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.


  1. Thanks for the link!

    "Say yes to things" was my theme for my first conference (ALA Midwinter 2010, Boston) -- I got a lot of mileage out of that. (And am now hitting a point where I need to say no to some things! ;) But you're right -- saying yes before you have a chance to second-guess yourself is a great way to create that productive fear.

    To add to what you're saying about EL for the benefit of future readers who might be thinking about this: it's definitely not a perfect program -- lots of good things about it, but not perfect -- and I encourage people to talk to as many past ELs as possible if they're thinking about applying. Doing that gave me some good feedback, positive and negative, that I think I've been able to use to increase the benefit I'll get out of the program. So far I have a lot to think about and I'm very optimistic about my teammates. And, like you, I'm glad that people running the program & projects seem to listen to past feedback.

  2. I loved that "ALA is not your mom" comment. :)

  3. Hi Nicole, glad to hear that you're enjoying Emerging Leaders. It IS a great program and I'm happy to hear your positive report so far. I've continued keeping track of the program and it does sound like there have been some good improvements. Keep us posted as the year goes on!

  4. Thanks, Kim! What you had written was very helpful for me when making my project selections, and I think a big part of me having a very positive experience so far is getting on a great project with enthusiastic mentors. I'll definitely post periodic updates :)