On ALA Emerging Leaders – Please Welcome TTW Contributor Justin Hoenke

Note from Michael: I’m serving as a mentor for ALA Emerging Leaders Group J this year. One of the members of this outstanding group is Justin Hoenke, who’s joining the TTW family as a contributor. This is his first post.


What does it mean to be an ALA Emerging Leader?  I’ve heard a lot of things come out of peoples’ mouths.  Some have told me that it’s just something fancy to put on my resume, others that it’s just a lot of work that will remind you of a library school project.  I’m not big on negativity, so I’ve assessed the title my own way.



During our Emerging Leaders program at ALA Midwinter 2010, Emerging Leader Facilitator Maureen Sullivan tossed out this quote from Frances Hesselbein

“The leader’s job is not to provide energy but to release it from others.”

The sentiment blew my mind. Upon grasping it, I realized all I held to be true about leadership—it’s all about you; you can do whatever you want, including pushing your agenda on the masses—was wrong. Hesselbein’s quote showed me that before I go ahead with this project, I’ve got to undo a lot of learning because it’s not about me, and it has never been about me (more on that in my next post).

I’ve now got a renewed energy when it comes to libraries.  I now better understand my co-workers and their ideas.  I now recognize the importance of waiting before adding my ideas to the mix.


Being an Emerging Leader does look fancy on your resume, but at the end of the day it’s all about growing as a person and as a librarian.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve got problems I can’t figure out on my own, and I’m nowhere close to being the best librarian I can be.  What being an ALA Emerging Leader has shown me is that all of that is OK.

Collaboration and making connections: that’s what it’s all about.  The more I get involved in my Emerging Leaders project, the more I see that the world thrives on collaboration and connections.  Without it, we’re running around in circles.


For our projects, Emerging Leaders are teamed up with four of our ilk and given a task.  Not to spoil the surprise or anything, but my group’s task is to conduct a survey about ALA.org and make recommendations for possible changes.  Sounds fun and manageable, right?

The first thing I learned was to let go of any ideas I had, that is, contribute them to the group with the understanding that they were going to be embellished and improved by everyone else.  Being an Emerging Leader has helped me learn how to trust people more and to see their ideas and encourage them to reach a higher level.  Collaboration never seemed so important.


Creating connections can make a world of difference for you.  Two months ago, I was sitting behind my desk thinking about video games in libraries.  I wanted to get my ideas out to the world, but I didn’t know how.  Cut to the present, where I’m working with another current Emerging Leader on video gaming in libraries.  At ALA EL, I found people who are just as passionate as me when it comes to libraries.  And to think, I may have never met these folks if it wasn’t for the Emerging Leaders program.

Justin Hoenke is Teen Services Librarian at Cape May County Library