Leading By Example: Emerging Leaders
ALA's Emerging Leaders represent the profession's future
Posted Tue, 09/13/2011 - 10:12
Emerging Leaders showed off their projects at a well-attended poster session at Annual.
Newcomers to the profession are getting a boost toward leadership, thanks to ALA’s Emerging Leaders program. Emerging Leaders aims to put participants on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership by offering learning, networking, and volunteer opportunities.
The program, which was launched in 2007 as one of Leslie Burger's presidential initiatives, is limited to librarians at the beginning of their careers. Participation is open to librarians under 35 or who have fewer than five years of experience in a professional or paraprofessional library position.
It begins each year with a daylong session during Midwinter, and concludes with a similar session at Annual. In the six months between, the Emerging Leaders network online through the group’s Facebook page and ALA Connect, and attend webinars. “We added two webinars last year in response to feedback from Emerging Leaders that they wanted more information on leadership and ALA,” said Peter Bromberg, assistant director of Princeton (N.J.) Public Library and a facilitator of the Emerging Leaders program for several years.
The program also has tangible results. The Emerging Leaders divide into small teams of about five, and between Midwinter and Annual, each team takes on a project for one of the Association’s divisions, offices, round tables, committees, or interest groups. Each of the teams presents their results at a poster session after the Emerging Leaders programming at Annual.
This year's Team E conducted a survey of Money Smart Week @ your library, a new partnership between the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and ALA to expand the 10-year-old Money Smart Week program nationally. The team found that Money Smart Week programs were appreciated by participants, but that individual programs often needed more promotion. “One of the most heartening things that I’ve seen from this survey was that almost every library that wanted a partner in the community found a partner in the community,” said team member Mandy Knapp, an adult services librarian at Worthington Libraries in Columbus, Ohio. “There are resources out there for libraries; it’s just a matter of looking in your community and finding them.”
“It’s a really great program, and I’m really glad I got on this project,” added team member Keith Hanson, youth services librarian at Columbus Metropolitan Library’s South High branch. “It’s going to be put to use in Ohio.”
Building on last year’s “Mapping ALA” project, Team J developed a visual timeline of ALA deadlines using a Drupal module. “We created this timeline tool that you can scroll through manually, and you can click on data points that will pop up with more information, as well as contact information and links,” said Tiffany Mair, project assistant for Capitol Impact. The timeline is currently available at jaguars.andromedayelton.com, but Mair said that the group hopes that it will have a home on ALA’s website when it migrates to Drupal.
Team F also built on an existing program, Libraries Build Communities. They were charged with expanding the annual volunteer day to a program that runs throughout the year, connecting librarian volunteers with projects that need them whenever and for however long they are available. “What we want to do is start it at the state chapter level and do some pilots there, and work up to getting it all on the national level,” said team member Easter DiGangi, customer order representative at Demco. Under this model, state chapters would serve as a clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities.
“We’ve developed another project description, and we hope the next class will pick up from where we left off,” DiGangi said, adding that the team anticipates its work being continued by future Emerging Leaders. “We want to be available to the next class as mentors or advisors.”
Team D worked with ALCTS to improve the promotion Preservation Week. “We contacted some of the consortia and asked them to put information in their newsletters, and that was helpful,” said team member Cynthia Wilson, information search specialist for Thomson Reuters. “We also got administrative capabilities for the Facebook page that ALCTS had for Preservation Week and were able to post more information on that page.”
Team I’s project analyzed usability issues in library websites. “Libraries are notorious for having absolutely horrendous front-ends to very expensive databases and catalogs,” said Casey Schacher, emerging technologies librarian at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. “We identified the major usability issues in all type of library websites and reported on them so that libraries would have a better chance of correcting them.” Clutter, jargon, and needless animations are all prevalent issues, according to the team’s full report, “The Seven Deadliest Sins of Library Website Design,” which is available at http://connect.ala.org/files/83878/sinsslideshowfinal_pdf_19244_pdf_11729.pdf.
All of this year’s Emerging Leaders projects are available at http://connect.ala.org/node/145237.
Up to 75 Emerging Leaders are selected each year. Each applicant provides a personal statement for the selection committee to evaluate. Additional criteria include evidence of leadership potential, critical thinking skills, dedication to professional development, and a forward-thinking orientation. The committee also seeks balance across a variety of demographics, including geography, ethnicity, and type of library. “We’ve found that the greater the mix, the richer the cohort experience,” Bromberg said. Those selected as Emerging Leaders must commit to participate fully in the program through attendance at Midwinter and Annual and virtual work between conferences, and to serve ALA or a state or local professional library organization upon completion of the program.