From the President

Betsy Simpson, ALCTS President 2011-2012

Betsy Simpson, ALCTS President 2011–2012

Do You Believe in Magic?

Earlier this year Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a pioneer in personal computing, passed away leaving an extraordinary legacy, one which is driving the future of global communication. He was hailed as a visionary and creative genius and his products as revolutionary. In his reflection on this pivotal moment, media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan conveys well what so many think about their Apple devices—pure magic (“Apple, Demystified” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21, 2011). Yet Vaidhyanathan suggests a downside to this magical aura when he states, “My rhapsody should trouble you, as it troubles me. Belief in magic is not good for society. It blinds us to real costs, and it stunts our critical faculties.” The danger Vaidhyanathan cautions us about is losing sight of the ingenuity and hard work behind what we see.

Much of what ALCTS members do takes place in the backroom—acquiring, managing, describing, preserving, digitizing—but each role is integral to the public image of the library. We know all too well that magic is not in the mix (although sometimes it sure would help!). It behooves us to make sure the powers that be appreciate the complexities involved. Our efforts are intended to be transparent to library users but critical to their success. As such, we are always striving to provide the information and tools our users need to accomplish their goals in a way that is seamless, even magical, to those we serve.

Similarly, ALCTS has a “backroom.” In addition to Charles, Christine, and Julie who do a fabulous job in the ALCTS Office, there are literally hundreds of ALCTS volunteers working year-round to offer members programming, publications, and opportunities for networking and collaboration. The results might seem like magic to the uninitiated, but they are nothing but. At its fall meeting the Executive Committee continued the push to improve the organization based on member input from the Reshaping survey. Recent actions include the creation of two new task forces and setting the stage for a Board discussion regarding virtual participation. I invite you to read further for the details.

The Publishing Review Task Force, chaired by former ALCTS President Mary Case, is well underway with a charge to recommend strategic directions for the ALCTS publishing program, taking into consideration issues in the broader publishing world, by the 2012 Annual Conference. The task force’s specific tasks include drafting a mission statement for the ALCTS publishing program, conducting an environmental scan to identify challenges and trends in publishing, assessing the relationship among all ALCTS publishing segments, determining new and currently under-represented areas of focus and possible new opportunities for members to contribute, and identifying infrastructure needs to advance ALCTS’ publishing program.

The Advocacy Task Force, chaired by Mary Beth Weber, is charged with identifying what ALCTS members mean by “advocacy,” define ALCTS’ role in advocating for our functions or for libraries, and recommend what steps, if any, ALCTS should take to strengthen its advocacy efforts. To this end, the task force will review comments from the Reshaping survey related to advocacy, identify existing ALCTS advocacy activities, consider new avenues for advocacy within ALCTS, and assess the need for organizational change to support advocacy. The task force has been asked to submit a report to the Board at the 2012 Annual Conference.

Are you finding it harder to attend two ALA meetings per year? Does this impact your ability to accept committee appointments? If so, you’ll be interested to hear about a possible change to the committee appointment process beginning in 2013 that the Board will discuss at Midwinter. The idea is to have terms that run from Annual to Annual, instead of post-Annual to Annual. Such a change would make it easier for division and section committees to meet in-person at Annual, then meet virtually during the rest of the year. Not only would this allow for a smoother transition from one committee to the next due to the overlap at Annual, but also incoming committees would have an opportunity for face time early on to develop work plans and build on the energy and enthusiasm everyone feels looking ahead to the new year. The trend within ALA is toward a more education-oriented and less business-focused Midwinter, so ALCTS would be right in sync with ALA’s approach. I’m sure Board members would welcome your comments (see

I look forward to working with you on these important issues and many more during the year.

A politician once said, “Magic lies in challenging what seems impossible.” Maybe those words capture best the “magic” created by Steve Jobs and inspire us to bring the same creative spirit to our libraries.

Contact Betsy Simpson (