ALA Vice Presidential Candidates Offer Their Responses to ALCTS Questions

Three candidates are running for President of ALA 2004-2005 in the upcoming election this spring. They are:

Carol A. Brey, Director of the El Paso Public Library, El Paso TX
Robert Newlen, Head of the Legislative Relations Office, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
Herman L. Totten, Regents Professor of Library and Information Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton TX

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?

There are three primary challenges that I believe ALCTS members may face in the near future. The first is related to federated or simultaneous searching of holdings, such as those of a collaborative or consortium. Cooperation is critical to today's libraries, as budgets shrink and materials become increasingly expensive. El Paso libraries have formed the El Paso Area Libraries (EPAL) consortium, which will eventually provide simultaneous searching of members' holdings from the EPAL website. This has been a challenge for the staff of our respective technical services and automation departments, as we attempt to find solutions that function across different automated systems, bandwidths, and different classification systems. ALA can help libraries in these circumstances by researching the various options available for federated searching, and providing training in utilizing these options.

The second challenge is that of preservation, as we attempt to maintain our history and our heritage in a wide variety of formats. Like many libraries across the country, El Paso Public Library has a vast collection of resources that reflect our rich heritage, and these items must be preserved for generations to come. ALA can assist its members in meeting these challenges by seeking or providing grant opportunities for preservation projects, and by providing information and training in preservation.

The third challenge is to establish standards in a rapidly changing technological environment. The ALA Handbook indicates that one of ALCTS' goals is to "Develop, evaluate, revise and promote standards…" This becomes increasingly difficult as systems and formats change. ALA can help with this challenge by identifying the need for changes in standards, supporting these changes, and promoting the use of standards to members.

Like their colleagues in other parts of ALA, ALCTS members are faced with the challenge of trying to sustain daily operations in the current fiscal crisis. The unique challenge facing ALCTS members is that of getting through this year while trying to prevent unreplaceable gaps in serials collections and letting irreplaceable resources be destroyed because of lack of funds to preserve them.

Funding is an even more key issue for ALCTS members because they must collect monographs today which may be out-of-print next week and preserve both print and electronic resources which may be past salvation next year.

I believe that ALA can best assist our colleagues who work in library collections and technical services by strengthening and supporting the work of our Washington office. If we do not immediately begin to strengthen support for our legislative arm, federal funds flowing to libraries will be harmed for at least the next several budget years. As President, this would be my number one priority. I don't have all the answers and I need to hear from ALCTS members who cope with these challenges on a daily basis. I encourage members to contact me via my website at

Challenges facing acquisitions and collection development include balancing the need for print and electronic resources, funding both types of resources, particularly electronic which tend to be more expensive, and balancing the needs of the information seeker and the holder of copyright.

It is my considered opinion, as a former professor of Cataloging and Classification, that greatest challenge in cataloging and serials lies in the need for the appropriate education of catalogers of both bibliographic and non-bibliographic items. Other concerns include staying current with the constant appearance and disappearance of electronic information objects. It appears that catalogers are facing the same challenges that were faced by catalogers in the post-WWII era when the world experienced a great influx of scientific materials. Catalogers were struggling to organize, control, and provide access. Also during this period, many new tools, techniques, and systems were created to handle the information explosion.

Another challenge involves the need to eradicate the stereotypical image of catalogers and serial catalogers as anti-social and reclusive. Although the image has impeded recruitment in the past, I believe that some people are beginning to recognize the value of the work.

Another challenge is the need to upgrade tools and techniques. Classification systems, such as LCC and DDC, need to be modified to become more dynamic.

Preservation faces a daunting challenge. How do we preserve the millions of volumes in today's libraries that are printed on non-rag-tear-based paper?

ALA can assist in all of these challenges in the same manner it has historically. As an example, ALA developed AACR, AACR2, and other bibliographic initiatives that continue to result in effective tools for bibliographic control.

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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?

I decided to run for ALA president because I believe in my ability to lead our association as we face the challenges ahead. A democratic society depends on libraries to provide equal access to knowledge and information in all its forms. Yet our libraries continue to be under-funded, understaffed, closed too many hours, and even closed permanently in some cases. Now more than ever, it is critical that we take every opportunity to advocate for libraries and the people who work in them.

My entire platform may be found on my website,, but the following points illustrate my top priorities for my presidency:
¨ Promotion of literacy and the freedom to read for all;
¨ Protection and defense of intellectual freedom, including unfiltered access to information;
¨ Safeguarding our patrons' privacy, now threatened by the USA Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, and related laws and regulations;
¨ Bridging the digital divide, ensuring that everyone has the technology needed to access information;
¨ Support for the ALA Better Salaries and Pay Equity initiative;
¨ Funding of recruitment and retention programs such as the Spectrum Scholarship program, to increase diversity in our profession; and
¨ Advocacy for libraries, with continued support for the "Campaign for America's Libraries" and the Library Advocacy Network.

I began my career in Technical Services, serving as a paraprofessional in my local public library in Springfield, Illinois. Since that time, and in my current position as Director of the El Paso (TX) Public Library, I have recognized that access to information depends on the effectiveness of technical services departments across the country. In addition, advocacy for libraries will assist in securing the budgets we need for collection development, acquisitions, cataloging, and other technical services functions.

Libraries are experiencing a devastating fiscal crisis and America's librarians and library users expect ALA to help. I decided to run for President because I believe ALA members' best interests will be served by focusing its scarce resources on two critical areas:

  1. Supporting our work in the legislative arena and building a strong financial future for ALA. If elected, I will bring the Association's full focus on the major issue facing every library in America today: funding. Libraries are seeing decreases in every type of revenue they receive. We must grow up politically and realize that if we do not immediately strengthen and support the work of our Washington office, our collections will be irreparably harmed.

    Working on Capitol Hill for over 25 years, I know the value of ALA's presence in Washington and the need to leverage our strength with carefully chosen partners. If elected, I would make supporting these efforts my number one priority because without success in the legislative arena, all ALA's other efforts on behalf of our nation's library users are moot. I would work hard to mobilize the talents of our members: librarians, library support staff, trustees, vendors, and other friends of libraries and library users to help persuade policy makers.

  2. Ensuring intellectual freedom for library users. I believe this is best done by building a strong financial future for ALA. Intellectual freedom underlies everything libraries stand for. It is the raison d'etre of our mission. Without intellectual freedom, there is no value in making information and ideas readily available.

    ALA has incurred enormous legal bills defending against such threats. As President, I will commit myself to leading a much better-coordinated, ongoing vehicle for building a strong financial base. As an Executive Board member and Endowment Trustee, I have advocated for strategic and business planning for the association, expansion of fund raising and planned giving activities, and development of new revenue sources.
    The goals for my presidency are clearly linked with the ALA Strategic plan, ALAction 2005: to strengthen and support our work in the legislative arena and to build financial resources so we will never hesitate to defend intellectual freedom and other core values of our profession.

By the end of my presidency, my goal is to have built support and made significant progress in pursuing these objectives. ALCTS members are critical in helping to meet these goals.

When I was asked to run for ALA president, I considered the request carefully. I decided that my thirty-five years of experience as a leader had not only allowed me insight into ALA's challenges, but had also allowed me time to develop close associations with the incredibly talented members of ALA. Both the insight and the associations provide me with the necessary preparation to respond effectively to ALA's opportunities in the 21st century.

If elected, my prime focus will be diversity and equity of access - both conventional objectives of American libraries. I also intend to continue to support lifelong learning, improved services and the increase of pay for all library workers.

I believe it is very difficult to complete an initiative in the short period of time of an individual's presidency. I find it more beneficial to continue the initiatives of previous presidents within ALA's key action areas.

As a former cataloger and professor of cataloging and classification, I would involve ALCTS in all of my initiatives because I sincerely feel that an understanding of the role of cataloging and classification is fundamental to performing any function in a library or information agency during this, the Information century.

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How can ALA make certain that members whose primary affiliation is 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?

ALA has nearly doubled in size since I joined it in 1983, and, with nearly 64,000 members, it becomes more difficult to keep everyone connected. The divisions have done an excellent job of keeping people involved, and providing professional development activities that meet the specific needs of librarians and library workers from all types of libraries.

I believe it is essential that leadership of the divisions and ALA work together to make sure their respective goals are complementary. Common goals that we can all agree upon will build excitement within our membership and create increased involvement at all levels.

When I worked on the ALA Conference Committee, I was struck by the depth and breadth of ALCTS's programs. I worked hard to develop and implement the "track" focus of conference publicity; I believe this work has provided great visibility to ALCTS.

But more can be done. As President, I would more aggressively promote the critical roles of librarians working in the areas of collections and technical services. Having served as ALA Awards Committee chair, I see a number of excellent opportunities to give more visibility to awards related to ALCTS activities. Again, I am interested in listening to ALCTS member views on these issues. I also feel strongly that we must market the full range of careers that are possible with library and information science degrees, particularly the rewarding opportunities in the area of collections and technical services.

I have long felt that the President of ALA had the responsibility of communicating to all of the units that they are not silos. As such, ALA is an umbrella organization and not a federation. With this in mind, I propose in my inaugural address to forge meaningful coalitions among all of the units for the purpose of developing a loyalty to the Association equal to a member's loyalty to his or her division or round table. I will also propose presidential programs to be presented at Midwinter and Annual that cut across all types of libraries and functions. What ALA sorely needs during both its meetings are plenary sessions that bring together all members of the Association in attendance.

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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, etc. 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?

This relates to my response to the previous question, as I think it is time for ALA to embark on a strategic planning process that builds on previous planning efforts-such as ALAction 2005 and ALA Goal 2000. Having worked with numerous organizations as a strategic planning consultant, I know that planning can build teamwork and expertise within any organization, creating improved communication across all levels and programs. The initial "planning-to-plan" stage should involve gathering information from all members about their needs through surveys, focus groups, and regional ALA meetings.

I believe that ALCTS members are very concerned about library funding which is the primary focus of my Presidential interests. I am committed to involving ALCTS members in activities related to strengthening and supporting the work of our Washington office, especially those legislative activities which fund collections and preservation.

I would take particular care to ensure greater involvement of ALCTS members in Legislative Day activities because I believe ALCTS members bring critical expertise and experience to the table.

While forging meaningful coalitions within the Association, I envision a unique role for ALCTS. Bibliographic control is the one common goal of all librarians and information managers. Consequently, one facet of the president's programs at Midwinter and Annual would be to raise the Association's consciousness to the significant role that ACLTS plays in bibliographic control. I would ask ACLTS to develop a segment of the program that communicated that concept.

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