Monday, September 18, 2006

How to be an Emerging Leader

ALA President Leslie Burger, last seen trying to force retired librarians back to work to keep libraries from hiring young librarians and wanting to transform your library into God knows what is now calling for Emerging Leaders. Emerging Leaders, Emerging Leaders, come out, come out, wherever you are!

Emerging Leaders 2007 will welcome and train 100 new librarians to get a jump-start in leadership. EL’07 kicks off with a day-long session during the 2007 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. Afterward, it will grow and develop online for six months, culminating at the 2007 Annual Conference in Washington, D. C. Applicants will commit to participating in all three elements of the program!

That exclamation point is to emphasize how excited these Emerging Leaders will be to participate in all three elements of the program. Imagine how many hours you can dedicate to this! Perhaps it's more interesting than your job, though, so it might be worth it. If it is, then I'm really sorry for you.

We will expect the new leaders to put their leadership skills to use by accepting a term of service on an ALA or chapter committee, task force, working group, or project team.

That's a harsh penalty, but a good clue to what kind of leaders they're looking for. It's not to be a leader @ your library. This is not some boring management seminar. No, this is a different kind of boring.

The goal is to have 100 new librarians ready to participate in leadership in the Association, one of its divisions or state chapters.

That's right, it's the kind of boring you find in an ALA committee meeting. But what can they possibly teach you for six months? How to sit still for two hours of incredible boredom? You probably already learned that on the job. How to write an agenda or plan a meeting? Again, nothing terribly difficult. You could get the necessary information in an email. It's probably to teach you how to navigate, or occasionally circumnavigate, the byzantine structure of the ALA. The good news for you ALA nonstarters and neophytes is that unlike some management seminars, it probably won't have much on how to get along with disagreeable committee members, because most of them are pretty nice in my experience, even the ones who don't do anything for six months and then show up at the meetings with their inevitable wide-eyed look of constant surprise.

Ready to apply? Get a sponsor (an ALA sponsor isn’t required, but it gets you preference) and find out if your favorite division, chapter, or caucus will offer a stipend to attend. All you need is an ALA membership and a letter of support from your employer. We will be contacting local, state, and ALA leaders to say: "Here is an opportunity to invest in the future of your organization."

Can't you say that with an exclamation point? It would make it more effective. Maybe the "opportunity" could be in all caps.

But who's eligible for this exciting opportunity?

1) ALA member, and
2) Young (under 35 years) or new librarians of any age with fewer than 5 years post-MLS experience, and
3) Recent MLS degree from an ALA or NCATE accredited program or in an MLS program currently, and
4) Able to attend both ALA conferences and work virtually in between, and
5) Ready to commit to serve on an ALA, Division, Chapter, or Round Table committee, taskforce or workgroup upon completion of program

I don't meet all the requirements, so I guess I can't apply, as exciting as it would be to spend six months on this stuff.

You might wonder why the ALA is bothering with this Emerging Leader program. Most likely, it's because very few people volunteer to do anything, and there's a LOT of committes to fill. See, when the bums are on the seats, then you don't have to recruit. That's why you don't really need to go the program, because when it comes to committee volunteers, it's a seller's market. Perhaps that's not true in every division and section, but it's generally the case. If there weren't a problem recruiting new people, then why the program?

But on the off chance you're interested in being an ALA emerging leader, and yet don't want to commit the time to this engaging effort, the Annoyed Librarian is willing to offer you the benefit of her experience. I'm currently serving on 11 different commitees across three different ALA divisions, so I know whereof I speak.

My advice: Skip the program. Here's all you need to know to be a successful ALA leader:
  1. Volunteer
  2. Show Up
  3. Do the Work
That's really all you need to know. Do these three things and you will distinguish yourself from the usual committee deadweight and the opportunities to engage in yet more boring work will come flooding your way.

And don't say I didn't warn you.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like perfect training for ALA Council where even less work gets done.

Anonymous said...

I knew I could count on you. I was wondering how long before you picked up on this little piece of, well, let's keep it polite, shall we? In other words, it's really "training" to join the ALA's clique rather than any actual leadership training you can take back to your library, and you have to pay for the "privilege"? Makes you go hmmm.

Anonymous said...

The truly sad thing is that my job is so boring and stifling that becoming an ALA tool almost sounds appealing.

Anonymous said...

Too bad I didn't see this post before I applied... but as a rejected leader I stand proud! See I can use exclamation points effectively just from my application experience!

Anonymous said...

For some young librarians, the Emerging Leaders program was the only way to get system support to attend or take part in ALA. Remember that everyone's work situation is different, and some ALA committees are very competitive to get involved in. I was an ALA Emerging Leader, and being in the program helped me fund my trips to ALA and allowed me to get the time away from my library, neither of which I would have had if I was not in the program. FYI, I've been on ALA committees since I started library school, and none of the committees I serve on are boring. Maybe you should try something new...or just stop being so negative about your committee work, ALA, and the choices other librarians make in their professional involvement.