My experience at ALA Midwinter as an Emerging Leader this year was rich and fulfilling. We kicked off the first day in Atlanta with a day-long session in the Emerging Leaders program for the Class of 2017, which included leadership training, a panel presentation from ALA Emerging Leader Alumni, and orientation for the group work that will continue for the 6 months leading up to the ALA Annual conference in Chicago this year. The inspiring session set the tone for the rest of the conference.

Co-chairs of this year’s Midwinter EL program, Maureen Sullivan and Audrey Barbakoff, did a masterful job. Maureen Sullivan gave a leadership-rich presentation based on the five leadership practices outlined in the book, The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to groom their leadership skills! It was excellent to take this information back and present it to my organization with activities for everyone to work on their own leadership goals.

During the day-long session, we listened to a panel of Emerging Leader Alumni who gave us wonderful advice to make the most of the conferences. They all said to attend as many meetings, parties, and gatherings as possible, and of course, don’t forget to pack granola bars to keep energy levels from plummeting. One of the alumni said that we should figure out who we want to be as leaders and learn how to make the most of the gifts given to us. A resounding tip from the panel was to get ready, because generationally-speaking, the Millennials will be tapped for leadership opportunities sooner that we imagine in our field due to the approaching retirement of a large percentage of library professionals.

One of the most invaluable learning opportunities afforded by the Emerging Leaders program is built in to the 6-month group work assigned in December. Along with a team of four other Emerging Leaders, I am creating a set of best practices and a toolkit for LITA to help improve virtual engagement and communication for Committee/Interest Group chairs and members to improve productivity of the groups over the course of the year. LITA will use the delivered best practices guide, along with the Leadership Guide created by a prior EL, as the core resource for incoming Chairs. Once the Guide has been implemented, LITA plans to offer it to all ALA units to improve engagement across the Association. Interacting with my fellow Emerging Leader peers in the context of this group project and in the overall group as a whole provides the foundation to form relationships in an inspiring setting. As I continue to grow and learn as a library professional, I am honored to have this unique opportunity to participate in the Emerging Leaders program at ALA. Moreover, I am so grateful to have ASCLA as my sponsoring division and look forward to more exciting opportunities ahead.