ALA is currently looking for its next class of Emerging Leaders. Emerging Leaders (EL) puts participants on the fast track to ALA committee volunteerism. But why should YALSA members consider applying for the EL program? We decided to ask Amy Fiske, librarian at Winchester High School in Winchester, Massachusetts, active YALSA member, and 2008 Emerging Leader.

Q: Why did you apply for the Emerging Leaders Program?
Amy: I guess because I’m ambitious! At the time I was moving from a branch position to a Library Administration position with system-wide responsibilities. It was a good fit at the time. I was also interested in being involved in ALA and Emerging Leaders seemed like a faster track to do that.
Q: How would you describe your experience with Emerging Leaders?
Amy: Overall, really positive. I ended up working with a great group of people and made some really good connections with librarians from around the country. It also helped me become more comfortable working with people remotely/virtually, which is a useful skill to have. And it put me on the radar with national leaders.

Q: What project did your group work towards?
Amy: LOL…I had to look up the name of it. Loriene Roy’s literacy project, A Gathering of Readers. It was a celebration of authors of indigenous descent, plus literacy outreach to children of indigenous groups around the world. Our group provided author profiles for the website.

Q: Did Emerging Leaders change your view of librarianship? Of ALA?
Amy: I wouldn’t say it changed it. But it did reinforce the value of service, which was already a part of why I chose to be a librarian. Because I was so new to the field, I didn’t really have a view of ALA. It did give me an inside view of the machine…and it is a very large machine of inter-connected parts. Sometimes it’s a bit of an exclusive club. Some of my fellow Emerging Leaders expressed frustration with what they perceived to be the ‘closed off’ nature of ALA. Many had been filling out volunteer forms for years without being put to work on committees. It wasn’t until they were put in Emerging Leaders that they were allowed to participate in the actual work of ALA. I don’t know if that’s gotten any better…hopefully, it has.

Q: What would you tell someone considering applying for Emerging Leaders?
Amy: It was a really positive experience for me. I was assigned to work with a fantastic group of people, whom I am still in touch with. If you have ambitions of getting involved at the national level, it’s a great way to do that. The training we received really helped open my eyes to the bigger picture of ALA.

Sound intriguing? The Emerging Leaders program is limited to no more than 50 participants each year, and the selection committee seeks diversity based on geography, gender, ethnicity and type of library. Particular attention is given to candidates’ personal statements as well as those of their references. No more than one person from any institution can be selected for participation in the program per year.  Preference will be given to those who do not have experience working on ALA committees, task forces, etc. Conference funding may be available, depending on your affiliations. Application materials are due August 2nd.

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