Jenny McElroy, 2016 ALA Emerging Leader
Last November I was delighted to find out that I was selected for the 2016 ALA Emerging Leaders cohort. Even more exciting was that I was sponsored by the Minnesota Library Association. This meant that I would not only represent my state in a group of 50 energetic librarians, but also that I would receive funding to help cover the costs of attending both the ALA Midwinter meeting in Boston and the ALA Annual conference in Orlando. My experience with Emerging Leaders has been filled with learning, growing, and productivity and, as I transition into being an alumna of the program, I strongly encourage other early-career librarians in Minnesota to apply for the 2017 cohort.
Philosophically, Emerging Leaders is a “talent pipeline” for ALA, a way to get new and fresh perspectives into the Association’s work, committees, and leadership. Each cohort is a group of 50 librarians with less than five years of professional experience, all of whom are excited, enthusiastic, and outspoken about their commitment to both their specific work and to the library profession in general. The program provides great opportunities for people who want to network and get involved with ALA on committees, with divisions, etc. More important to me, however, was that it helped me learn more about my own skills and working styles, grow as a leader, and build real, lasting relationships with other librarians from all over the United States.
What does the program involve work-wise, you might ask? Attendance at both the ALA Midwinter and Annual Meetings are a major part of the commitment. The cohort first meets at the January Midwinter Meeting, with an all-day session just before the main conference starts. (Note: Usually Midwinter is in a cold-ish city, but in 2017 it is in Atlanta…much warmer than MN in winter and a nice perk for this year’s cohort!) The second part of participation is a long-term group project, where the groups work for a division or other segment of ALA on a tangible end-product. For the next 6 months there are opportunities for learning through webinars and group meetings/work. My group met regularly via phone meetings, sent lots of emails, and collaborated through the wonders of shared documents in the cloud. The program comes to a conclusion at the Annual conference, where there is a full day of programming, including a poster session to show off all the groups’ work.
Again, I encourage any early-career librarian who is interested to apply to the EL program before the August 1st deadline. Please do not be intimidated by your newness to the profession or your current lack of official leadership positions. This program is for people who are like you: new to the field, enthusiastic about service to the profession, and excited to grow personally and professionally.
I’m more than happy to talk about my experience with anyone interested in the EL program or anyone interested in getting more involved in ALA in general. Just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.