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Leading at all levels: My journey through the CLA Developing Leaders in California Libraries program

Like everyone else, the year 2020 was a hectic and difficult time for me. However, it was also a time for growth, change, and reflection. Throughout 2020, I got more settled in with my job here at RCLL and I made the decision to go back to school to get my Master of Library and Information Science degree. In the fall of 2020, I came across an opportunity to apply for an opportunity to be a part of the 2021 Developing Leaders in California Libraries, New Leaders Cohort. This is a program that groups library paraprofessionals in California together and puts them through a leadership bootcamp. I ended my hectic 2020 with an invitation to join the 2021 cohort starting in January.

The program, usually presented in person over the course of a few weeks, now had to be presented completely online through weekly Zoom sessions. This was a challenge in of itself as part of the program is getting the opportunity to network and develop professional relationships with other library workers throughout the state. Though this became a slight setback of the program, a group of 15 library paraprofessionals logged on once a week to learn about leadership in the library world. 

Through various workshops and sessions over a six-month period, I learned about 14 foundational competencies in the library and information science field and how they tie-in to our professional lives. Examples of some included communication skills, team building, emotional intelligence, and problem solving. One of the most profound sessions I had in the program was during the “change resilience/facilitating change” session. The theme of this session was dealing with change and how to facilitate change as a leader. While in this session, I was up for a promotion at my job. During the session, they asked us to think of a current or past situation that involved or would involve some kind of change. I used my promotion situation as my example. On one hand, if I got the promotion, I would have to adapt to handling new responsibilities. On the other hand, if I didn’t get the promotion and someone new came in, I would have to adapt to working with a person in the position that I wanted. Either way, change was going to happen.

While working through the session, listening to the instructor, and hearing all my cohort’s situations, I came to the realization that change is inevitable. Handling and working through change is what defines a person and a leader. When the session ended, I felt a wave of reassurance rush over me as if I found peace with whatever outcome the possible promotion had in store for me.  

This particular leadership experience, along with many of the other ones, helped me better understand my feelings and emotions in the workplace. No matter the situation at work (e.g., more responsibilities, new coworkers, new procedures, etc.) I learned how to take everything “as an offer” and accept the change and learn from it. I have adapted to accepting change and treating everything “as an offer” in my personal life as well. Situations will always change; it’s how we perceive and handle these situations is what makes a good leader. Also, I ended up getting the promotion.

If you’d like to know more about the California Library Association and their leadership cohort, please go here

Written by: Michael Van Aken, Library Technician 

Michael Van Aken

By Michael Van Aken

October 01, 2021

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