ALA Presidential Candidates for 2011–2012
Sara Kelly Johns (left) and Molly Raphael (right) are candidates for the 2011–2012 presidency of the American Library Association.
Sara Kelly Johns
Sara Kelly Johns is currently the school librarian for grades 6–12 at Lake Placid (New York) Middle/High School. She has been in her current position since 1999. She supervised the Lake Placid Elementary School Library during the first two years of her tenure in Lake Placid. Johns previously served as the school librarian for middle/senior high level at Beekmantown Middle/Senior High School in Plattsburgh, New York.
Johns served as an adjunct professor for the mandated 1-credit undergraduate Library Research Methods through Technology course at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Feinberg Library from 1990 to 2006. Johns currently teaches as an adjunct for the NCATE accredited School Library & Information Technology (SL&IT) program at Mansfield University for their Access and Legal Issues (censorship, intellectual freedom, copyright) course.
Johns served as the 2007–08 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Past President, is the Associate Editor for AASL Community for Knowledge Quest, and is the AASL Coordinator in New York State for implementation of the new AASL Program Guidelines and Standards for 21st Century Learner. She began a term as an ALA Councilor at Large during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston. Johns also served as an ALA Councilor 2004–06. She was a member of ALA President’s Jim Rettig’s advocacy initiative advisory committee, the ALA Advocacy Committee and ALA President Camila Alire’s REACT committee for her advocacy initiative for frontline library workers.
Johns has presented extensively at state, regional and national school library conferences on advocacy, leadership, plagiarism prevention and AASL. She has written professional articles for LMC, School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest and Teacher Librarian, and led a webinar on Collection Development in October and will present in Second Life on March 16, 2010.
Johns is a former member and president of the Saranac Lake Free Library Board of Trustees and served on the Plattsburgh (New York) Public Library Board of Trustees. She also served on the Regents Commission on Library Service for the 21st Century and is currently a member of the Regents Advisory Council on Libraries, the New York Library Association (NYLA) Legislative Committee, the Intellectual Freedom roundtables for NYLA and ALA and the AASL Legislative Committee. Johns is an active member of and served two biennial terms as president of the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma international society of women educators.
Visit Johns’ campaign wiki: http://skj4ala.wikispaces.com/
Molly Raphael recently retired after serving for six years as the Director of Libraries at Multnomah County Library (MCL) in Portland, Oregon. The library serves a population of more than 700,000, has a budget of $60 million, and has a staff of over 500 employees. During her tenure as director, Raphael passed a five-year, voter-approved operating levy (more than $176 million for 5 years); implemented many new programs and services; worked with the Library Foundation of Multnomah County to raise more than $12 million. Under her leadership, MCL achieved top rankings among urban public libraries, and had the highest gross circulation of any library in the country for four consecutive years.
Raphael previously served as director of the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) 1997–2003 after holding various positions at DCPL. During her DCPL tenure, Raphael launched the first public library service in the nation to serve the deaf community in 1975. While at DCPL, she established and co-chaired the Labor Management Partnership Council; introduced an Enhanced Business Information Center; launched outreach efforts to address early literacy needs for children at-risk and literacy programs for adult new readers; built partnerships with the K-12 schools, academic institutions and many nonprofits; and hosted many visiting foreign diplomats and senior United States government officials.
Raphael has served in a number of capacities with ALA as early as 1976, when she was co-founder and first chair of the ALA committee and then the ASCLA Section on Library Service to the Deaf. She was president of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) in 2008–09, served on the ALA Executive Board from 2000–03, and has served three terms as ALA Councilor at Large (2003–2006, 1998–2002, 1985–89).
Raphael has also been a member and chair of the ALA’s Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC), Committee on Professional Ethics, Nominating Committee (serving as chair, in 1998–99), Equality Award Jury, Intellectual Freedom Committee and Coordinating Committee on Access to Information. In addition, she has been a member of various committees in PLA, LLAMA, ASCLA, and RUSA.
Raphael was president of the District of Columbia Library Association, a chapter of ALA, in 1987–88. She has chaired the National Library Legislative Day Committee, was vice chair of the District of Columbia Martin Luther King Holiday Commission and served on the Freedom to Read Foundation Board of Directors. She has also belonged to the Urban Libraries Council, the OCLC Public Library Advisory Committee, the Friends of the Oberlin College Library and FOLUSA.
Raphael’s honors include the Arthur Flemming Civil Rights Award for efforts to increase diversity in library employment, collections and programming at Multnomah County Library. She received the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science Alumni Achievement Award, several District of Columbia Labor Management Partnership Council Awards and an Honorary Life Membership in the District of Columbia Library Association. She was also selected to present the Library of Congress “Luminary Lecture.”
Visit Raphael’s web site: http://mollyraphael.org/
The following questions were posed to the 2010 candidates for the ALA presidency. Their responses follow with Johns' remarks in green and Raphael's remarks in blue.1. Why did you decide to run for ALA president? If you are elected, what will be your primary focus? What do you hope to accomplish during your term?
Johns: Why did you decide to run for ALA president?: As AASL President, I often experienced first-hand what ALA can accomplish when division leadership, ALA staff and members work together to make a difference. For me, it was most notable when I involved ALA and AASL in the efforts of the Spokane Moms and Washington State librarians and community members to rally on the steps of the state capitol in Olympia to fight for new funding for school librarians. That type of cooperation to reach a goal and my experiences as an activist librarian—a school librarian, public library trustee and adjunct professor of information literacy and access and legal issues—gave me the solid background to run for ALA president.
If you are elected, what will be your primary focus?: While I will move forward the new 2015 ALA Strategic plan currently being finalized, my primary focus will be on increasing promotion and marketing of the value of libraries. With today’s economy and its effect on libraries, ALA must enhance its visibility. All libraries need training and resources to make promotion and marketing easy. I believe that an effective advocacy program is essential for all libraries, especially now. As ALA President, collectively we can make that happen.
What do you hope to accomplish during your term?: It is time to lead for change. While President, I plan to use my leadership in school, public and academic libraries to work collectively with all divisions and units of ALA for an ALA that:
- vigorously leads in promoting the value of libraries to the public and decision makers
- creates diversity in our profession through a task force providing resources and training to both attract and retain diverse librarians and library workers
- is open, transparent and encourages participation
- champions intellectual freedom, privacy and equal access to information
- seeks equitable salaries and benefits for all library workers
- provides targeted professional development and training, delivered in every possible format
Raphael: Why I decided to run: The most important reason that I am running for ALA president is my deep belief in the transformative power of libraries and the power of ALA to speak to the issues that are critically important for the future of libraries and library workers.
In the past, I have been asked to run for ALA president. I always declined, but two circumstances changed last year that convinced me that now was the right time:
- We have been thrust into the most perilous economic circumstances since the Great Depression. Throughout the library world, reductions in our financial resources threaten our survival. At the same time, many libraries are experiencing large increases in demand and use. These challenges call for innovative thinking and forward-looking solutions as never before; and
- I retired in 2009. As director of a public library system with over 500 employees, a $60 million budget, and library tax levy campaigns to shepherd, I knew I could not conduct the duties of both offices simultaneously at the high level of performance each rightly deserves. I no longer face this dilemma and can focus entirely on serving the profession as president of ALA.
While a desire to serve and full-time availability are important preconditions, they are not sufficient. To be an effective leader of ALA, the president must also possess broad and deep knowledge of ALA. In addition, the president serves as the public spokesperson for the profession and, therefore, should have demonstrated experience in prepared and extemporaneous public speaking and interacting with the media.
I am well prepared to assume the duties of ALA president. I have completed a forty-year career culminating in the leadership of two major public library systems, thirty-seven years as an active ALA member, and thirty-nine years as an active member of two ALA chapters (including president of DCLA). (See biography above.) In addition, as a library director for twelve years, I have extensive experience in speaking before large audiences and working with the media. I also regularly testified before legislative bodies and interacted with elected and executive leaders. My working knowledge of our national government has been built over decades of working in Washington, DC.
I understand what it takes to be an effective leader, know how ALA works and how to get things done, and will integrate and apply insights from these experiences as your president.
Primary focus as ALA president: As ALA president, my focus will be on advocacy, diversity, and defending our core values.
My campaign theme is: “Libraries—Essential for Learning, Essential for Life”. I want to build on the advocacy work of recent ALA presidents to move the perception of all types of libraries from being “nice to have” to being essential. I believe we have the opportunity to shift the perceptions through the use of research results that demonstrate the value of libraries, coupled with the testimony of our library patrons who can tell our story by telling their stories. Creating the perception that libraries are essential is the most effective way for us to move toward the restoration of library funding at all levels.
Second, I want to continue ALA’s diversity initiatives. I will focus in two areas: retention, an area not yet included in the ALA efforts, and linking the diversity efforts with the many ALA leadership development initiatives. I worked on both these areas in my career; in other words, I have “walked the walk” not just “talked the talk”. In Multnomah County, I received a prestigious diversity award. (http://www.multcolib.org/news/2008/raphaelaward.html).
Third, I pledge to defend vigorously ALA’s core values of intellectual freedom, privacy, and open access. These core values are directly related to the important work done by ALCTS members, who build and manage diverse collections representing all points of view, provide access to these resources, and preserve them for future use.
What I will strive to accomplish. As ALA president, I will seek to:
- Build a movement so that decision makers in our communities and institutions view libraries as essential, for the purpose of restoring and enhancing funding for all types of libraries.
- Ensure that we not only build a more diverse workforce in libraries but also retain and prepare this workforce for positions at all levels, including senior leadership.
- Defend vigorously librarianship’s core principles by building coalitions not just in the United States but also globally.
- Lead ALA’s Executive Board and Council through complex, difficult decisions such as expanding our revenue.
- Be an effective, passionate spokesperson for ALA’s strategic priorities.
2. Please discuss how your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS. How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?
Johns: One of the experiences I recently had as an associate editor of AASL’s Knowledge Quest was to work with Tom Adamich on an article on cataloging for equal access to all, especially diverse populations (“The Purpose of Cataloging for Matters of Equitable Access: Spanish-Language Cataloging and “Everyday” Approaches for Non-Native English Speakers,” Knowledge Quest, May/June 2009, pp. 41-47). I solicited and edited this article as an example of one of AASL’s Common Beliefs, “Equitable access for all is a key component for education,” a core value of all library types and of my personal library philosophy. All libraries are part of a learning continuum and the work of ALCTS to provide information and access needs to be recognized and encouraged. Webinars such as the March 24th “Making the Most of Your Descriptive Metadata: Planning, Creating, and Re-using” ensure that access for library users is equal and seamless, supporting ALA’s and my intellectual freedom values as well.
How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?: ALCTS has a head start in reaching my goals for ALA. In order to be transparent, open and effective when promoting the value of libraries to the public and decision-makers, it’s very important that ALA work collectively. I appreciate the ALCTS’ partnerships and outreach to other ALA units such as your business plan’s description of working with RUSA and SSIRT to implement the Library Support Staff Membership Outreach Plan. That focus directly relates to my support of library workers as well as working collectively.
Your work in common interest areas with other divisions through joint discussion groups such as the joint ALTA/LITA/RUSA Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information Committee (MARBI) for MARC standards is a model for collective activism. I have been following the progress of the cross-division CIP Advisory Group to the Library of Congress, knowing that it will have an impact for all library types. The Year of Cataloging and Metadata Research will strengthen all libraries by moving forward the development in cataloging, cataloging standards, and online catalog design; promotion and marketing of this focus by ALCTS is a great example of increasing the value of libraries for the public and for decision-makers. It will be crucial to include members of ALCTS on taskforces and critical committees in order to implement the new ALA 2015 Strategic Plan. I will work with your leadership to make certain that happens.
Raphael: First, advocacy, with its focus on moving libraries from discretionary to essential, is fundamental to everything that we do in libraries. Restoring and enhancing library funding has a direct impact on resources available for purchasing materials as well as support for staff to acquire, catalog, preserve, and provide access to those resources.
Second, diversity in collections is a central principle for libraries. My own experience, particularly while working at MCL, revealed how valuable it is to hire and then work to retain a more diverse workforce, as we developed our collections and reached out with programs and services to diverse populations. Our newly hired bicultural staff helped us revamp low-use world language collections to meet the needs of the community, resulting in much higher use. We also hired a bilingual, bicultural professional cataloger who helped enormously with our Asian language collections.
Third, ALCTS and my ALA goals clearly align as we work to defend ALA’s core principles of intellectual freedom, privacy, and open access. ALCTS members build, organize, preserve and make resources accessible based upon those principles.
ALCTS can contribute to these priorities by developing and offering continuing education, products and services that focus on making collections available to our growing ethnic and culturally diverse populations. In addition, ALCTS represents ALA in the development of standards and guidelines around all areas of collection management and technical services. Without the expertise that ALCTS brings to the table for these initiatives, ALA would not have an effective voice in critically important areas.
3. What do you see as the greatest challenges facing individuals 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 ALCTS members to meet those challenges?
Johns: Libraries are buying less in traditional collections and also reducing technical services staff. The connection between equal access to information and resources and the role of librarians as guides needs to be even made more strongly through increased promotion and public relations; ALA can do that with my presidential initiatives. While the functions of ALCTS are constant (adherence to standards of practice in the areas of acquisitions, cataloging, serials, preservation, and collection development), the nature of those resources is changing and ALA and ALCTS are changing with them. The excellent professional development offered by ALCTS in all formats (Annual conference, virtual conferences and online) needs to be encouraged and promoted to include librarians from all library types. ALA Connect and the opportunity it provides for special interest groups can be used immediately for cooperative work and sharing of research and experiences. ALA provides the organization and resources to coordinate ongoing training that can make a difference for ALCTS, libraries and library users.
There are huge challenges ahead in the coming years across the entire ALA organization to increase the recruitment and retention of staff and the diversity within our profession. I will put together a diversity recruitment and retention task force to make training and resources available for all library types—and ALCTS members will be participants. I will continue the efforts of ALA Council and ALA presidents to increase diversity and applaud the Spectrum Presidential Initiative to raise $1 million in one year to increase opportunities for minority graduate students to participate within our profession. Retention efforts need to include listening to new members, hearing and addressing their concerns and providing important training and mentoring. ALA is moving toward more member participation with ALA Connect, virtual conferences and special interest groups; I will ensure that this momentum continues with the implementation of the new Strategic Plan.
Raphael: Rapidly changing formats have created enormous challenges for libraries. No one has felt those challenges more than staff working in acquisitions, cataloging, serials, preservation, and collection development. I discussed these matters frequently with our manager of collection development and technical services at MCL, so that I could understand and appreciate the enormity of these challenges. We weighed the consequences of discontinuing one format in favor of another. We had to manage limited resources and had to make some difficult and sometimes unpopular choices. We understood the impact of those decisions and ensured that we had the right people—including technical services staff—at the table.
Licensing agreements and database “purchasing” create challenges for how we spend our limited collection budgets. No longer are we always able to purchase items that we plan to keep in the collection. Those resources may vanish if we cancel subscriptions or the vendor decides no longer to include certain resources. We are witnessing the consequences of managing resources in this environment with the recent aggregators’ controversy (EBSCO and Gale).
Implementation of the new Resource Description and Access ( RDA) will have a major impact on ALCTS members. I have not been directly engaged in cataloging recently, but I do remember what seemed like big changes with AACR2. Today, with RDA on the horizon, those changes may be seen as minor adjustments compared to the transition to RDA. I also am aware of concerns expressed particularly by smaller libraries regarding the costs associated with RDA implementation. ALCTS can and should provide leadership in helping libraries and library workers understand many of the RDA issues, including providing opportunities for information exchange for “communities of practice”.
Like the rest of ALA, ALCTS must work to engage new members. With the possibilities of Webinars, virtual conference participation, e-participation, and collaborative software like ALA Connect, we can extend opportunities to be engaged in the work of ALCTS and ALA without requiring physical presence at ALA conferences.
In many areas, ALCTS can and should “speak” about issues of concern to members covered by ALCTS functions. There are times, however, when the collective voice of ALA may be positioned to amplify the voice of ALCTS. With your expert advice, I will stand ready to speak about those issues as your president.
ALCTS provides a critical forum for information exchange, continuing education, development of standards and guidelines, communication across “communities of practice”, and dissemination of best practices. ALA can help ALCTS members by ensuring that the proper infrastructure and other needed elements are in place to support these activities.
4. How can ALA ensure that certain 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?
Johns: Divisions whose focus is library type rather than function do seem to have a higher degree of funding and influence in ALA because of a larger membership. This disparity can be improved as we work together to increase the visibility of libraries and legislation that supports the core values of our profession. The “silos” can go away with an open, transparent and inclusive ALA; leadership in the specialized divisions (ALCTS, RUSA, LITA, LAMA, ALTAFF, etc.) can focus their members on sharing their expertise, strengths, issues and concerns with others through electronic participation and volunteering for major committees. The strong mission statement of ALCTS shows the connections of your division to ALA’s mission: “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” The strong voices of ALCTS members strengthen ALA while ALA gives ALCTS a louder voice when joined with other members on common goals.
Raphael: Much of my work within ALA has been in “type-of-activity” divisions, including RUSA in my early years and later in LLAMA. Most recently, I returned to a type-of-activity division when I was elected president of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) in 2008–09. I believe this experience helps me understand the concerns raised in this question.
As ALCTS members know, and I learned quickly in LLAMA 30 years ago, we benefit greatly by interacting with library workers engaged in similar activities but from different types of libraries. I certainly understand academic, school, and special library issues better by working on committees and boards with colleagues from different types of libraries. At the same time, I also realized great benefit from the work of my “type-of-library” affiliation—PLA.
ALA and its members benefit greatly from the work of both types of divisions. We should see ourselves as librarians and library workers first, who find opportunities in ALA to learn from our colleagues and contribute to the advancement of library work. Most people find their “home” in ALA through divisions and round tables. Some decide to stay in those pursuits throughout their service to our profession. Some move into ALA governance and/or association-wide committees. ALA and ultimately our libraries benefit from both of these choices.
As your president, I will actively seek committee volunteers from ALCTS and other “type-of-activity” divisions. We need you at the table. As a library director and in other management positions, I always asked the question, “Who should be at the table for this discussion that we may have missed?” But “being at the table” takes initiative on the part of ALCTS members too; I encourage you to volunteer for ALA-wide committees, to run for Council, and to run for Executive Board.
Finally, you will vote in another important election this year: for president-elect for ALCTS. Each cohort of presidents-elect—for ALA and each of the 11 ALA divisions—forms a team. So either Betsy Simpson or Mary Beth Thomson, who are both running for ALCTS president, will be part of the team that plans for ALA for 2011–12.
5. In recent years 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?
Johns: The ALCTS visibility to its own members and to ALA should be increased by the celebration of Preservation Week during the week of May 9–15. As president of the Board of Trustees at the Saranac Lake Free Library, our capital campaign provided better facilities for preservation of our local history, very important to our community. Preservation Week will put a spotlight on this important work of libraries.
In addition, partnerships within the library community and other promotional efforts should give ALCTS better definition. Social networking tools like ALA Connect and Facebook can only help. The greater emphasis on publicity, promotion and activism that are part of my platform will give ALCTS more visibility. I also see ALA Connect offering the opportunity for members with like interests to form special interest groups and to promote them; ALCTS members could easily take advantage of that for their own work and visibility for their work.
As your ALA President, I will work with the leadership of all divisions—including ALCTS—to promote my goals and theirs. I will expect ALCTS leaders to bring concerns and issues to me. I will also work with ALCTS leadership to ensure that ALCTS members will be names to relevant committees and task forces and that ALCTS leaders are consulted when decisions are made on core value issues such as intellectual freedom and equal access, issues like the Library of Congress CIP discussions and Google book settlement. I value your expertise highly.
Raphael: As I responded above, sometimes ALCTS is the appropriate body to speak on an issue. There are times, however, when ALCTS issues transcend the division’s mission, and ALA needs to speak to a critical issue brought forward by ALCTS. Since Council sets ALA policy, having more people on Council who can speak with knowledge to critical issues for ALCTS, will help elevate those issues to be adopted by Council, thus becoming ALA policy. I believe ALA Council would benefit from having more members who understand the importance of ALCTS issues.
Volunteering for association-wide committees is an important way for ALCTS members to influence ALA policies and activities. When the ALA president-elect makes the call for volunteers each year, I encourage you to respond.
As ALA’s president, I will seek the advice and expertise of ALCTS leaders on issues of importance to ALCTS across libraries and our profession, just as I did as a library director. ALCTS issues are important to all libraries—large and small—academic, public, school and special. ALA needs to speak forcefully on ALCTS issues when that collective voice can make a difference.