Interview with an Emerging Leader

I recently had a chance to interview a 2010 Emerging Leader at my library, Jason Hyatt, who is the manager of the Children’s Department at ImaginOn. Since the applications for the program are due soon (July 30), I wanted to know what it was all about and to share the information with others.

Why did you decide to fill out an application to be an Emerging Leader?
JH: I read a blog post about the Emerging Leaders program back in 2008. At the time I considered applying, but library school was taking most of my spare time and I did not think I would be able to participate fully if chosen. As my classes wound down I saw another blog post about the program and decided to apply. I was personally interested because I wanted to strengthen my leadership skills. Since I was finishing school, it seemed like the perfect time to keep moving forward.

Which ALA Division sponsored you?
JH: I was not personally sponsored by an ALA Division. The project I worked on was sponsored by the Library Leadership and Management Association Division (LLAMA).

What kind of (non-monetary) support from ALA were you given as an Emerging Leader?
JH: The EL program has a coordinator who is in touch regularly to make sure participants are registered for both of the required meetings-annual and midwinter conferences. We also receive discounted registration for both events. Online support includes Facebook groups as well as an ALA Connect group where people can network and share their experiences. Even more support comes once you have been assigned to a team project. The sponsoring organization (ALSC, YALSA, etc.) assigns a mentor who works closely with the team over the six month project period. Throughout the year there are also webinars related to leadership development. Perhaps the biggest boost came from ALA President-elect (at the time) Roberta Stevens, who spoke at both of our meetings. She promised that any ELs who contacted her would be offered opportunities for additional involvement with ALA. True to her word, she selected me to serve on one of her presidential initiative task forces after I contacted her.

What was the most challenging part of being an Emerging Leader?
JH: The most challenging part was working on a major project with a group of people after only one face-to-face meeting. From January through June we coordinated all of our work through ALA Connect.

Did you have a project idea in mind while you filled out the application? Did it completely change once you got started?
JH: I did not have a project idea in mind when I first applied for the program. Once the EL participants were selected, we were all given a chance to vote on potential projects to work on. There were at least six projects from the list that all excited me. The one I wound up working on was a project to reinvent the LLAMA Staff Development Clearinghouse. It was previously a paper document listing outdated resources for library staff development. We turned researched new sources on various topics related to staff development and integrated our findings into the existing LLAMA wiki.

If people want their applications to stand out from one another, what would you recommend?
JH: This is good advice for everyone – keep your resume updated. That is one component of the application. Also spend time crafting your personal statement. Don’t just make it up as you complete the application form online. Work on it separately as a document that you can revise. My last piece of advice is to ask for references from people who can really speak to your potential for leadership and your ability to commit yourself to the program.

If people need advice on convincing their administrators that this is a worthwhile program, what would you suggest they say?
JH: EL program is worthwhile because it encourages library staff who are relatively new to the field to push themselves and explore opportunities they might not have otherwise. It is also a path to further involvement in ALA, and that is a benefit for any type of library to have staff connected with the larger organization. These opportunities and involvement with ALA can only serve to strengthen the participant’s “home” library or organization.

YALSA will sponsor two emerging leaders in 2011. Applications are due at the end of this month-July 30!

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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