A Northern Michigan University librarian was accepted into the highly competitive American Library Association's (ALA) Emerging Leaders Program. The program accepts no more than 50 participants each year, and Emera Bridger Wilson is one of them for 2024.
The Emerging Leaders Program is a leadership development program that enables early career librarians from across the country to participate in problem-solving work groups, network with peers, gain an inside look into the ALA structure, and serve the profession in a leadership capacity. It puts participants on the fast track to ALA committee volunteerism and other professional library-related organizations.
“I was really excited,” said Bridger Wilson. “I was in another meeting, and I kind of let out a squeal because we had applied in September, and I hadn't heard anything. It was great to see the notification come through my email, get the ball rolling and submit my acceptance. I'm honored. I was surprised that I was chosen, but I'm looking forward to it.”
Bridger Wilson applied to the leadership program because she wanted to learn how to best serve the campus community and thought the program would be an excellent opportunity to meet other librarians and think about the library differently.
During the application process, Wilson had to answer prompts about why she wanted to be part of the program. Some of the questions addressed why she felt diversity was important for the library profession and how she would bring the value of diversity and inclusion into her work. She also needed to submit a letter from the Dean of Libraries and Instructional Support, Leslie Warren, and two colleagues' letters of support.
The program starts with a day-long session during the LibLearnX event. The ALA encourages Emerging Leaders participants to attend the entire event, where they can be part of workshops and speak with other librarians. After the full-day, face-to-face session, the program grows and develops in an online learning and networking environment for six months. The program culminates with a poster session presentation to display the results of each group's project planning work at the ALA Annual Conference.
“I hope to learn more best practices in terms of academic librarians and academic libraries. I want to get to know more librarians across the country and have a group of people that you I can brainstorm with and sort of the challenges that can come with the profession.”
Bridger Wilson said her goal is to return with new creative ideas for programming and activities for Olson Library once its renovation is completed. She began work as the collection management librarian at NMU in July 2022. Before becoming a librarian, Bridger Wilson pursued a career in anthropology. She has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Syracuse University, where she was the associate director of the South Asia Center and an adjunct instructor at Syracuse and Le Moyne College.
“I decided that I wanted to stay in higher education and academia, but I wanted to do something different,” said Wilson. “So, I went back to school to become a librarian in 2019. This is kind of my second career. It's been a lot of fun to be at NMU. I like the small size. I've gotten to know a lot of people here, and I love Marquette. It's been a good fit. I've enjoyed the last 18 months.”
Wilson makes policies about NMU's collection, ensures it reflects what the curriculum teaches, is diverse and inclusive, and provides what professors and graduate students need for their research. She's also a liaison librarian for the departments of sociology and anthropology and English. Most recently, she took over the following: theater and dance; history; philosophy; languages, literatures and international studies; and communications and media studies.
“As a librarian liaison, part of it is figuring out what kinds of materials the professors and students in those departments need, providing library instructions and teaching students how to use the library and how to access materials. In addition to that, I also lead the Open Educational Resources initiative at the library. I work with my colleagues in the library, the Center for Teaching and Learning and various offices across campus to promote textbook affordability and open education resources.”
Learn more about the ALA's Emerging Leaders Program here.