ALA Presidential Candidates Offer Their Responses to ALCTS Questions

Two candidates are running for President of ALA 2006–2007 in the upcoming election this spring. They are:

leslie burger
christine lind hage
Leslie Burger
Director, Princeton (N.J.) Public Library

Christine Lind Hage
Director, Clinton-Macomb (Mich.) Public Library

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’s concerns.

1. 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?

I accepted the nomination for ALA President because I believe that I can provide the dynamic leadership needed to transform libraries into the well-funded, highly valued resources that Americans deserve and desire.

As president I will support the priorities and values detailed in ALA’s new strategic plan. My action plan focuses on developing a shared vision for improving library service, advocating a national policy and legislative agenda that secures needed financial support, providing continuous leadership training so all library workers are competent and confident leaders capable of inspiring support for libraries, recruiting the best and most diverse work force to the profession, and building a strong grass-roots advocacy network that will make libraries the topic of conversation and action throughout the county. I also want to position ALA to attract and retain an excited, invigorated next generation of leaders.

I want every library throughout the United States to be better off when I leave the position of ALA President. I want to create a legacy of exemplary library service that will be the model for many years to come. I want to energize and excite members to participate more fully in ALA so they can make a difference in their own libraries and in their professional careers. I want them to be challenged by our conference programming and buoyed by what we can achieve when we all work together.

I want my colleagues to say that I helped to transform ALA through strong vision, commitment to collaboration, consensus building, and effective action.

The challenges to American libraries have never been greater than in these times of shrinking civil liberties, limited budgets, emerging technologies, and expanding responsibilities for library professionals. This new century of opportunity calls the American Library Association and its members to lend their expertise to helping libraries reach diverse patrons and help all citizens to be informed, fully literate, lifelong learners and information users. As president, I would work tirelessly to lead and support ALA’s membership to fulfill our professional mission and call everyone to improve literacy and enrich lives through libraries and library services.

My candidacy is premised on the belief that librarians and libraries are an essential foundation for twenty-first-century literacy. We provide the information people need to live, learn, work, and succeed in their communities. ALA divisions are helping librarians prepare preschoolers to read, promoting family literacy, reducing adult illiteracy—including that of ESL adults—and teaching information literacy. ALCTS members are instrumental in developing and organizing collections to facilitate literacy efforts.

As educators, researchers and advocates, librarians have led local, national and international efforts to allow all people to better access, evaluate, use and appreciate the full spectrum of information from various media. If elected, my presidential initiative would be “Twenty-First-Century Literacies: libraries = literacy = learning = liberty” because I believe ALA has a central leadership role in advancing reading and emerging literacies of the Digital Age.

An individual’s legacy is measured in terms of what that person has done to advance the group. My candidacy is centered on identifying expertise within our group, leading the membership, and serving the association’s interests.

I hope that my colleagues will recognize my high ethical standards, tireless work ethic, and total commitment to the profession and the association. I shall commit myself to identifying and working with leaders within our association so we might broaden our outreach. I also will work to cultivate future leadership.

The legacy of ALA should be that the association builds successive generations of consistently effective and visionary leadership and workers who promote libraries, learning, literacy, and liberty.

2. How do your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS, and what role might ALCTS have in helping you achieve your goals?

Collecting, organizing, preserving, and ensuring access to materials is at the core of library activities. Your work enables equity of access, and ensures that libraries are uniquely qualified to serve the needs of all citizens in the digital age.

As president I would create strategic opportunities for ALCTS to work with leaders throughout ALA to ensure equal, ready, equitable, and permanent public access to our rich cultural heritage. Our diverse expertise strengthens our collective power and allows us to address myriad issues facing our nation’s libraries with an amplified powerful voice.

All libraries collect, organize, manage, and make information and materials available to library users. By knowing and understanding the needs of their community’s library users, ALCTS members play an essential role in finding, identifying, selecting, and obtaining materials of interest and use to the entire community. Thanks to the work of ALCTS members, library users without strong information literacy skills are able to find and use the materials they need.

3. 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 term future.  How can ALA assist these members in meeting those challenges?

For several decades, rapid changes in technology and the way in which information is shared and transferred has transformed your work. Your ability to adapt to change has demonstrated how our profession can reinvent itself around our core values like equity of access. Your expertise, adopted by commercial ventures like Amazon and Google, will continue to shape the future of information access. At the same time, you will incorporate valuable approaches used by the private sector into selecting, organizing and preserving collections for your communities.

Together, ALA and ALCTS provide important opportunities for those working in the technical/access services area to learn about the latest innovations, share common experiences, network with colleagues, get the real lowdown on new products and services, and push vendors towards creating the products that respond to your needs.

ALA must play an important role in helping non-ALCTS colleagues—particularly library administrators—understand and appreciate the challenges of your work and the resources you need to ensure greater access to library resources in the digital age.

Recruitment of a new generation of diverse, well-educated, and professionally dedicated technical services librarians is one of the most pressing issues facing the profession today. We must cultivate a better appreciation in the profession for the valuable work done by staff in the area of technical services. Libraries without vibrant, well-organized, and managed collections cannot survive. The profession and society need librarians who are skilled and committed to doing this important work and recruiting successive professionals to continue this vital service.

In addition to attracting people to the profession, we need to ongoing continuing education opportunities to our members. ALA needs to be more tech savvy and supportive of ALCTS’s efforts to provide forward-thinking continuing education opportunities for members.

4. 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?

During my campaign conversations I’ve heard a great deal about BIG ALA versus everyone else. We are one organization—the American Library Association that is made up of association-wide committees, divisions, roundtables, and task forces that function seamlessly to present a unified voice that speaks for America’s libraries and librarians.

As a former ASCLA president I understand the concerns shared by ALA’s smaller and type-of-activity divisions. I am committed to working with you to make sure that your concerns are heard and addressed by ALA. Let me assure you that your concerns are shared across the association. At any moment at an ALA Conference many conversations take place related to technical services concerns. We need to find a way to converge these conversations so we address the issues and use the power of ALA as a whole to find a solution that will result in better library service for everyone.

I believe that most ALA members find their ALA home within a division. This also is where most of the association’s work is accomplished and where ALA members’ have the clearest voice. As a past division president, I believe that divisions’ representatives should have a more important role in developing the path that ALA is taking, and that ALA’s organizational goals should more effectively reflect issues that are important to the divisions. As ALA President I will work closely with the division presidents to ensure that division concerns are heard and supported.

5. 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?

Being part of ALA and its twice yearly Conference/Meeting structure is like coming to a large family reunion twice a year—there are the cousins you know and those you’ve never met. In order to make everyone feel included in a group as large as ALA, we can make our experience with ALA more intimate and meaningful.

As president I would make sure that the people who need to be at the table are included. Your expertise is needed across the association and beyond. I will seek your help in appointing ALCTS members to key ALA committees and ask for your input regarding my presidential initiatives.

I urge ALCTS members to make sure that your issues get on the table for discussion and brought to the attention of ALA’s leadership. We need to discuss tough issues rather than letting them fester. I encourage ALCTS and other ALA members to transcend traditional organizational boundaries so they can learn from each other and share ideas and solutions. For me, these opportunities are what make ALA such a rich and enduring experience.

ALA is a membership association and needs to care about helping its members to successfully perform on the job. That means we need an effective Web site where we can find, identify, select, and obtain the information that we need to do our jobs better. We also need to provide continuing education opportunities that address the needs and concerns of members. That CE should be available electronically, and ALA should provide the technological infrastructure to support those activities. ALA should be able to capture programs and then be able to broadcast them over the Internet to members who cannot afford to attend conferences.

Different people will react and interact differently with ALA, but whether members are able to participate in-person or remotely we are all members first. As a membership association ALA needs to focus on its members’ needs and issues that directly affect the profession.

As your president, I will represent the association in all forums. My past and present leadership experience at the local, national, and international levels allow me to effectively serve as the voice of the association on a full spectrum of issues. ALA is fortunate to have an active and committed membership. As president, I would listen to, value, and work with the diverse expertise, vision, and energy of our membership. I ask for your vote to lead the American Library Association.