Q & A with ALA Presidential Candidates

Two candidates are running for president of ALA 2003–2004 in the upcoming election this spring. They are Carla Hayden, executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore, Md., and Katina Strauch, head of collection development at College of Charleston Libraries.

We offered each of the candidates an opportunity to respond to four questions posed by ALCTS on behalf of the division membership, to acquaint ALCTS members with the candidates and to acquaint the candidates with some of ALCTS’ concerns.

What do you see as the greatest challenges facing those engaged in the areas of work represented by ALCTS (acquisitions, cataloging, serials, preservation, and collection development) in the near future? How can ALA assist these members in meeting those challenges?

Hayden:

Libraries are part of the information industry. The information industry, publishing changes, technology innovations, and the many layers of automated ordering and accounting from large book jobbers and small presses affect the skills represented by ALCTS members. With outsourcing an important activity in many technical services offices, skill in contract management is needed today by these managers. Preservation efforts as well as collection management strategies are changing with global electronic resource management and digitization activities. Metadata, Dublin Core, and other standards of information interchange forwarded by ALCTS professionals are important tools for the profession. ALCTS members are often at the center of the changing dynamics of the information industry as translated to their specific customer bases. ALA will do well to acknowledge their core and changing role, seek input on related issues, and challenge the further development of standards and contract management guidelines and the exploration of collection development models that embrace the fluid information matrix of which we are a part.

Strauch:

The greatest challenges for us in ALCTS involve archiving the electronic product, cataloging the electronic product, combating competition from those who would replace librarians with people without professional training to do these tasks, and fair use in the networked environment. Librarians and libraries have been and will continue to be key to locating, accessing, organizing, and providing reliable information to all citizens.

Librarians must become more active professionally, and ALA must facilitate this. The world around us has changed. The library is no longer a passive storehouse of printed information. The new library is a lynchpin in the community providing access to every variety of information in all formats.

As a profession, we must become more computer savvy, more engaged in study of the issues that affect libraries, and more active in determining our own destiny and the destiny of information and knowledge. ALA is the professional association that speaks for the majority of librarians. As president, I will seek input directly from the membership. I will appoint a task force on the emerging roles of librarians in the twenty-first century. As a profession, we must take action to assure that libraries and librarians survive and thrive in the twenty-first century.

[ TOP ]

Why did you decide to run for ALA president? If you are elected, what will be your prime focus? What do you hope to accomplish during your term? How do your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS, and what role might ALCTS have in helping you achieve your goals?

Hayden:

In my membership of over twenty-three years, ALA has helped shape my career and contributed significantly to my professional and personal development. I was very honored to be nominated as a candidate for president and decided that I could contribute to the association and its members, in essence “give back,” by applying my experiences and commitment to the profession in this position. My primary focus during my presidency would be to promote the inclusion of all viewpoints and positions in the ALA’s advocacy and public awareness efforts and to continue key elements of past presidential platforms, especially protecting the public’s right to know, forging coalitions for the public good, and preserving the record of human knowledge. This focus would include increasing awareness of the value of all librarians and all types of libraries and support for issues such as pay equity, competitive benefits, and improved working conditions. During my term, I hope to form a working task group on inclusion that includes representatives from all divisions and groups to address the issues common to us all yet with increased sensitivity to the special concerns of the various sectors. I would welcome ALCTS input on advancing related ALA goals such as equitable access to knowledge and information resources in all formats for all people, and promoting the value of libraries and librarians in connecting people to recorded knowledge in all forms.

Strauch:

I am a front-line librarian, and I will be a front-line president working to reach each ALA member. I understand the issues that affect us. My prime focus as ALA president will be to give a voice to the grassroots, front-line library worker and librarian. ALA is a conglomeration of many disparate groups, all of which speak out on their specific issues. But, overall, we have the same objective—to make our libraries the very best.

I am running on behalf of all librarians, but I bring a special interest in technical service. I believe unequivocally that ALCTS—the people who select, catalog, and preserve—are at the heart of the library profession. Effective services cannot be delivered without the behind-the-scenes work. For thirty years I have worked as both a technical assistant and a professional. ALA presidents have largely come up through the ALA bureaucracy and are library directors. I think it is time for a front-line librarian to be president. I sit on the reference desk; I negotiate contracts for electronic products; I perform collection analyses.

The profession is at a crossroads. I am an ALA outsider with no hidden agendas. The only thing I care about is that libraries and librarians flourish in the twenty-first century. As our professional organization, ALA must help us to move to the next level of library service and information literacy.

[ TOP ]

How can ALA make certain that members, whose primary affiliation is to a “type of activity” division, feel connected to the concerns of the organization as a whole? How might their involvement be increased? How might ALA’s awareness of their concerns be increased?

Hayden:

ALA represents the concerns of all librarianship, especially recent cyber legislation and how it affects the things we acquire, protection of the privacy of the user, the rising costs of information resources, and the need for recruitment and retention in the information professions, particularly among under represented groups. I am eager to learn more about the apparent “disconnect” this question implies and would attempt to find the interconnections among the issues and concerns of ALCTS and ALA. For instance, new technologies and standards affect everyone, and we are all keepers of the public record to some extent. Once we determine where the connections are weak, we will try to strengthen them and make sure ALA continues to speak for all members and groups.

Strauch:

Believe me, I understand what you are saying, especially now that I am having the experience of running for ALA president! There are very real issues in the profession, but ALA is largely removed from the librarian who is “out in the trenches.” In running for president, I have talked to a lot of people. Easily half of them are not ALA members, yet they are committed to the field. They have many valid reasons as to why they are not ALA members, yet I disagree with them. ALA is a membership organization—not an amorphous “they.” ALA is you and I. If ALA does not seem relevant, it is because we are either not speaking up or not being heard. We can change this. Did you know that less than 7 percent of the ALA members elected our last ALA president? We all need to communicate both within and outside committees and structures.

People who know me describe me as a high energy person. I like to make things happen. For more than twenty-one years with the Charleston Conference, I have brought professionals together to debate the issues. The best solutions are found through collaboration, coalitions, and open communication of ideas. If you and I take charge, we can make things happen. I promise to listen to you, the front-line ALA members. And I promise to meet with you on a regular basis in different venues—e-mail, conferences, phone calls, letters—not just the annual President’s Program.

[ TOP ]

In recent years ALA has engaged in a variety of public relations and visionary activities such as Goal 2000; Libraries: An American Value; and task forces on core values, core competencies, and so on. In some of these efforts it has been difficult for ALCTS members to “see themselves” or to see that the association embraces issues that are critical to ALCTS. What steps will you take to increase ALA’s inclusiveness within its own ranks?

Hayden:

I would work to increase the public’s awareness of the role members of ALCTS play in everyday life. Without your expertise in this area, the wide array of resources that are available to all publics of any type of library would not be available. Our services are not magically created. It takes technical knowledge on the part of dedicated and often under recognized staff to ensure that every patron has access to information. In public service announcements, interviews, and testimonies, I would continue to emphasize the importance of this branch of science in the function of all libraries.

Strauch:

I agree that ALA appears to have focused on hot-button issues that are not core to ALCTS and many of its members. We live in a highly politicized, competitive environment, and it is becoming more so. Unfortunately, many of us are apathetic about ALA. We must become active in the association and make our opinions heard. We cannot do this if we fail to vote and are not active in the association. I sometimes think of myself as a woodpecker. A woodpecker keeps pecking and pecking at the tree and eventually makes a little hole bigger. By the end of my presidency, I hope to have made all of us aware of ALA and ALA aware of us. I hope to see changes in membership involvement in the association.

Please give me the opportunity to serve as your next president. Vote! Let me hear from you at www.katina.info! Thank you.

[ TOP ]

back to alcts newsletter online home