Tuesday, July 09, 2013

So You Want to be an ALA Emerging Leader

So I'm back from ALA Annual, everyone!

I've had this post in the hopper for awhile but I figured I'd wait until after the poster session to put it up, in case it turned out I really hated everything. There were a few weeks in there that were pretty hectic, and I wasn't sure if we could pull it off, but we rallied and got everything done on time! Here's a link to my finished product that is part of a four-part series of adult learning tutorials, a project proposed by LIRT. This year we were able to pick our own projects to work on, and this one was my second choice. You wouldn't believe how many people were like, "What does adult learning have to do with being a children's librarian?" And I'm just like, well, everything, actually.

My real reason for writing this post is the lack of help I found in my first stages of applying for Emerging Leaders. As I mentioned before, when I searched for terms like, "I applied for Emerging Leaders and was rejected how will I ever get over myself" I'd get results that were written by the Done-Emerged about whether or not I should apply.


So okay, the following isn't a do-all end all, but they are things that I believe may have helped my application. Not to say that anyone who didn't get accepted did not do any of these things, but I was just so surprised that I was actually picked I rationalized a few reasons.

1. Recommendations: I am lucky enough to directly work for the Wisconsin Chapter Councilor to ALA, and she was awesome enough to write me a recommendation. Having navigated multiple Good Ol' Boys networks in my nine years of professional work, I've learned that having a well-respected name on my side is always a good plan. My second recommendation came from a colleague at FSU who has used some of my programming at her library, furthering the rhetoric of my application in which I mentioned this blog, and that's it's helpful to people. I hounded both of these people until they successfully submitted their letters, as the application is not complete without them, even when someone thought they uploaded their letter and turns out the upload failed.

2. Match your application's theme to an ALA section: I'm living proof that it's a myth that you have to be a member of a sponsoring unit to be sponsored. I joined NMRT and ALSC, and chose them as potential sponsors. At the last minute, I also decided to pick ASCLA. When I went to their page I saw they're all about accessibility in all its forms, and that pretty much was what my entire application was about. Oh, also they work for services for patrons with disabilities, and I have a disability myself. I'm not sure which of these things matched me to ASCLA in the end, but if it was the latter, screw it, because I've never gotten anything for having a disability before and it's about damn time my daily irritations with a two-working-hands world was worth something, monetarily. But I really do hope it was the former.

3. Get a Cheerleader: I don't think I would have survived without the several freak-out emails I sent to Ingrid. She was wonderful throughout the whole process. And then after everyone's names were posted she wrote this, and it made me smile:
It didn't take me as long as it should have to find this. #librarianpower
You're welcome to contact me at brycedontplay at gmail dot come or get at me on Twitter to be your cheerleader, but understand our communication will be less cheering and more animated GIFs.

A few things to remember before I let you go:
--You may not want to apply if you're in school, or if you're not ready to be seen. I'm not sure how I
would've handled Emerging Leaders if I were in school still, because it's essentially another long-distance group project. It can get a bit overwhelming. Also, you won't have much national notoriety but if you weren't on the radar of everyone at your library before, you sure will be now. If you're not ready for that; for instance, if you're just starting out, wait a year or two.
--You'll still be you. I'm now Done-Emerged. I still spray perfume on my blazer when it really should have
I still help close up shop when my fiancee's bartending
...which makes me feel pretty awesome, actually.
been washed at least once a month; I still wear sweat socks with dress clothes or, on the occasion that I'm wearing black socks, they don't match. I still can't make it three days without my kitchen counter filling up with trash from God Knows Where. All the things that may or may not make me feel loser-like on a daily basis are still there. Just, a few more people might be paying attention now. I'm self-aware and I own my flaws, and you might have to, too. It would be so exhausting otherwise.
--If you're not accepted, you'll still rock. For every great person I've met because of Emerging Leaders, there's someone who's equally awesome who has not been an Emerging Leader. In addition, there are library hiring managers who have said that they would not consider someone a viable candidate if they had been in the program, whether for their perceived dedication to national endeavors over their local libraries, or for the assumed hubris that comes with being recognized at all. Nothing that I would suggest NOT applying over, but something to consider. The latter  isn't me because of my aforementioned loser-dom, and I'm looking to mostly do stuff within my state the next few years to dispel the first misconception.

For an extra push, check out the article I wrote for LIRT on page 4 about my Emerging Leaders experience: http://www.ala.org/lirt/sites/ala.org.lirt/files/content/archive/2013sep.pdf

Go forth and apply! Applications for the class of 2014 are due Aug 2 at this link.


  1. This is a great post, Sara, and a needed one. I suspect that my writing a blog post titled "ALA is not your mom" while decisions were being made might have been the deciding factor as to why I got in. That... probably is not an option for everyone. ;)

  2. Thanks for commenting, Abby! I loved your "ALA is Not Your Mom" post :)

  3. Thanks for this helpful post. I'm curious---did you hear from anyone over the past year saying, "Yes! I followed your advice & tried to align my application with a sponsor, and sought very high-profile recommendations, and it worked!"

    I'm actually taking your other advice and waiting another year...I'll have two more eligible years left, one with a ALA conference in my own city. I was accepted to the Florida Library Leadership Institute this year, so I'm hoping that maybe as a result of that I'll be able to obtain a high-profile recommendation next year.

    Thanks again for this post. I couldn't find anyone else sharing this kind of insight. :)

  4. Hi Sara--
    Yes, actually! There are two that come to mind off hand. One strengthened their app with this advice after not making it the previous year, and another, Annie Pho, has written her own version of this post to help further! She specifically found telling a story rather than boiler pointing was the way to go. Find it here: http://catladylibrarian.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/writing-your-ala-emerging-leaders-application/

    Congrats on your acceptance to the Florida Library Leadership Institute!

  5. Ooh, this is great! Wonderful to see more of this kind of help from ELs available out there.

    And thank you! I'm excited about the Institute because of the training, application, project-leading, and getting mentored, but I'm also hoping it will look good on an EL application. :)

    One last thing I'm curious if you know anything about...looks like the last two classes of ELs have been around 50 people, as stated on the ALA site. Before that though, looks like they used to be around 80-100. Do you know why they changed this? Were they still figuring out what they wanted the EL program to be, and decided they wanted it smaller? Probably not likely they'd ever change it back?