Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Should you apply for Emerging Leaders?

Photo by ellenm1
Are you thinking about applying for ALA's Emerging Leaders program? The deadline is fast approaching (August 1), so I wanted to share my thoughts on the program. As you know, I was a member of the 2011 class of Emerging Leaders.

Overall, the program was a positive experience for me. I got to work with some great librarians whom I never would have met otherwise. I had fabulous mentors (JP, Justin, and Buffy) who were hands-off enough to let us take ownership of our project, but constantly available for questions and feedback. If nothing else, it was great to get to know them and our wonderful ALA staff liason, Jenny. Also, to be frank, getting into the program was what enabled me to attend ALA's Midwinter and Annual Conferences for the first time. My library isn't often able to send people to conferences, but they were very supportive of me in this endeavor and made it happen!

So, here are a few of my thoughts. Just know that they're solely based on my experience, which is not necessarily going to be the same as everyone else's experience.


... getting to work with librarians all over the country. And not just any librarians, but librarians who have also applied for and been accepted to the Emerging Leaders program. These are librarians who are dedicated to our field. These are good people to know.

... a great thing to put on your resume and possibly a step up for your committee applications. When you fill out applications for ALA committees, you can check off that you were part of the Emerging Leaders program. This will mean something to the people assigning committee spaces (or so I am told!).

... potentially a chance to meet and work with awesome mentors who will tell you to party hard and #makeithappen. But then again, I think I lucked out in the mentor department, so I can't guarantee that your mentors will be as awesome as mine. :)

... a chance to use technology you might not be familiar with. Since ELs are located all over the country, the vast majority of the work is done virtually. My group used Skype, ALA Connect, Google docs, and email heavily throughout our working months.

... going to entail a good deal of work in May and June, leading up to the Annual conference. I mention this specifically for my public, children's and teen librarian friends. I am not gonna lie: It was super stressful to have so much work on top of all the stuff I was doing for my actual job. And as much as you say to yourself that you'll plan ahead and get the stuff done early, when you're working with other people, it's just not going to happen (no matter who your group is - and I had a great group!).

... a group project. And yes, theoretically the people in your group are hard-working, dedicated fellow emerging leaders. But sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes communicating is hard, sometimes people don't do what you think they're supposed to do. I mean, it's a group project. Take that as you will.

... dedicated to improving itself and open to feedback from participants. I truly believe it's a great idea and that the program will only get better as more people go through it and offer their feedback.


... a free ride to Conference. It's possible that this may change at some point, but through my year at least, ALA did not provide financial assistance for conference attendance. And you are required to attend both conferences. There are some sponsorship opportunities available that may offer you some financial assistance and I encourage you to look outside the box, consider state library associations and other groups you belong to that might sponsor you. I was not sponsored, but luckily my library and our Friends of the Library were able to pay for me to attend both conferences.

... an automatic committee assignment. Yes, you will network and get to know people within the organization. Yes, it looks good on your resume and has weight on committee applications. But you still have to stand up and reach for what you want. If you want to serve on a committee, you're still going to have to do the legwork (figuring out where you want to serve, applying, etc.). And the work of ALA is done in committees (pretty exclusively, from what I can tell... just like pretty much everything else outside of ALA...!).

... the only way to be on a committee or to get involved with ALA. 90% of getting involved is just showing up and being willing to work. There are virtual committee spots available on some committees so that you don't have to attend conference at all. If Emerging Leaders isn't for you, that doesn't mean you can't get involved.

Take these thoughts as you will... And if anyone has any questions about my experiences in Emerging Leaders, I'm happy to talk about it. Leave a comment on this post or shoot me an email at!