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Apply or Not: ALA Emerging Leaders Program

ALA is now receiving applications for the 2012 class of the Emerging Leaders (EL) Program, and I saw many new librarians considering applying to the program in Twitter, Facebook, etc. Applying for this program requires some paperwork. You have to write an essay and get references sent. You also have to commit yourself to attending two conferences in person.

So the question is whether the program would be worth all these. As a member of the 2011 class, I have some thoughts about the program from which I just graduated. Hopefully this post will help you decide whether the program is a right fit for you or not.

What the EL program is really about

The first thing to know about the EL program before applying is that its purpose is to develop leaders “in ALA” not just anywhere.  Of course, what you get to learn from the program about leadership will be useful in other organizations. But my experience is that this program is definitely focused on helping new librarians to get familiar with the organizational structure of ALA and to get involved in ALA divisions, roundtables, or even the ALA Council. It is not a program about leadership in general.

So if possible, attend the ALA conference a few times before applying for this program. See if you are interested in becoming active in ALA. The EL program itself won’t necessarily help you determine whether you would like being involved in ALA and  which ALA division is right for you. You should know answers to these questions first. If they are YES, then apply for the program.

Remember that the EL program is not the only way to become involved and active in ALA. Often it is easy enough to find the right place to meet librarian peers in the field of yours if you stumble into a right Interest Group, Discussion Group, or Section. You can volunteer to be a chair, organize or present a program, and form a great personal network of mentors, colleagues, and friends without ever stepping your foot into the EL program.

This also means that these are things that ‘you’ still have to do whether you get into the EL program or not. The EL program may open some doors for you, but you will be the one who has to take the opportunity and make it work for you if you decide to be active in ALA.

What you get to do if selected as an EL

  • You get to choose a project you want to work on. If you get to be sponsored by any unit, division, section, or other library organization, you will be asked to work on a project from that group. Otherwise, you are free to choose the project that interests most.
  • You will meet your team members and the mentor(s) at the Midwinter and plan how you will spend the time from the Midwinter to the Annual conference to get the project done.
  • When the project is completed, you will give a poster session with other EL project teams.

How do I get sponsored?

The EL program requires you to attend two conferences in person. But you can be sponsored. To believe or not, there are many units, divisions, sections, and regional library associations that sponsor an EL candidate that meet their criteria.

This is one of the reasons why it is good to apply for the EL program after having some exposure and experience with ALA rather than being completely new to it. If you are a member of any group that sponsors an EL candidate, make sure to indicate that in the application. If there is a unit that you want to be active in, and that unit sponsors the EL program, it might be a good idea to be active in the unit first, to get to know better about what you can contribute to and what you can learn from, and then apply to the EL program expecting the sponsorship from that unit.

It is an investment for any organization to sponsor an EL program participant. So it is fair for the organization to expect you to contribute back to the organization. So think about what you want to do professionally and how it may align with what you can give it back. Try to make it a win-win situation for both you and the sponsoring organization.

The benefits of the EL program

People will have different opinions on this depending on their personal experience of the program. But for me, the best thing about the EL program was the opportunity to meet and work with peers who are extremely intelligent, talented, driven, and ambitious.  It is also an opportunity to get to know and work with colleagues in a completely different library setting and area of specialization than yours. Because of this, you will get valuable experience no matter what project you get to work on and even if the project was not of your first choice.

I want to point out that working in an EL project team is likely to be very different from working in any other project team at your workplace. You will be surrounded with high achievers, and it is likely that you won’t have a slacking and/or unreliable team member problem. Instead, you may get the experience of your brilliant idea (in your opinion) being brutally rejected for a good reason.  You may spend hours on a heated discussion without coming to any conclusion. You and your team may have to invent the project itself because the project idea is vague at best. You may learn where and at which point to make the best contribution and when not to be in the way. You might have been a leader in one way or another in all your life but soon find out that you now get the invaluable opportunity to play the role of a good follower in the group (which is just as important as the role of a leader).

So I think that the great benefit of the EL program (for me) was to work in the EL project team I was assigned to. The actual work with my team taught me more than any book, article, talk, and discussion about leading and being led effectively, harmoniously, and gracefully. (I have to warn you though that these lessons would be probably coming after you finish the project not while working on the project.)

No drawbacks?

No program lacks some drawbacks or disappointments. The ALA Emerging Leaders program has some too of course. In case you get selected, I will tell you a few that I noticed. (But bear in mind that this can be relative to my experience.)

  • You won’t be changing the world or ALA by the one project you get to work on.
  • The fact that you get to work on an EL project doesn’t give you the secret weapon to melt all the bureaucracy in ALA.
  • You may request but not hear what came out of your team’s project work as a result after a few years.
    (I hope this gets changed.)
  • You might feel still somewhat lost in ALA. (But now you are lost with some friends.)
  • You may even decide that ALA wasn’t for you. (But hey, now you know!)
  • You will now have a new question to ponder – “Have I now emerged?”

I hope this post is useful to some of you and wish the best of luck to all EL applicants!

My EL Team (M) Poster with Dre and Lauren (Pearl and Emily not present in the photo) at the 2011 ALA Annual Conference.

My 2011 ALA Conference Schedule

To believe it or not, I haven’t still finalized my ALA schedule.  The ALA Annual Conference is so big and offers so many different programs, presentations, and discussion meetings that it is hard to pick in advance exactly what schedule one will follow. Below is a list of programs that I am likely to attend plus a few programs in which I am participating.

Am I missing any great program? (It is very likely.)  If so, please let me know!

June 24, Friday

9 am -3 pm  Emerging Leaders Training

3 pm – 4 pm  Emerging Leaders Poster Session
http://connect.ala.org/node/138674
: I am doing a poster session with my colleagues in Team M of the 2011 class of Emerging Leaders. The project we have worked on for a year is “Branding LITA: A Market Identity for the 21st Century” Come check out what ideas our team came up with. If you are active and/or interested in LITA, you may drop by and throw us some ideas! More information on the project: http://connect.ala.org/node/146019

5:30 pm – 8 pm  LITA Happy Hour
Howlin’ Wolf Den, 907 S. Peters St. New Orleans, Louisiana

10 pm – Midnight  ALA Dance Party
http://connect.ala.org/node/140642
: I am planning to go only if I find some company who will focus more on drinking than dancing. So hopefully there would be non-dancing but dance-watching librarians…

June 25, Saturday

8 am – 12 pm  LITA Board of Directors Meeting
: Of course, I am not on LITA board of directors.  I am going with my Team M of the 2011 class of Emerging Leaders to present our project outcome to the LITA board of directors.  They will eventually decide what ideas and suggestions in our proposal LITA will adopt and implement for LITA branding and marketing in the future. We are going to be there probably not for an entire duration of the meeting.

So some other things I can run to when I am out of the board meeting are:

10:30 am – 12 pm LITA IG Chairs Meeting
: I am hoping to get some ideas about how to make an IG meeting more active and open to virtual participation at this meeting.  I am chairing Mobile Computing IG and  have been experimenting with an IG meeting as a venue for short presentation and informal discussion that is not restricted by the strict ALA program proposal deadline which usually requires submitting a topic almost a year in advance.  Maybe there are more ways to make an IG meeting fun and useful. We will see. I am also kind of hoping to catch up with what  some of other LITA IGs are doing. Because of time conflict, I rarely can attend more than a few LITA IG meetings.

But I may not survive too many business meetings. So I may go to:

10:30 am – 12 pm  ACRL President’s program “President’s Program: From Idea to Innovation to Implementation: How Teams Make it Happen (ACRL)

or

10:30 am – 12 pm  “The Discovery Payoff: Are discovery services increasing ROI and the library’s prominence in academic institutions .

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm ACRL New Members Discussion Group
http://connect.ala.org/node/137451
: This is an excellent place for library school students or new librarians. It’s a small group discussion and the atmosphere is very informal. You can ask any dumb questions about ALA, ACRL, academic libraries, job market, and any and everything else that budding and new librarians care about.  This year, ACRL New Members Discussion Group has a panel discussion program “Learn about Tenure: what does faculty or non-faculty status mean for new librarians?” http://connect.ala.org/node/144880

4 pm – 5:30 pm   Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Information Science
: I find it fascinating how the interests of library and information science seems to overlap somehow with the imagination of sci-fi. And of course, it helps that I read certain sci-fi authors or series quite avidly such as Olson Scott Card’s Ender series.

I will be writing a short blog post for American Libraries after attending this session.

7 pm – 9 pm Newbie & Veteran Librarian Tweet-Up
http://connect.ala.org/node/140971
: It’s a party time! Come to the Newbie & Veteran Librarian Tweet-up. It’s one of my most favorite social activities at ALA. If you are new and knows no one, this is a place to start! No invitation, no RSVP required though appreciated (http://twtvite.com/ala11twtup).  Just come and join the library crowd. Everyone fits right in.  :- )

9 pm – 11 pm Facebook After-Hours Social
https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=209816775714013
: Even more fun continues from the tweet-up to the Facebook After-Hours Social.

June 26, Sunday

8 am – 10 am  Lost in Translation: the Emerging Technology Librarian & the New Technology
http://connect.ala.org/node/137555
:  I will be serving as a panelist on this panel discussion program. This program was planned as an extension to the last year’s ALA program that I have moderated “What is Your Library Doing about Emerging Technologies?” We will talk about four common problems and issues that libraries often encounter in adopting and implementing emerging technology projects, solicit opinions and thoughts from attendees, and come up with solutions and helpful ideas together through open discussion between the panel and attendees.

10:30 am – Noon LITA Mobile Computing Interest Group Meeting
http://connect.ala.org/node/137605
:  I am chairing LITA Mobile Computing Interest Group and very excited about this meeting.  Four wonderful presentations are lined up as well as interesting discussion topics. This is not an official ALA program but you can see the presentations and discussion ideas here: http://connect.ala.org/node/142438.  If you are interested in mobile computing, you must check this out.

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm  Top Technology Trends

4 pm – 5:30 pm Where We Are, Where We Are Heading: The Presidential Task Force on Equitable Access to Electronic Content Update
http://connect.ala.org/node/138504

5:30 pm -6 pm ALA Advocacy Flash Mob and Freeze at Jackson Sq.
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=227290740618104
: You are not going to miss this. Are you? Wear the Librarian T-Shirt!

6 pm  ACRL-Health Science IG Social

7 pm  ACRL-STS Dinner

June 27, Monday

8-10am One of these will be the place I will end up with after much agony of choice:

Coffee and Conversation with Experts

Emerging Technologies Interest Group

Innovation in an Age of Limits (ACRL STS)

The Business of Social Media: How to Plunder the Treasure Trove

1:30 pm -3:30 pm Public Awareness Committee

Then flight back home!

Tweet Up & Pre-Tweet Up at 2011 ALA MW San Diego

A San Diego librarian, Dan Suchy (@danwho) and I are organizing the exciting 3rd Newbie & Veteran Librarian Tweet-up at the ALA 2011 Midwinter conference in San Diego, CA!

Dan is also organizing a Pre-Tweet Up for “Craft Beers” on Thursday Jan. 6. (Info below)

Come meet new and veteran librarians. Learn and discuss all things that librarians are interested in over great music and drinks!  Make the Saturday night a TRIFECTA of great social events!!   (RSVP below so that we have enough space~)

The 3rd ALA MW Newbie & Veteran Librarian Tweet-up

RSVP: http://twtvite.com/alamw11-tweetup

Date: 1/8 Saturday 7:30 pm – 10 pm
Location: the Basic

410 10th Ave. San Diego, California 92101
(619) 531-8869

Walking Directions to the Basic from the Convention Center

The Basic is located a 7 min. walk from the San Diego Convention Center and is in the East Village section of Downtown San Diego. Converted from a circa 1912 warehouse, Basic is left open and raw with original brick walls, high ceilings and industrial garage doors

NB. The Basic is also right around the corner from both NMRT social (Borders; 5:30-7:30pm) & After Hours Social (Rock Bottom Brewery in the Gaslamp Quarter; 10pm-2am) on the same day.


ALA MW Pre-Tweet-up for “Craft Beers”

Dan (@danwho) couldn’t wait until Saturday to start the festivities of the ALA Midwinter Conference. So join him for the Thursday Pre-Tweet Up if you arrive in San Diego early!

Dan picked a local pub that is famous for its wide variety of craft beers.

RSVP: coming soon.

Date: 1/6 Thursday 7:30 pm – 10 pm
Location: Johnny Brown’s

1220 3rd Avenue San Diego, CA 92101-4102
(619) 232-8463

Waling Directions to Johnny Brown’s from the Convention Center

LITA Mobile Computing IG Meeting at ALA Midwinter 2011

I am very excited about the LITA Mobile Computing IG Meeting at ALA Midwinter 2011. If you are interested in mobile devices and libraries, please join for the lively and informal discussion. Great presentations and discussion topics are already lined up. Bring your own topic to discuss with peers and colleagues with same interests! Add your thoughts and suggest more topics here at: http://connect.ala.org/node/121490

LITA Mobile Computing IG Meeting at ALA Midwinter 2011

When: Sun. Jan 9 1:30pm – 3:30pm (Pacific Time)

Where: SDCC 31a

Come and join us for the exciting, lively, and informal discussion about libraries and mobile devices at the 2011 ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego! In addition to covering the following presentations and discussion topics, we will also discuss what everyone is working on and other topics brought for discussion.

Presentations and Discussion Topics

  • “A rapid ethnographic study of the iPad on a campus bus” – Jim Hahn (University of Illinois)
    : This short presentation will describe the results of a rapid ethnographic study of 10 students using an iPad on a campus bus. Presentation will include fail-points to use as well as unexpected use. Discussion of frequently searched for terms as well as the significance of user context will be included. Tentative ideas for apps to develop as a result of student search data will be discussed.
  • “Putting the fun back in mobile websites: launching an OS book recommender” – Evviva Weinraub & Hannah Rempel (Oregon State University)
    : Building on the success of our mobile site, including a fully mobile catalog, and our well received historical walking tour, Beaver Tracks, OSU Libraries Mobile Team went looking for a fun project to work on.  Recognizing that many students (not to mention faculty, staff and our own librarians) often want diversionary reading, we began working on an open source mobile book recommender tool. We will describe how we selected the content to include in our book recommender database, some details of how the book recommender tool was built, the process of choosing a design, and a demonstration of the features of the book recommender tool.  Our planned go live date is January 7, 2011.
  • “Creating a mobile site with zero budget” – Tiffani Travis (California State University)
    : Is there a simple way to connect users to vital library info and links to mobile versions of products other than creating a full-blown mobile website? This presentation will share the experience of quickly creating a “free” mobile site using LibGuides and WordPress, both of which auto-format their sites for smart phones.
  • “Brainstorming ideas about great library-centric apps”
    : This will be a brainstorming session for library-centric mobile apps that go beyond searching the catalog or looking up building hours. How can we leverage the existence of the mobile platform to provide a truly transformative experience of the library?  Your input may be used to inform suggested development tasks for the competition and overall guidelines to the “Apps for Libraries” development competition planned by Tod Colegrove (University of Nevada, Reno).
  • “Mobile usability and assessment”
    : Has anyone done or is anyone planning to do a usability study or assessments and also the accessibility (for people with disabilities) for a library’s mobile website or apps? We will discuss also how we can measure success in regard to the mobile web (e.g. feedback, environmental scanning, survey, etc.).

Information Overload & Personal Information Management

I am very excited to present at ALA 2010 Annual Conference LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase. The topic I am presenting is Information Overload & Personal Information Management.  I know that it is not anything fancy or something that would satisfy your techno-lust.  But there is a lot to think about libraries and information overload, which has quickly become part of our daily life.  Whether we like it or not, information overload is the everyday reality that all of us including library users, now have to cope with and manage.  The traditional library systems, programs, and services, on the other hand, have been slow in moving towards acknowledging and addressing the new needs of library users who suffer from information fatigue and are ready to “satisfice” as a result.

Curious? Come join the BIGWIG Showcase on Monday, June 28, 2010 from 10:30 am to Noon at the Renaissance Washington Grand BR South/Central.

ERM Systems: The Promise and Disappointment

Some conference sessions are just irresistible because of their titles.  For example, “Ultimate Debate: Has Library 2.0 fulfilled its promise?” Right?  I know that “Electronic Resource Management Systems: The Promise and Disappointment” would have been just as irresistible to some librarians.  If you deal with e-resources at work, whether you are cataloging them, acquiring them, setting up access for them, troubleshooting constant issues with them, you will know what I mean.  I can only imagine how many E-resources librarians have been dreaming about the one ultimate ERM system that would do the magic of cleaning up the messy Hydra-like workflow around e-resources and make ERM less of Sisiphus’ labor.

I didn’t have much information in advance about this session and guessed it would be more of a panel discussion.  But actually it consisted of four presentations by librarians who have implemented a ERM system recently.  The ERMS(E-Resources Management System)es covered in the presentations were SerialsSolutions’ 360 Resource Manager, Verde, and Gold Rush.

The presenters were (not by the order of presentation):

  • Apryl Price, Electronic Resources Librarian, Texas A&M University  (Gold Rush)
  • Jeanne Langendorfer, Coordinator of Serials, Bowling Green State University  (SerSol?)
  • Jeannie Downey, Electronic Resources Coordinator, University of Houston Libraries  (Verde?)
  • Betsy Friesen, Technical Services Analyst, University of Minnesota Libraries  (Verde?)

I missed the first presentation about SerialsSolutions’ ERM product.  This was a shame because that is the one I have access to where I work.  But I know even from my limited experience that this product is not only clunky as an ERMS  but also lacks many functionalities that any desirable ERMS should probably have.  I am not going to say I cannot search e-resources in this system by the system’s own identifier nor search any notes that I can attach to e-resources.  There, I said it… whoops.

The two presenters expressed much disappointments about Verde, an ExLibris product, particularly about its complexity and rigidity.  One pointed out that the Verde implementation forced them to fit their workflow around the system rather than fit the system around the workflow.  It was also mentioned that a lot of vocabularies in Verde which come from the ERMI data dictionary were not familiar to the librarians who worked for Verde implementation and that this delayed the implementation process.  One presenter said that her library started Verde implementation two years ago but it was still in testing and not in production.

So, it was a surprise to me that ExLibris is discontinuing Verde development and going for thier new product, URM (University Resource Management) system, instead. I would have liked some discussion about what librarians would like to see ERMS do, but that was not covered much.  My personal opinion is that ERM workflows are very fluid and iterative (also vary from organization to organization) and the tools offered have been failing to capture this aspect.  And probably that is why sometimes a homegrown ERM system works better than a complicated but rigid system offered by various vendors.

The last presentation about Gold Rush was of particular interest to me as it seemed to be the only product whose implementation was relatively easy and smooth.  The cost was also said to be on a less expensive side.  Texas A&M University library implemented it pretty quickly.  Overall, it seemed to be a neat small and simple product.  The presenter pointed out that it doesn’t handle e-books well.  Gold Rush also doesn’t have many features like Verde and is a stand-alone product/a hosted solution, which doesn’t talk to an ILS nor to an Open URL link resolver.  Still, it looked pretty good to me as my library is small and there is no tech-support staff available other than me who will be able to work on the implementation and maintenance of the system.  So, fast implementation and ease of use would be a big plus to me.

I would have liked to hear from libraries that do not currently have a commercial ERMS product about how they manage their e-resources and what kind of system they use.  Also, some discussion and experience about open-source ERMes would have been great such as  CUFTS and Univeristy of Wisconsin-La Crosse ERM.  But it was great to be in the room discussing ERMes with other e-resources librarians.

Academic Librarians and Getting Published

When I was in a MLIS program, I was only vaguely aware of the fact that some academic librarians are appointed as faculty while some are not.  Now that I work at a library where librarians are considered to be faculty (no tenure-track), publishing has become an issue of my interests lately.  So I attended a session designed for folks just like me at 2009 ALA annual. The name of the session was ACRL New Members Discussion Group: “The Publication Process: Getting Published in LIS Journals.”

The session was designed for those librarians who are new at research and publishing in LIS journals.  In order to promote participation in discussion, the presentations were given verbally with/without a handout in a small room.  Partially, this was because of the lack of funding for discussion groups.  But the informal setting and a small number of people around the table made the session much more informative and interesting to both presenters and attendees.  The session provided a wonderful opportunity to gather practical tips and to find encouragement. (In addition, I really loved the fact that in a discussion group there are no committees, no annual membership dues, no officers, and no formality.)

The session consisted of three 10-minute presentations and discussion.

  • Writing to Write: Kickstarting the Publication Process by Emily Drabinski
  • Best Practices for Beginners: Getting Published-From Inspiration to Publication by Lisa Carlucci Thomas & Karen Sobel
  • Targeting Teaching Faculty for Collaborative Publications by Linda Hofschire

Here are a few take-aways from the session I wrote down:

  • To get movitated, use deadlines, generate good ideas, write them down right away, set aside time to write–get up 30 min. early everyday.
  • To become good at writing, write everyday a certain amount in whatever form.
  • To overcome the fear of being published, begin with book reviews and conference proposals and look out for call for proposals.
  • To find topics to write, look at research papers and check out the topics for further study.
  • Network and collaborate with other colleagues.
  • Try to incorporate research into daily work duties sucah as instruction, digitizing, cataloging, etc.
  • You can use data sets used for other research.
  • Bear in mind the tension between topics of your interests and topics that are more easily published.
  • Work with teaching faculty and suggest writing a certain section of a paper such as research method if you gathered and analyzed data.
  • Have a particular journal in mind.
  • Don’t despair if rejected. Revise and send to a different journal.
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