The training began before we got there since we were supposed to print our handouts ahead of time and bring them along. The meeting began with your typical welcome, congratulations, and introductions. We were told we’re lucky to be year two of the program, the first year got the kinks worked out. One of the complaints from year one was that they didn’t get to meet enough of their fellow participants. In answer to this they had us divide ourselves up a few different ways throughout the day so that we got to at least say hello to a larger number of people. I really hope they do this again at annual when we have a little more context behind us to foster conversation. The first breakup was geographical. I was torn since they said “If you’re from the northeast head to this corner…” etc. Ever the literalist, I consider myself from the northeast, but my library is in Texas. Where to go? As I pondered this aloud, someone at my table pointed out the obvious to me by asking, “Who do you want to meet?” I would have liked to meet both, but I decided to meet my neighbors and headed over to the Texans, who, in true Texas form, created a South Central category that had not been one of the recommended divisions.
Leslie Burger was introduced with suggestions that we be intentful about our career and be active in ALA. Leslie told us that she really wants us to succeed, that it’s important for us to have training and grounding. ALA is a huge organization. It’s hard to find a place to insert yourself and to influence change. The Emerging Leaders program was started with money from the presidential initiative fund, but it was so successful that it is now funded by R&D.
Leslie went through the structure of ALA handout (pdf) to give us an idea of how the organization is structured. This was another area where last years participants had requested more training. Leslie explained that ALA’s primary value was that it was a member driven organization. This is a blessing in that all of us have an opportunity, but a curse in that 65,000 members have have different opinions. This leads to ALA being a very deliberative organization. She believes it ultimately leads to the right decisions. ALA’s officers are elected. The executive board, however, is nominated by council, not by members. There is a lot of turnover and with that comes a loss of institutional memory.
Then discussion turned to how to get involved. The biggest theme here was “create your own opportunities.” I haven’t fully formed my own opinions on this topic yet, but I feel there must be something worth looking at when so many people feel overwhelmed and frustrated about not knowing how to get involved and so many people who have become involved say variations of “show up and jump in.” My mom wondered if this was a mechanism (intentional or not) of weeding out volunteers to those who really want it and will definitely follow through.
Within the “create your own opportunities” talk there was the advice to look for people with interests similar to yours, that the division level is more intimate, round tables are even smaller, look at the structure and see where the opportunities are. We were told that if you volunteer you will be accepted, though big committees are harder as there are limited spots. Be a presence and make sure people know who you are. Attend a meeting to feel it out. There are also internships. Or start your own group.
We were also told some of Jim Rettig‘s ideas for the coming year: a craiglist style area for opportunities within ALA, an online salon, unconferences, and juried grass roots programs. Leslie noted that ALA as an organization has had so many rules and now people are going to the opposite extreme – 48 hour project bake offs, virtual poster sessions.
After Leslie’s introduction to ALA we moved on to the first “training” section. There was discussion of socializing and building social networks. We referred to our handouts on leadership principles and practices (doc file). We were asked to focus on ourselves and where we are in our leadership development, then to take a moment to ask ourselves what we think we’re bringing and what we hope to learn. Then we were asked to share with a neighbor. After our chat session we returned to the handout and discussed the five key areas of leadership. I won’t recreate the whole handout here, but I’ll list off some of the items I starred:
- speak positively and from the heart (optimistic)
- expect positive and effective results
- value each person and his or her contribution – look for differences and draw out
- set an example by ensuring that actions follow words and values
- be mindful of your actions and how they affect others
- focus on how each person contributes her or his personal best and acknowledge it
- focus on the best that each person brings
I think I mostly starred the positive attitude items because this is something I’ve been discussing a lot with my mom lately. (She’s been going through some bureaucratic nightmares at work and trying to keep a positive outlook.) It can be very easy to get overwhelmed by all the various frustrations involved in any organization. These are good reminders to try not to sink down and get stuck there.
Before the break we were also reminded about the Palinet leadership network and encouraged to participate.
Returning from break, we switched tables to sit with our group members and moved on to our leadership development action plan. We were given time to fill in our strength and what we wanted to work on along with steps we planned to take and then to discuss our strengths with our teammates.
There was more discussion of leadership, that leaders shouldn’t try to control, but to facilitate – create a means and a structure. It is important to be intentional in your career/job choices, but also be open to opportunities. As you share ideas ask if you are making sense, whether relationships are being developed th way you want. Change comes from the ground up. This is building that foundation. Remember to engage in reflective practice.
Next we moved on to project planning and working on a project team (again referring to the handouts). This is an opportunity for us to collaborate, bring strengths, develop a plan for a meaningful project, learn more about a part of ALA, work in a virtual team, and get to know an ALA member. Roles and areas of accountability were defined. Then we were left to lunch and to work on our project plan within our group.