ALA describes the Emerging Leaders Program as follows;
“A leadership development program which enables newer library workers from across the country to participate in problem-solving work groups, network with peers, gain an inside look into ALA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity. It puts participants on the fast track to ALA committee volunteerism as well as other professional library-related organizations.”
And while I believe it is all of this, there is so much more that it offers. Having gone through the whole program (I emerged in 2008), I’d like to give you my own review of this program.
EL is NOT about the Projects.
This is the most important thing you can know about it! This is also the part of EL that I’ve heard the most complaining about. I might seem like it is about the project at times and you’ll do a lot of work for it. But, if you go into this program thinking that the whole thing is about the projects you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I’ll admit, mine was ok at best, it definitely didn’t give me any new found leadership skills, I didn’t develop or learn anything from the project itself and I didn’t gain some remarkable problem solving skills or anything. My mentors were barely adequate and my project was never used by the sponsoring organization. But, it was very beneficial in that I met and worked with some great librarians on something meaningful and tangible and I did learn a lot about the ALA organization from the project. But EL is not about the projects anyway.
EL is about the people
What I did gain from my whole experience is an amazing “tribe” of people who I’ve grown to love and respect in many ways. Many of these people are a large part of my personal life, some are a part of my conference life, and some I only get to see occasionally. When I go to conferences I have a group of people to meet up with and learn from. When I have questions professionally, I have a group of people to ask. When I need some kind of support for a project or idea, I have a group of people to offer it. When I’m sitting around on my butt on a Tuesday night with nothing to do, I have someone to call and chat with for no particular reason.
EL changed my entire conference and ALA experience!
Because of the people that I’ve met through the EL program I have been able to run for ALA council, get involved in committees, and put together exciting and fun activities at conferences. Before EL, I was overwhelmed by the whole experience and it was originally through this program that I met JP and Justin who started the ALA Think Tank and moved me from just showing up to conferences to actually participating in them through their whole Partyhard and Makeithappen attitude. It is for the people that I owe my huge thanks to Emerging Leaders.
I highly recommend that you get involved in this program, do your project so you can makeithappen, and most importantly partyhard with your fellow Leaders!
Plus, it’ll look good on your resume.