The American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders program is the most powerful ALA-based professional development for library workers with less than five years of experience. Celebrating its tenth class this year, the Emerging Leaders (EL) program is ready for applications for its eleventh class. I was a member of the fourth class of Emerging Leaders in 2010, and I affectionately call the experience a permanent volunteer application for AASL. The EL program is truly a ticket to ALA and AASL involvement without an expiration date.
During my EL experience I worked with other Emerging Leaders on curating resources and creating brochures and bookmarks to assist with L4L implementation with the help of AASL and mentor Margaret “Peg” Sullivan. The program’s meetings at Midwinter and Annual provided opportunities to interact with many of the leaders of our profession including the indomitable Maureen Sullivan, a past ALA president and driving force behind the continued success of the EL program. I also learned more about the organizational structure of ALA and AASL as the EL project teams have opportunities to collaborate with staff and volunteers from across the organization and division.
EL turns the maze that ALA can sometimes seem into a yellow brick road full of opportunity. I am almost certain that Peg Sullivan encouraged the incomparable Susan Ballard to name me to my first AASL committee appointments soon after my EL experience came to an end. Being open to new volunteer experiences and having a positive attitude, I continue to find myself in new and varied opportunities across the organization. I am certain that I would not have been on the ballot this year for president-elect without the foundation provided by the EL program. What makes ALA and AASL so unique and powerful is that you are able to dig in to your own “just right” level of involvement—and that level can change many times over your career. I appreciate my EL experience for challenging me to deliberately consider what impact I hope to have on our professional organization. While I would have chortled in 2010 if anyone had predicted my volunteer path in ALA and AASL, I am thankful to the EL program for showing me how ALA and our division would not exist without the passion and commitment of volunteers just like you and me.
The EL program is powerful professional learning. I believe in this program so much that I would pay my own way if I could experience it again—Emerging Leaders provides you with valuable professional development, a poster presentation for your vita, career-long colleagues, a conference roommate pool, social schedule, and much more.
ALA’s Emerging Leaders program is a transformational professional development experience. It changed my career—it will change yours!
Author: Steven Yates, 2017-2018 AASL President
Steven Yates is an assistant professor and coordinator of the school library media certification program at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama. He earned a doctor of philosophy in instructional leadership with an emphasis in instructional technology in 2017.