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.