Every once in a while I think it’s important to talk about the need to identify and develop future leaders for ALCTS. The leader’s role within ALCTS can come in many shapes from ALCTS President to interest group vice-chair, from publication editor to section secretary. There are many leadership roles that a member can aspire to and fill. Identifying and then providing those future leaders opportunities is most important. The responsibility to develop our future leaders rests with everyone currently in a leadership position. It also rests with those members who desire to lead. They must make it known of their interest.
Over the last several years, ALCTS has made a concerted effort to expand the number of opportunities a member has to become involved. Part of that expansion is the number of new leadership positions created. With every new interest group, there is at least one position, chair, and many others, in fact. With each new task group created, there are opportunities not previously available. It used to be that members had to “do their time,” or “pay their dues,” starting out in some lowly committee post, slowly and methodically moving up or over, taking on other duties, and eventually attaining the lofty position of section chair or Board member or division committee chair. The process was long and drawn out. Fortunately, with the possible exception of the ALCTS President, that rise through the ranks idea is no longer a valid way to encourage members to take on additional roles and responsibilities. Newer members and younger members and even more experienced members want to create an ALCTS career path that is more suited to their own professional career path. It’s not news to anyone that libraries are constantly changing. It’s also not news to anyone that ALCTS needs to make sure that members who want to lead, can.
So what is there to do? I’ll give you an example. Each year six nominating committees scan the members for potential candidates for office from President to section member-at-large. Each year, it seems like the process becomes more difficult to find members who are willing to serve in these positions. Sometimes it’s the time commitment. Sometimes it’s the need to attend Midwinter and Annual. Sometimes it’s just the perceived additional workload. But sometimes it’s because the pool of potential candidates isn’t there. We’ve worked through all the “usual suspects” and don’t have additional names. The names that are recommended are good people but may not have enough experience. That begs the question then of how much experience is enough. For ALCTS President, it’s a good deal. For section member-at-large, maybe not as much. But if we don’t begin preparing members to take on the elected officers early in their ALCTS service career, we may end up with fewer people to run the organization.
As I said in the beginning, identifying members for leadership roles is the responsibility of the current leadership. Current leaders must begin to work with, mentor, and provide guidance for those future leaders. And quite frankly, we have some exceptional future leaders. I know because I see their work, but I don’t see everyone’s work. But section chairs, committee chairs, executive committees, past leaders do see member’s work. I often get asked to recommend some member for this post or that post, and I do make some suggestions, but although I monitor the organization, I don’t know everyone. (I know, hard to believe!)
So future leaders, next time you see a leadership role that you are interested in, speak up; let someone know you are interested. Take a chance. We need you now and we need you in the future ALCTS.