2008–2009 Year in Review

2008–2009 ALA President James Rettig focused his presidential activities around “Creating Connections” and addressed three critical issues: advocacy, diversity, and member participation.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

ALA President James Rettig gets a hand from President-Elect Camila Alire and Immediate Past President Loriene Roy as he cuts the ribbon to open the exhibits at the 2009 Midwinter Meeting.

Rettig organized a panel discussion at the 2009 Midwinter Meeting titled “Building Statewide Coalitions for All Libraries During a Tough Economy,” which focused on the value of building statewide advocacy coalitions in times of economic downturn as well as the concept of the “library ecosystem,” or how libraries of all types are interdependent.

Rettig provided a variety of innovative opportunities for ALA members to participate in Association activities throughout his presidential year, including monthly online salons and conversations that allowed members to discuss a wide array of topics with ALA leaders; two virtual poster sessions, held in February and May, that allowed participants to share ideas with dynamic e-posters; a “Craigslist” of opportunities intended to help members find their place in our big, complex, vibrant, and opportunity-rich association.

In addition, members were invited to ask questions of the next year’s ALA presidential candidates via YouTube; a Career Connections member community was created in ALA Connect, where members can submit their resumes for others to review; and 75 members participated in an “Unconference” at the 2009 Annual Conference, where participants could set their own agenda for and simultaneously play the roles of teacher and learner.

Also at Annual Conference, 10 juried Grassroots Programs selected from 118 proposals submitted by members addressed topics such as creating a library job center, discovering and preserving local history, public art in public libraries, preparing libraries for Web 3.0, libraries and the Obama administration’s information policy, African American male librarians and career choice, and pushing digital content to users. In addition, Chicago-area college students were provided with scholarships to spend the day at the conference and learn about the range of career opportunities in the library field.

ALA responds to economic crisis

The fiscal year began with widespread media coverage of the increase in library usage during tough economic times. The Public Information Office facilitated interview opportunities for members and ALA leaders with National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Associated Press, and dozens of other media groups and news websites.

Coverage positioned libraries as trusted and valuable community resources and focused on how libraries assist job-seekers and help families save money, as well as how they are changing to meet the demands of the communities they serve.

The demand for information on how libraries support communities during times of economic hardship was so great that the PIO created an economy press kit, which can be viewed at http://www.ala.org/economynews.  Libraries across the country posted television clips to their websites and used the coverage as a tool to fuel local advocacy efforts.

Through difficult economic times, people continued to join ALA and renew their memberships in order to support the profession and find the resources they need for their work life. The Association closed the 2009 fiscal year with 64,843 members, a 2.6% percent decrease from the record 66,624 members in FY2008. No particular area of personal membership was down significantly, however, and student and retiree memberships saw modest increases. Organizational and corporate memberships dropped slightly, with 3,295 and 240 members, respectively. FY 2009 was the final year of a three-year phased-in dues increase for personal members and also saw a change in the dues structure for corporate members.

Crisis in Employment cover

The first ALA Editions Special Report addressed the economy’s impact on jobs: Crisis in Employment, by Jane Jerrard, with a foreword by Office for Research and Statistics Director Denise Davis, offers advice and methods for providing appropriate training and education to job seekers. The report, which was also made available in electronic format at a lower price, was published rapidly to ensure timely advice, with content based on interviews with librarians across the country, as well as on research from the ORS.

In the January 2009 issue of Library Technology Reports, “The State of Funding for Library Technology in Today’s Economy,” Davis and ORS Project Manager Larra Clark responded to the economic crisis with a detailed look at the library-funding landscape. The report, which grew out of the Libraries Connect Communities Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study, includes contributions from experts such as blogger Jason Griffey and former Colorado State Librarian Nancy Bolt and provides practical guidelines for stretching a library’s budget as far as it can go.

The Office of Chapter and International Relations supported state library associations as they battled efforts to cut state funding to libraries just when their services—for workshops on financial planning and investment, technology training, access to valuable databases, free access to computers—were most needed. More than 75,000 library supporters nationwide sent messages directly to their governors and legislators. These efforts helped to stave off or reduce catastrophic cuts in Ohio, Florida, and New Jersey.

FINRA logo

The Reference and User Services Association worked with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation to develop a new resource for libraries to help people cope with tough economic times through the Smart investing @ your library program. FINRA’s Investor Alert brochure “Job Dislocation: Making Smart Financial Choices after a Job Loss” offers guidance and tips for the general public on maintaining financial stability during a period of unemployment. Topics covered include taking the right financial steps, protecting against investment fraud, understanding health insurance options, and asking appropriate questions about employer benefit plans.

Recession, White House transition bring opportunities to highlight library services

The Washington Office responded to the recession by taking action to inform decision-makers—including newly elected President Obama—of the myriad ways in which the nation’s libraries serve as first responders in times of economic crisis.

For the House Banking Committee, which was considering an emergency supplemental bill, the Washington Office prepared a proposal focused on a one-year investment of federal support to public libraries to stay open nights and weekends so that the public could use library resources to look for work.

After the election, the Washington Office worked with the Obama transition team, sharing proposals for libraries to help patrons looking for employment and engaging in discussions about national licenses for databases. Also under discussions was a national effort to include two years of supplemental funding for public and community college libraries to stay open when the public needs access to library resources. The Washington Office also suggested a program to put a state-certified school librarian in each K–12 school, which would have funded 60,000 new school librarians.

Know Your Stimulus logo

In addition to economy-related issues, the report “Opening the ‘Window to a Larger World’: Libraries’ Role in Changing America,” submitted by ALA President Jim Rettig to President Obama’s transition team, outlined top ALA issues and concerns. The Open Access Working Group, which includes the Association of College and Research Libraries, ALA, and eight other library and public-interest groups, also sent a report, “Public Access to the Published Results of Publicly Funded Research Will Benefit the Economy, Science, and Health.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law by President Obama in February 2009, did not fully maximize libraries as a resource for recovery. However, it did present unprecedented opportunities for libraries to pursue federal funding, particularly for broadband build-out. In June 2009, the Washington Office created the online guide Know Your Stimulus to help encourage ALA members to take full advantage of the possibilities in the bill.

Profession says good-bye to leaders Krug and Josey

The library world lost two important leaders in 2008–2009: Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Judith Krug and ALA Past-President E.J. Josey.

Judith Krug

Director of the OIF and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation for more than 40 years, Judith Krug died April 11, 2009, at age 69. Krug, who often said, “Censorship dies in the light of day,” was admired and respected for her efforts to guarantee the rights of individuals to express ideas and read the ideas of others without governmental interference.

Through her unwavering support of writers, teachers, librarians, and students, Krug advised countless librarians and trustees in dealing with challenges to library material. She was involved in multiple First Amendment cases that went to the United States Supreme Court. In addition, she was the founder of Banned Books Week, an annual weeklong event that celebrates the freedom to choose and the freedom to express one’s opinion.

At the 2009 ALA Annual Conference, Krug was honored with tributes from every ALA state chapter and the ALA Council, the William J. Brennan Award from the Thomas Jefferson Center, and the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Founder’s Award, and with Honorary Membership in ALA. Honorary membership is the profession’s highest honor and normally is not awarded posthumously—just one more indication of how exceptionally important Krug was to the field of librarianship.

Authors Scott Turow and Judy Blume helped celebrate Krug’s life and legacy, speaking to a packed house of more than 500 at the FTRF’s 40th Anniversary Gala at the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago July 12. Krug’s death also brought countless tributes from her friends and colleagues, many of which can be found on the FTRF’s Web pages. Her remarkable life and legacy were memorialized by the New York Times, CBS News, National Public Radio, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Library Journal, and scores of other newspapers, blogs, and magazines. The May 2009 issue of American Libraries offered a retrospective (in photos as well as words) of Krug’s life and work, AL Focus included a memorial video, and the July issue of the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom was dedicated to remembering Krug’s career.

Krug began her library career as a reference librarian at Chicago’s John Crerar Library in 1962. Later, she was hired as a cataloger at Northwestern University’s dental school library, working there from 1963 to 1965. She joined ALA as a research analyst in 1965 and assumed the post of OIF director in 1967, also taking over the duties of executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation.

E. J. Josey

On July 3, 2009, the library world also said good-bye to E.J. Josey, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh and past president of ALA (1984–1985), who died at age 85.

In 1964, Josey authored an ALA resolution forbidding ALA officers and staff from participating in state associations that denied membership to black librarians. This action led to the integration of the library associations of several Southern states, and Josey became the first black librarian to be accepted as a member of the Georgia Library Association.

ALTAFF unites voices of ALTA, FOLUSA


Citizen support for libraries received a boost on February 1, 2009, when the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA) and Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA) officially joined forces to become the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF). This new division will help trustees and Friends work together at the local, state, and national levels to promote and advocate for libraries. The ultimate goal is to harness the power of hundreds of thousands of library advocates so that libraries will thrive even in times of economic distress.

New @ your library website debuts

At Your Library logo

In a cooperative effort between Publishing and Communications and Member Relations, ALA did a soft launch of the @ your library website for the public during National Library Week in April 2009. The new website is a two-year pilot project funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and targeting families/children/teens and underserved populations such as recent immigrants and job-seekers. The site offers information on topics of general interest to the public and uses interactive technology and social networking to stimulate library usage and raise public awareness of the library—public, school, academic, and special—as a valuable community resource. The new site is designed to work in tandem with the I Love Libraries website maintained by the Office for Library Advocacy. AL Editor-in-Chief Leonard Kniffel managed the project with Public Programs Office Director Deb Robertson.

ALA launches redesigned website, ALA Connect

ALA continued to work on improving ways to disseminate information and to provide opportunities for networking online. On September 22, 2008, ALA launched a redesigned website with restructured information architecture. Focus groups at the Midwinter Meeting provided positive feedback about the design’s features and requested that more attention be paid to search functions and link maintenance. Later in the fiscal year, ALA introduced ALA Connect, which replaced the Online Communities service as a virtual, collaborative, online workspace.

A busy year for the Campaign for America’s Libraries

At Your Library Campaign for America's Libraries logo

The Campaign for America’s Libraries continued to work with partners to generate public awareness about the value of libraries and librarians, to reach new audiences, and to amplify messages.

The American Dream Starts @ your library grant, developed by ALA and funded through Campaign partner Dollar General Literacy Foundation, awarded funding to 34 public libraries to add or expand literacy services for adult English-language learners.

En Tu Biblioteca logo

Using the Campaign for America’s Libraries @ your library brand, Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org featured librarian-specific content from ALA and library initiatives in a collection of resources specifically for school library media specialists. The Thinkfinity @ your library page showcases materials collected from Thinkfinity content partners and includes discipline-specific, standards-based educational resources on current subject areas. It also highlights events such as Youth Media Month, School Library Media Month, and El día de los niños, El día los libros.

The fourth season of the Step Up to the Plate @ your library program, developed by ALA and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, kicked off during Youth Baseball Week April 13–19, 2009, and was a featured program during the week’s celebration at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The program once again centered on a baseball trivia contest, with this year’s questions, developed by the library staff at the Hall of Fame, focusing on multiculturalism in baseball and baseball around the world. The program concluded with a drawing at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Step Up to the Plate spokesperson and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith chose Oscar Youngquist, 11, of Racine, Wisconsin, as the grand-prize winner.

Launched in September 2008 at the national conference of REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking), the “en tu biblioteca” campaign was developed to encourage members of the Latino community to use their local libraries. Univision Radio, the nation’s largest Spanish-language radio broadcaster, aired public service announcements  in 13 of the country’s top Latino markets in the fall and spring, with a combined value of $1 million in donated air time.

Continuing an eight-year partnership with the Campaign for America’s Libraries, Woman’s Day magazine featured the four winners of its latest library initiative, which asked readers how they used the library to improve a family member’s or their own emotional, mental, or physical health. Winners included a woman who found solace in the library when her husband was ill, one who used the resources at her library to learn about her postpartum depression, a woman who was able to make an informed health choice thanks to the research training offered at her library, and a reader who, after losing her eyesight, used books on tape provided by the Library of Congress to rediscover her love of reading. The magazine also announced its next initiative, asking women to submit stories of how the library helped them save money during tough economic times. Four submissions will be featured in the March 2010 issue.

The Campaign for the World’s Libraries

IFLA logo

The Latvian Library Association (LLA) and the Romania Library Association (ABR) both joined the Campaign for the World’s Libraries in 2009. The Campaign for the World’s Libraries was developed by ALA and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to showcase the unique and vital roles played by public, school, academic, and special libraries worldwide. To date, 35 countries have joined the campaign, and the @ your library brand has been translated into each country’s language. New logos reflecting the national colors of each member nation were made available for download during National Library Week 2009.