January 13, 2011

Takeaways from ALA MW 11 Emerging Leaders Session

ALA Midwinter 2011... wow. This was my second ALA conference, the first being an Annual while I was still a student. What a huge difference. My main impetus for going was that I was accepted to the 2011 Emerging Leaders class this year; I  feel like it's a great experience so far.

Before starting the program, I read some of the criticism out there to get an idea of what I'd be in for and what to be cautious of. Kim Leeder wrote a great article at In the Library with the Lead Pipe: All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go: A Survey of ALA Emerging Leaders , where much of the problem sounded like unmet expectations of the day-long program itself, as well as the reach and scope of the projects. I have to say those involved in the program really listened to former EL class concerns, because some of these issues were addressed, and some changes were clearly made. And I am very excited about the project I am working on, which is creating a collection development policy for videogames in libraries. I think this project will not only be interesting and even fun, but have a lot of reach, too.

We got some fantastic information on leadership from Maureen Sullivan, Peter Bromberg, Leslie Burger, and Keith Fiels. Andromeda Yelton, another Emerging Leader, has a great write up of what we learned on her blog:

The main takeaways, as Andromeda notes, are:
  1. Be scared everyday (and have a drink in your hand)
  2. Be generous
  3. There is no spoon
  4. Relationships
This all really relates back to all the brainstorming we did on good leadership qualities. What works well for us, and what positive attributes we find in those at the top. A big theme that stood out for me is creating buy in. You have to foster relationships with those around you to get anything done; we were told at the session that the reason we were all meeting face-to-face early on was so we could be friends first to be better able to work together in our groups. On creating buy-in, you must also trust in others, which includes being generous enough to offer others opportunities and not micromanage. Working to make ALA yours (or any situation yours) takes effort, and it's true: there is no spoon. As my EL groupmate, Abby Johnson, says in her blog, "ALA is not your mom." If you're not scared everyday (or even almost everyday), what's the point? Trusting in others is a leap, as is trusting in yourself in new, uncomfortable situations. As I commented in Andromeda's blog, I'll often say yes to things before I even have a chance to be nervous. You can always be nervous, but you won't always have a chance to say yes to some of these amazing opportunities.

A couple people were asking me at the conference what I think of the program so far since they were considering applying next year -- at this point in time, I say two thumbs up.