Hilde Van Kiel Hilde Van Kiel

Hilde Van Kiel is Director of KU Leuven Libraries and Chair of the LIBER Leadership Working Group

Hilde Van Kiel, Chair of the LIBER Leadership Working Group

From 3 to 5 may, Enssib hosted LIBER Emerging Leaders Cohort 6 first seminar. On this occasion we interviewed Hilde Van Kiel, Director of KU Leuven Libraries and Chair of the LIBER Leadership Working Group.

1/ Can you introduce yourself ?

My name is Hilde Van Kiel, Director of KU Leuven Libraries and Chair of the LIBER Leadership Working Group. I have been involved in the working group since 2016 and became chair in 2019. I am a trained historian but have always worked in libraries as they are my passion. For a long time my focus has been on licensing and big deals, Open Access together with staff development and management of libraries, since I became director of KU Leuven Libraries the range has become really wide from digitization to heritage collections, exhibitions and learning centers to Open Science.  KU Leuven Libraries and especially our University Library has a unique history since it has been burned twice and we lost all or part of our collections no less than four times (https://bib.kuleuven.be/english/about/hIistory-tourism) during the nearly 600 years of existence of the university.

Being part and chairing the working group has been very rewarding as you are working in an international environment with a group of very engaged and enthusiastic people for an organization that is THE library organization in Europe. Because of the programs get to know library directors and librarians across Europe, be it as participants in the programs, as mentors, as members of the working group, as coaches of the Emerging Leadership Programme or as speakers for the Journées. It really broadens your horizon and your network. It also gives you an insight in how national or institutional differences have a consequences on careers and on the possibilities to get training.

2/ You're the chair of LIBER's Leadership Programmes Working Group, what did it consist of?
As a working group we used to meet three times a year and a few years ago we got approval of the LIBER Board to arrange the dates of the Journées and the ELP in a way that we would only have to take care of one program each year. Every member of the working group is a library director or higher library staff in his/her own institution so the workload is already substantial. Unfortunately nearly immediately after this decision the COVID-pandemic came along and this meant a lot of extra work for the group. The amount of meetings intensified to up to once a month to make sure we could keep in contact with participants, speakers and locations for the programs that were planned: LIBER Journées were planned in May 2020 in Budapest, our 5th Cohort of the ELP programme had started in Dublin 2019 and should have its final seminar at the LIBER Conference 2020; a call for the 6th cohort should go out. Thanks to reinforcement for the working group by three new members including Thomas Chaimbault Petitjean from ENSSIB, and to the efforts of all the other members, we managed and could sent out all the necessary communication about replacement after replacement for the programs. We are very pleased that our 6th Cohort of the ELP program can finally start here at ENSSIB beginning of May.

As the chair I try to make sure all the different steps that are involved in setting up a high quality event or program are covered, I am the spokesperson for the WG and the contact for particpants . I make sure we discuss about new aspects for the programs and take the necessary decisions.

3/ From 3 to 5 may, Enssib hosted LIBER Emerging Leaders Cohort 6 first seminar, how did this program has been built and what does it aim for?
The LIBER Emerging Leadership Programme Started in 2011, currently we are at the 6th cohort which means more than 100 librarians will have followed the program. It is aimed at Emerging leaders in libraries wanting to become a library director or move on to senior management within the next three years. who wish to do more to enhance their leadership qualities in preparation for the step up to the next big challenge – that of taking responsibility for leading an organization through changing times.

The focus of the program is on Training leadership skills but has as an extra compared to other local or national programs that you will be doing this in an international environment with an opportunity to widen your horizon not only outside your institution but also outside your own country. Participants will be able to create a network of colleagues throughout Europe and have an internship experience abroad. The programme is run by a library director and an external consultant.

The actual programme consists of 2 seminars of 2,5 day combined with the annual LIBER Conference, a mentorship by another LIBER Library director during the course and in between those two seminars: an internship outside your own country at your mentors library. During the yearlong programme : Online sessions with the coaches on specific topics

4/ From your point of view, what did you witness regarding the skill needs of library professionals ?
Being or becoming a librarian in a higher management position or a library director means that you will be leading people in an rapid and everchanging environment. Knowing who you are as a leader and what is your natural attitude in this is important; getting the possibility to train yourself in all aspects of leadership through the course while being mentored by an experienced librarian is a fantastic opportunity. With the program we try to provide a training that is available to all librarians across Europe, also in those countries where the possibilities for such a training are smaller.

5/ Was it your first visit to Lyon? What is your favorite part of town and why?
It was my first visit to Lyon and I was really impressed by the beauty of the city and its history. I did not have much time for a touristic visit but I really appreciated the Parc de la Tête d’Or and the really nice diner Thomas arranged for the group with a spectacular view on the city. I am certainly coming back again as a tourist, it is only 4 hours away from Brussels by TGV. On a professional level I was much impressed both by the facilities of ENSSIB and the professionality of its staff as well as by the library, in my own country such an informative library on library science is non existent.

Propos recueillis par Thomas Chaimbault-Petitjean le 4 mai 2022