Atla, formerly known as the American Theological Library Association, invites nominations and applications for the position of Executive Director (ED). Atla, a membership organization of librarians and information professionals, and a producer of premier research tools, is passionately committed to advancing the study of religion and theology. With a membership of over 800 individuals and libraries at academic institutions from diverse religious traditions and backgrounds, Atla is a global community of collectors and connectors in religion and theology. Atla’s research tools serve nearly 1500 unique organizations worldwide and include Atla Religion Database®, also known as Atla RDB®, with 3 million bibliographic records. Atla is a place where people of different religions and cultures come together in a respectful and vibrant learning environment to learn from each other and to work towards shared goals.
Atla has worked for over 75 years to promote and advance its mission to foster the study of theology and religion by enhancing the development of theological and religious studies libraries and librarianship. From its renowned research tools to its premier learning and engagement opportunities, Atla exists so that librarians and information providers in theology and religion are connected in a sustainable and diverse global community at a cost that demonstrates good stewardship of resources.
This is a unique opportunity for the next ED to advance Atla’s vision at a time of rapid change and innovation. Reporting to a dedicated twelve-member board of directors, the ED will provide collaborative and strategic leadership for the organization and will manage a cohesive and talented staff of 44 fully remote full-time employees and an $8.6 million budget. Working with the board, membership, staff, and partners, the next ED will expand Atla’s global engagement, continuing the effort to become a truly international organization, and will embrace, honor, and expand its core value of hospitality, diversity, and inclusion. The ED will have the opportunity to grow membership, partnerships, programming, and products. Atla’s strong financial model allows for stability and capacity for the next ED to drive the organization forward while honoring its strong traditions.
This is an exceptional opportunity for a leader drawn to engaging with people of different faiths and backgrounds. The ideal candidate will have a strong, current working knowledge of academic libraries and publishing; an understanding of the global theological world; a demonstrated understanding of academic culture; solid business acumen; excellent communication and relationship building and negotiation skills; the ability to develop effective strategies within a rapidly changing environment; and at least five years of senior management experience developing and managing people, plans, and budgets. Ideally, the candidate will have knowledge of publishing, copyright, and licensing agreements and experience working with, or within, non-profit associations.
Inquiries, nominations, and applications, which will remain confidential, should be directed to the search firm as indicated at the end of this document.
Atla’s core purpose, to promote worldwide scholarly communication in religion and theology by advancing the work of libraries and related information providers, is grounded by their core values and advanced through their services, resources, and programs.
- Excellence in library collections and services
- Widest possible access to relevant information and ideas
- Hospitality, inclusion, and diversity
- Collegiality and collaboration
- Creativity, innovation, and transformation
Established in 1946 as the American Theological Library Association, Atla provides its members with resources, professional development offerings, collaboration opportunities, and publications. The association and members play a critical role in the cycle of scholarly communication as curators, disseminators, and aggregators. The librarians, libraries, and research tools provide access to and preserve scholarship in religion and theology.
For the past 75 years, Atla has built a rich history of excellence in library collections and services, community, collaboration, and innovation. The ED will have the opportunity to engage with staff in establishing a new strategic vision. The most recent vision, completed in 2015, stated four powerful overarching goals:
- Global Collaboration: Atla is recognized globally as a strategic collaborator.
- Open Access: Atla has a solid reputation as a facilitator of open access publishing in the study of religion and theology.
- Inclusive and Diversified Membership: Atla membership is more diverse and inclusive.
- Hub Capacity: Atla has a shared understanding of what it means to be a hub.
The 2015 strategic plan can be found at https://www.atla.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/AtlaStrategic-Plan-2015.pdf
In 2019, the association introduced a new brand and shifted the association’s name from an acronym to the word Atla. These changes were a direct result of the evolving nature of the association to be global and encompass a broader scope of theology and religion.
To support its mission and global membership, Atla offers a variety of services, resources, and programs:
Atla produces high-quality research tools that are used by students, scholars, researchers, faculty, and religious leaders in thousands of libraries in more than 70 countries. These tools range from title lists, to access subscription information, to products such as partner subscription databases and unmatched products such as Atla Religion Database, AtlaSerials® (Atlas®), and AtlaSerials PLUS® (Atlas PLUS®). To further expand the reach of research tools, Atla offers products for alumni of academic institutions, free resources, and digital toolkits and tutorials. These research tools are critical assets for institutions supporting the study of religion and theology.
Learning and Engagement:
As a community of collectors and connectors, Atla provides rich opportunities for professional development, education, and engagement with their vast network of experts. One key offering is Atla Open Press, which publishes open access books, journals, and other serials that cover subjects at the intersection of librarianship and religious and theological studies. There are also active group discussions by denomination, interest, and region; and member projects and programs such as the Atla Digital Library and the E-Book Lending Program, which were particularly useful in 2020 when universities were forced to move quickly to online education. Another especially valued program is the member consortium that helps member organizations stretch their staff and budgets, many of which have been reduced over the years.
Atla members form strong lifelong friendships and collaborations. The association offers webinars, social gatherings, and other opportunities to develop and nurture this fellowship. Members have met annually since 1947 to develop their skills and connect with their colleagues in religion and theology at their conference, Atla Annual. Over 300 members, exhibitors, and international guests meet every June and take part in over 100 programs such as workshops, panels, exhibitor showcases, meetings, and diverse worship services. With its long history and rich programming, Atla Annual has established itself as one of the must-attend events for librarians in religion and theology. While historically held in person, Atla Annual was virtual in 2020 and 2021. This June the event will be held both online and in person in Baltimore, Maryland.
Volunteer Leadership and Governance
Atla is governed by a twelve-member board of directors elected from the membership. The Carver Policy Governance Model is employed by the Board to govern the Association using its mission, organizational ends, and executive limitations. The work of the Board includes performing duties including financial oversight and exercising ultimate responsibility for the association; articulating the vision and purpose of the association; tracking environmental trends in higher education, theological and religious studies education, and librarianship; monitoring the needs of members and articulating organizational ends to reflect their values; evaluating the performance of the ED; writing effective policies and procedures to document the work of the board; and communicating effectively with members.
Approximately 50 Atla members volunteer on committees such as the Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Annual Conference Committee, the Endowment Committee, the Professional Development Committee, and the Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives Committee.
Staff and Staff Leadership
Atla’s current executive director, Brenda Bailey-Hainer, is retiring after serving in the role for 11 years. Atla’s next leader will be fortunate to join an excellent staff of 44 full-time staff members who keep the association running smoothly and successfully. There are five staff leadership positions that report directly to the ED: the Director of Business Development, the Director of Financial Services, the Director of Information Systems, the Director of Member Programs, and the Director of Production. All Atla staff positions are remote, and the ED will be charged with ensuring this outstanding team maintain close working relationships and receive the developmental coaching and tools to achieve their professional career goals.
The Role, Leadership Opportunities, and Challenges for the Executive Director
A natural collaborator, inspiring leader, and active listener, the Atla Executive Director is responsible for staff development and administration, oversight of all programs and services, maintenance and expansion of products, strategic planning, and budgeting. Atla seeks a visionary and collaborative leader with a knowledge of the challenges facing theological higher education. Candidates should have a history of organizational leadership; the ability to maintain financial stability; a record of accomplishment in creating and supporting an inclusive climate of community and the ability to think strategically and successfully direct the operations of the organization.
The next Executive Director of Atla has the tremendous opportunity to continue the association’s momentum and trajectory. To fulfill this mission, there are several key leadership expectations, outlined below, that the next ED will be expected to embrace. They include:
Advance Atla’s Global Engagement
The organization aspires to be a truly global association and to increase its visibility in the global theological library and education field. Atla’s vision as the hub of worldwide scholarly communication in theology and religion combined with the recently envisioned Global End, to connect librarians and information providers in theology and religion in a sustainable and diverse global community at a cost that demonstrates good stewardship of resources, provide a compelling opportunity. Working with the Board, the ED will enhance global collaborations and partnerships, increase global awareness of Atla, and contribute to global theological education.
The association is extremely strong financially. The ED will be a passionate advocate for the association, promoting the value of Atla membership and products with a variety of audiences. Working with the staff and board, they will ensure the continued excellence and relevancy of Atla products to ensure this critical revenue source is maintained. With an eye towards diversifying revenue streams, the ED will safeguard against potential future dips in membership or product competition and will explore grants or other financial opportunities.
Enhance Hospitality, Inclusiveness, and Diversity
Focusing on Atla’s core value of hospitality, inclusiveness, and diversity, the ED will model this value in all aspects of their leadership and work. Celebrating a diversity of faiths, denominations, regions, and countries, it is imperative that the ED ensure an equitable and inclusive association culture and reinforce that all are welcome and united together around the common bond of librarianship and theological education. Particularly in a field when members may be the only theological librarian at their institution, Atla’s inclusive hospitality is vital for members to feel valued and for the continued success of the organization, its members, and the field.
Expand Membership, Partnerships, Programming, and Products
Atla has a strong member base and solid history of educational partnerships. The ED will be mindful of the differences between large and small member institutions and will engage the membership in an ongoing dialogue exploring the different challenges facing libraries of differing scales. The next ED will evaluate and expand global partnerships that will help to retain and attract new members. Working with the Professional Development Committee, the ED will expand professional and leadership development programs and educational partners to support member development, especially considering the changing nature of the field. With 93% of Atla’s revenue coming from Atla products, the ED must be keenly in tune with the technology supporting these products and aware of future trends and models. Further, Atla’s commitment to facilitate open access publishing is one of the organization's hallmarks and the ED will need to oversee these resources and products with an eye to continuous improvement.
The ED will work with the Atla Leadership Team to ensure these revenue lines continue to be strong. The ED will also lead continuing discussions to assess product demand and opportunities for new product introduction or revision.
Lead Staff and Operations
A major asset is Atla’s highly motivated and talented staff. The ED will thoughtfully lead Atla’s 44 remote staff members and will strengthen an internal culture that reflects Atla’s values. Recognizing team and individual strengths, the ED will create a shared vision that supports individual professional development, and team effectiveness to further support Atla’s mission and core purpose. With a fully remote staff, the ED will identify ways to enhance virtual communication, collaboration, and operations to further the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the team.
Desired Qualifications and Experience
The successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications and attributes:
- Post-baccalaureate degree, preferably in library sciences or a related field
- Strong, current working knowledge of academic libraries and publishing
- Knowledge of the higher education landscape and the ethos/culture of academic institutions
- Experience working in, or interest in, theological or religious education with a global, forward-looking perspective
- Solid business acumen and five or more years of senior management experience developing and managing people, plans, and budgets in a medium to large organization
- Superb relationship builder with demonstrated ability to build and maintain relationships with diverse stakeholders including the board, members, staff, regional and global partners
- Excellent communication and negotiation skills
- A passion for and demonstrated experience promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion
- Ability to develop effective strategies within a rapidly changing environment
- Knowledge of copyright and licensing agreements
- Experience working with, or within, non-profit associations.
- Familiarity with technical tools such as Atla products and knowledge of market trends to grow, deepen, and broaden products
- Demonstrated ability to hire, manage, develop, and inspire staff, ideally in a remote environment
- Cultural competence and emotional intelligence to work with constituents in a global environment
- Awareness of own strengths and ability to recognize and elevate the strengths of others
- Genuine enthusiasm for Atla’s mission and core purpose and ability to move the organization forward
Nominations and Applications
All applications, nominations, and inquiries may be directed in confidence to Isaacson, Miller online:
Jacqueline Mildner, Partner
Rachel Brown, Senior Associate
Atla is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment regardless of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, age, disability, veteran, or military status, pregnancy, order of protection status, genetic information or other characteristic protected by applicable law. Atla is committed to providing access, equal opportunity, and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in employment, its services, programs, and activities.