute, is a personal one and rests with the individual. In addition, everyone at the Institute works to ensure that each participant has a successful experience. The facilitators, mentors and on-site committee members monitor each participant's progress daily and develop strategies when necessary to provide appropriate support. Fellow participants also support and help each other.

30. What kind of support will be provided after the Institute?

Mentors and the Institute Committee will continue to be available for one-on-one and group consultations and mentoring. About sixth months after the residential portion, there will be a one-day session to check on personal and project progress, reconnect the cohort and mentors, and continue to explore leadership behaviors. At the one year anniversary, participants will gather at the 2025 NCLA Biennial Conference to assist in various roles. Throughout the post-Institute period, participants of all previous NCLA Leadership Institutes will be included in electronic discussions and various meetings.

31. Who will choose the attendees and what criteria will be used?

Applications will be read and rated by a panel of the NCLA Leadership Institute Planning Committee. The ratings will be totaled and the applications with the highest scores will be given the highest priority. Other factors such as geographic distribution and balancing library types will be considered as well.

Applications will be evaluated on the following:

  • Completed online application
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Essay responses

32. Is there a minimum word count for the essay responses?

There is no minimum or maximum, please be concise.

33. Can I go home at night to be with my family? Or do I need to be there in the evening for functions?

Attendees are expected to stay in residence for the entire Institute. This is an important time to network with colleagues and mentors. To gain the most benefit from the Institute experience, attendees need to be totally focused and involved in all the activities on site.

34. Will I be sharing a room?

No, you will have your own private room and bathroom in a hotel-style room.

35. Is there a fee?

Yes, there is a tuition fee of $475*. This covers lodging at Blue Ridge Assembly, all meals, and all instruction and materials. Individual participants or their libraries are responsible for transportation costs. Additional information regarding scholarships can be found through your NCLA sections.

36. When will the payment be due?

NCLA handles the financial arrangements for the Institute and they will invoice participants in June. There may be partial refunds in cases of severe illness, accident, or death in the immediate family.

37. Can payment be made with a credit card?


Do you have a question that is not addressed here? Email Joel Ferndon at and help us build this FAQ!

*Due to the generosity of the State Library of North Carolina, NCLA is able to offer a reduced tuition for the Leadership Institute.

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