ALA Emerging Leaders – Bibliobloggers Comment

Lori Reed is NOT renewing her ALA membership next year:

The announcement I just received from ALA about the application for Emerging Leaders is the final straw in my decision to not renew my ALA membership next year.

The description of the program sounds exciting to someone who is eager to get involved in ALA:

The program is designed to enable more than 100 new librarians to get on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership. Participants are given the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, network with peers, and get an inside look into ALA structure and activities.

But then I read the requirements:

  1. Be under 35 years of age or be a new librarian of any age with fewer than 5 years post-MLS experience, and
  2. Have a recent MLS degree from an ALA or NCATE accredited program or be in an MLS program currently, and
  3. Be able to attend both ALA conferences and work virtually in between each,
  4. Be prepared to commit to serve on an ALA, Division, Chapter, or Round Table committee, taskforce or workgroup upon completion of program, and
  5. Be an ALA member or join upon selection if not already a member.

So ALA will happily take the money from library “support staff” (BTW I hate that term) for membership but does not allow those same members to apply for leadership opportunities within ALA such as this one. Isn’t this the American Library Association (as opposed to the American Librarian Association)? When will ALA recognize that not all library “professionals” have nor need an MLS.

No thank you.

Sarah Houghton-Jan adds to the discussion:

Interestingly enough, I wanted to apply for the Emerging Leaders Program too but did not do so because of a different reason than Lori’s: the program requires in-person attendance at both ALA conferences.  I do not have institutional support to attend those conferences, so it would be my dollars and possibly my vacation time.  It would also be my poor body that would be traveling in an airplane – something I avoid because of a health condition.  Can we not communicate and participate and network virtually? 

I participate in LITA’s Top Tech Trends Committee, and have to asynchronously virtually participate each year via LITA’s blog because I do not attend the conference (which should mean I can’t even be on the committee, but I have continued to participate this way for a few years now).  Why do we place such high value on in-person attendance at conferences for something like this when there are so many technology tools to help us communicate (VOIP, chat, video conferencing, etc.)?  I’m pretty sure I can become an “Emerging Leader” without going to a two-hour elbow-rubbing party at ALA.  I’m willing to bet there are others who didn’t apply for that reason as well – not enough time, money, or ability to travel far from home. 

How many new leaders are we losing because of the librarian requirement?  And how many because of the traveling requirement?  I wonder.  I really do.

I think we’ll see these concerns appear again and again until something will have to change. I’d like to see more inclusive programs for all the folks who work in libraries and a re-evaluation of virtual participation. I am really looking forward to Jim Rettig’s presidency. The initiatives I’ve seen so far are wonderful.

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One thought on “ALA Emerging Leaders – Bibliobloggers Comment”

  1. Ok. I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here because, although I agree in large part to the argument against ALA’s requirements, I think there’s an important point to be made here.

    Yes, library-related workers who are not MLS-holding professional librarians are great. They do great work, they are important to the running of libraries everywhere, and they are wonderful people. But there has to be a point at which we do things for us librarians. Librarians and library technicians are NOT the same people. Every time we lump ourselves together we are hurting AT LEAST the profession of librarianship if not library technicians as well. You don’t see lawyers constantly involving their paralegals in their professional development events and associations. Doctors and orderlies aren’t always arm-in-arm in everything they do. We are in different positions (and always should be in my opinion) and therefore have different responsibilities in and outlooks on the work of libraries. Even if a librarian does not have an MLS (which is entirely different issue), just the fact of labeling yourself a librarian puts you in a different mindset (I should hope anyway).

    Yes, ALA is a LIBRARY association and should involve everyone. And the “Emerging Leaders” program doesn’t explicitly have “librarian leaders” in the title, suggesting more inclusiveness. Perhaps here is not the place to draw the line. But there are and should be librarian only groups, events and programs. How are we going to convince our users that what we do is special when we don’t even think that ourselves?

    I think the problem we all have with these requirements is that we can all too easily think of exceptions. “You don’t need to have an MLS or be able to attend ALA conferences to be an emerging leader!” (Actually, it’s quoted as being “able to attend” not actually doing it… LOL). But what about the age limit? You couldn’t be 36 and emerge as a leader? What about those who have been in librarianship for more than 5 years but are just now realizing their leadership potential? The program is about ALA leadership but the name doesn’t say that… If we can complain that “emerging leaders” as a phrase suggests more than librarians, regardless of the description, then we can certainly complain that ALA membership and ALA committee work shouldn’t be required either! But this is foolish. This is a program for new librarians to work within ALA. The requirements are merely defining what they mean: new = <35 years old and <5 years experience; librarian = MLS graduate; and ALA work = conference attendance, committee work and membership. This is obviously not a comprehensive world-wide search for all potential library-related leaders. If this is what they were trying to do, then yes, they failed. If not, then this entry should be filled with complaints about the name, with suggestions on better ones. How about “ALA involvement training camp”? Of course, that’s not really catchy, is it?

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