The ALA Spectrum Leadership Institue Opens Doors and Guides Paths–By Clara Asuncion

When I first received the phone call from Gwendolyn Prellwitz of the American Library Association Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services about my Spectrum scholarship, I was so excited I want to jump and shout. Working in a quiet office doesn’t lend itself to doing that, even if you’re locked in the supply room, so I settled with many moony “thank you’s” and boldly announced my achievement to my boss and co-workers after bursting from our den of binders. Starry-eyed, I was practically floating from the idea that the ALA would fund my first year at the iSchool. Better yet, my attendance was required at the Spectrum Leadership Institute at ALA Annual in Orlando, FL. It is rare for me to travel so far from home.

C.AsuncionTo be honest, I didn’t know how to be excited about ALA Annual. While I was aware of the amazing treasures in advanced reading copies, books, and freebies in the Exhibit Hall, my attempts to gauge which conference panels and events to attend left me adrift in a sea of acronyms. But I did know that the Spectrum Institute alone was a great opportunity for professional development, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

With a cohort of about 60 scholars, I learned how to negotiate for a job and benefits appropriate for my skill level. There were discussions about diversity and, more importantly, approaching difficult situations and scenarios. During one lunch, we met representatives from CALA, APALA, BCALA, AILA and REFORMA (those acronyms!) all in one room. When my 60 new friends and I parted, I fully appreciated the connectedness inherent to those in the library field.

Most important for my scholarly career was a session with Miguel Figueroa, who works for the ALA Center for the Future of Libraries. In speaking with him and a PhD student at a PhD program open house, I learned that my interests in cybersecurity and data literacy are in demand and at the forefront of an emerging category of scholarship. I also attended the Center for the Future of Libraries Advisory Board Meeting, and APALA’s Executive Board Meeting and Literature Award Ceremony.

Finishing an early Sunday session on cybersecurity clinched the fact that this conference was not about the Exhibit Hall for me. The Institute was simply an entry point in becoming fully engaged as library professional on many different levels. I now have confirmation that I have chosen the right path!