ALA Annual 2023

Leading Wholeheartedly at #alaac23

This year’s ALSC’s president’s program was all about wholehearted leadership. The session, entitled Leading with Your Hands and Your Heart: A Conversation about Leading from Wherever You Are, was AMAZING. The panelist discussion featured Dr. Ling Hwey Jeng, Ellen Oh, and Linda Sue Park, with conversation expertly guided by Amy Koester.

Dr. Ling Hwey Jeng

Dr. Jeng spoke about the power of leadership even in invisibility. While many of us feel invisible, often these are the moments where we have the greatest potential to impact change. Some key thoughts:

  • Leadership is a competency, not a role. It is about exercising positive influence over others and showing others what they can do.
  • The relationships we build create our support system and infrastructure for success. It’s important to name our contributions in these relationships and ensure that they are reciprocated.
  • It’s important to look at each person as a whole individual, with their own unique traumas, successes, and circumstances. Person-centered service is about trying to understand individuals in the full scope of their humanity. Instead of using labels, we should work from our own understandings.
  • Don’t wait for someone to notice you to be a leader. Being invisible often allows us to develop a fierce independence that leads to greatness.

Ellen Oh

Ellen Oh spoke about the power of problem solving as a path to leadership. Looking for ways to find solutions often leads us in new directions. Some key thoughts:

  • Considering yourself someone who actively solves problems is often easier than considering yourself to be a leader.
  • Relationships are critical to enacting change. We Need Diverse Books became an organization that makes change happen by building several relationships with people willing to do the work.
  • Remember the importance of libraries as safe spaces for all children. It is important to prioritize keeping those safe spaces.
  • Start by finding answers and solutions in your own community. Put your hand out first to help others and share the solutions that you have, too.

Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park spoke about the power of leadership from the role of an everyday worker. We don’t have to be queen bees in order to enact change. Some key thoughts:

  • As activist worker bees, we can enact powerful change. Marginalized communities never get a day off from thinking about their marginalization. For those of us in communities of power, we should be equally as passionate in reflecting daily on what we can do as allies.
  • It’s okay to leverage the skills and abilities of others. Collaboration, cooperation, and community are central to enacting change. We don’t have to do everything ourselves.
  • Learn from the success of others. Ask what has worked for them, and then try to do the same.
  • Challenge your expectations. Instead of doing things the way that you’ve always done them or the way others think you should, think differently. Have hope and keep trying.

Hands, Head, and Heart

Dr. Jeng shared about the 3 H’s concept of leadership. With this model, you don’t focus on the problems. Instead, you actively look for the things that will help you take off and fly. There are three questions to keep in mind:

  1. What am I good at with my hands?
  2. What do I know well enough to teach to another person? How can I use my head?
  3. What cause in my community am I most passionate about? Where is my heart?

Leadership is challenging, but through community, we can grow stronger together. What do you want for the children in your community? Let’s find ways to connect and support each other in the work.


Today’s guest contributor is Jaime Eastman (she/her/hers). Jaime is a senior Public Services Librarian and Family Place Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. This will be her second Annual Conference. She is looking forward to many things, including finalizing the strategic plan with the rest of the Board, seeing great educational sessions sponsored by ALSC, and connecting with members both in person and through the blog. Jaime is currently working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much.


Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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