2017 ALA Candidates for President Respond to ALCTS' Questions

Every year ALCTS sends a list of questions to the ALA presidential candidates. In 2017 there are three candidates for president, all of whom responded thoughtfully to our questions. Their responses (in alphabetical order) follow. The 2017 elections will open on March 13, 2017 and will close on April 5, 2017.

Loida Garcia-Febo

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?

I am a librarian. I am an activist. I serve as a library advocate every day. I wholeheartedly believe that together, we can bring change to benefit our profession and the communities we serve. I based my decision to run for ALA President on my experience advocating for libraries in the streets and sidewalks of New York City, at City Hall, New York State Senate, the U.S. Congress, and the United Nations; my background growing up as the daughter of a community organizer; and serving communities as an academic, special, and school librarian in Puerto Rico, and a public librarian in Queens. My vision for the Association and my focus will be to build on the work of ALA presidents to strengthen an ALA that will be the leading voice advocating for libraries and library users while maintaining our core values.

ALA will have a place and a voice at the decision makers’ table, particularly for those in our communities with no voice. We will amplify their concerns to Congress, at the state house, in city councils, and school boards. ALA will build coalitions with like-minded partners sharing our values. ALA will train our members to flourish throughout our careers, to serve and empower libraries, patrons, and communities. ALA will advance our concerns through actions conveyed by pillars of ALA’s strategic plan: advocacy, information policies, professional and leadership development, and diversity and inclusion. Together, we can bring change to impact public policy, benefit the communities we serve and our profession.

Please discuss how your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS. How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?

Libraries are pillars of public education. We are ALA. You are ALA. I am ALA. Together, ALCTS and all ALA members can bring change needed to benefit our profession and our communities. ALCTS members work to provide the best access to quality library resources. Our goals are related in that we are all concerned with serving communities; we are all about serving people. My vision for ALA is an association that will be the leading voice for libraries while maintaining our core values which include intellectual freedom, democracy, privacy, the public good, social responsibility, access, and professionalism. ALCTS areas of work include all these areas. Therefore, my vision for ALA is directly related to ALCTS and their quest, for instance, to provide access to all library users in the communities we serve, and to preserve the privacy of our library users. My vision includes training ALA members to flourish through our careers. ALCTS members are experts that can guide us to equip our ALA members with the best tools in the areas of acquisitions, cataloging, serials, preservation, and collection development. We must include ALCTS in the plan to empower libraries and librarians which will in turn, empower patrons and communities. It would be great to expand the ALCTS Mentoring Program which contributes to develop strong leadership in areas of librarianship covered by ALCTS.

ALCTS’ work involves many components of ALA’s Strategic Plan which includes the pillars of my vision for the association. Together with ALCTS, we can advocate for libraries and information policies that will help us to provide better access. We can provide professional and leadership development for librarians at any stage in their career. We can increase work in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our association to promote a more diverse workforce, more diverse collections, and library programs and services. Together, you and I, can bring change to benefit our profession and our communities.

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 future? How can ALA assist ALCTS members to meet those challenges?

Challenges facing members engaged in the areas of work represented by ALCTS include new roles and workflows, learning about and discussing the latest techniques and systems with other colleagues to identify suitable alternatives for each individual specific area of work, and continuing education. These are part of ongoing processes. As ALA President I will support that ALA facilitates mechanisms to expand webinars, online events, web courses, and ALCTS e-forums free of charge. I will seek more collaboration with ALA units such as the Center for the Future of Libraries so we can have closer professional exchanges about library and societal trends and how we can address them to benefit libraries and librarians. All the above are crucial components to help ALCTS members acquire tools to meet these challenges.

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?

As ALA President, I will support increasing opportunities for members whose primary affiliation is to a “type of activity.” We need to do more to meet the needs of these colleagues. We need to identify those needs and strategize about how ALA’s different groups can serve them. The areas of work represented by ALCTS are intrinsically linked to upholding our core values such as access, intellectual freedom, diversity, and professionalism. Diversity of views are needed. We need ALCTS members to advise about a myriad of areas including how to build collections that mirror our increasingly diverse communities, how to promote inclusion, how to preserve multiple formats. This is key knowledge needed by all professionals, librarians working in libraries and those working in other settings, all serving different types of communities. ALA is an association for all librarians and information workers. We all serve communities. ALA needs ALCTS.

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?

As ALA President I will promote and strongly support more joint work with ALCTS to help our association build communities and positively impact our profession.

We need to increase awareness of our members so the different divisions and round tables can find common goals and partner more often. Information providers who work in acquisitions, cataloging, metadata, collection management, preservation, and electronic and continuing resources are vital for libraries to provide library services. An example of marvelous team work with ALCTS members includes how in recent years catalogers have been very visible supporting change in subject headings “Illegal aliens.” They strongly supported students concerned with the classification of the subject heading, brought up proposals to change the subject heading to the Library of Congress, and proposed a resolution to the ALA Council, “Resolution on Replacing the Library of Congress Subject Heading "Illegal Aliens" with "Undocumented Immigrants." This resolution was supported by SRRT, REFORMA, EMIERT, SALALM, IFC, IFRT, and SAC. Great team work! ALA embraced issues that were critical to ALCTS members and to our communities. We need more joint work! Together, we can bring change.

ALA provides professional development and educational opportunities, facilitate networking among members, and support advocating to place libraries on local and national agendas. These are key elements needed by all professionals, librarians working in libraries or those working in other areas, all serving different types of communities. We need to work together to do more to meet the needs of our colleagues. We need to identify those needs and strategize about how ALA’s different groups can serve our colleagues.

Terri Grief

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?

I decided to run for president because of my experience in the association. I was elected to the Executive Board and was fortunate to serve under several presidents. My experiences with them have prepared me to be a leader in the association. My experience on ALA Council as a division and chapter councilor and my experience as a division president has uniquely qualified me for this position.

My primary focus is to unite our association so that we can be stronger together. We have to learn to speak to each other before we speak for each other. There are three prongs to my platform: Strengthening Relationships, Empowering Communities, and Uniting Voices. We need to strengthen relationships with our fellow members in ALA so that we can present a strong, united front to our friends outside of ALA. During this contentious time, it is more important than ever that we speak with one loud and strong voice about the importance of libraries to a democratic society. I want to reach out in our communities both physically and virtually to find out what they want from their libraries. I intend to reinstate the Harwood method that teaches us how to look outward to become an even stronger force in the community. Finally, we have seen direct benefits when all of ALA unites. The confirmation of Carla Hayden and the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act are two examples of what can happen when we stand up for each other.

I hope to see cross divisional and cross unit projects that will benefit all members and give them more “bang for their buck.” I want us to be a united front to outside groups to demonstrate our commitment to our society’s good.

Please discuss how your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS. How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?

As a school librarian, I depend on ALCTS to help me do my job. I remember when RIF technology was being discussed on Council and I asked Bruce Johnson, division councilor, to explain it to me. The discussion surrounded privacy and Bruce assured all of us that ALCTS was aware of the issues and would be the voice of reason through the discussion. I realized then that I could rest assured that the expertise of this group let me do my job without fear. I don’t know that all members realize what important work you do. It might sound minor but it was this realization that made me appreciate all the divisions and the way that we support one another. My goal for ALA is that we become better at integrating with each other. Jim Rettig, past ALA president, talked about the library ecosystem where we all are part of a larger group. I want to fully develop this by using my presidential funds to promote programming and projects that will highlight this. I will depend on ALCTS to look out to other divisions to share your expertise. I would love to see a program for school librarians about RDA, for example. Most of us have not had a cataloging class since graduate school and wonder why our records look different. I know that I have wondered how I should update my catalog and I really have no idea what to do. This is just one example from my point of view but I know that there are many other groups who would welcome such a program.

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 future?

I don’t know how you all have kept up with the rapidly changing technology in the way that information is delivered and organized. I am happy to say that we all can depend on you to take care of it for us. How can ALA assist ALCTS members to meet those challenges? I hope that ALA gives you opportunities to collaborate, face to face and virtually. I also will be your voice to address issues that affect your concerns.

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?

I really want to engage all the divisions across the association. Courtney Young developed a cohort during her term beginning during her president-elect year of which I was a member as AASL president-elect. Jim Neal is doing something similar and I feel these are great steps on which to build. One of my strengths as a school librarian and as a member of the ALA Executive Board is my ability to build relationships. My professional relationships across the state and across the nation have benefited me in immeasurable ways. I do not know how I would have survived 28 years of librarianship without my professional association and my personal learning community that was developed through those associations. I will facilitate open communication between all the divisions and I want to foster real partnerships between them.

My goal to unite the association will increase involvement. I really like YALSA’s new committee model where there are short commitments to allow more participation to more members. This allows members who do not have time to commit long term to participate in the association. We just need to talk about ALCTS’ concerns. We have to realize that something that affects one specific group impacts the others.

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?

This is my entire platform in a nutshell. We have to become better partners across divisions and break down the silos that ALA is so famous for. I believe we can do this in my term if we get started right after Annual 2017. I know that there members of other units who feel the same way. We in AASL often felt that the “library” that was addressed in much of ALA’s publications was the public library. I know that it is not an intentional effort by anyone at ALA but it does need to be brought forth for awareness. I can promise you that all types of libraries and librarians will be represented and acknowledged during my presidency.

Scott Walter

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?

I decided to run for ALA President because I believe the Association has a critical role to play in defense of freedom of speech, equity of access to information, social justice, and the public good, and because I believe that each of these currently faces challenges unprecedented in my lifetime. I believe that ALA has the potential to develop, sustain, and mobilize a powerful network of members at the local, state, and national levels, and a responsibility to do this work in collaboration with other associations and grassroots organizations in defense of our core values and the rights of library staff and library users. In the current environment, library advocacy must become library activism, and the agenda for that work must be defined as part of broader efforts to defend our fundamental freedoms, our access to information and to information networks, social institutions such as public schools, and civil society, more broadly. My focus as ALA president would be to continue, and extend, efforts we have already seen in this direction from ALA leadership, and to use these efforts as a means of better engaging our members across the Association on initiatives that will allow them to do meaningful work in defense of our libraries, staff, and community members at the local, state, and national levels.

Please discuss how your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS. How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?

ALCTS, like other ALA units (including chapters, round tables, and affiliates), may be the primary ALA “home” for its members; ALCTS is the hub for expertise in its areas of concern as well as the resource on which its members depend for networking, professional development, and programs and publications that allow them to move the field forward. ALCTS members have been at the forefront of discussions about the future of libraries as they have provided leadership in areas such as collection development; access to content; and the description, discovery, and preservation of materials in an increasingly complex information environment. That expertise is crucial not only to the profession, but also to some of the goals I have noted above. I can take two examples from my own life to illustrate the possibilities.

Over the past five years, I have been involved in the development of Chicago Collections, a unique consortium of libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and others in the cultural heritage and educational community across Chicago. Our first major project was the EXPLORE Chicago Collections digital portal, which provides unprecedented access to the collections and services of member organizations. EXPLORE is the hub around which public programs, reference and instructional services, and professional development opportunities for members have been built, and EXPLORE could not exist without the expertise of collection specialists and metadata specialists such as those found in ALCTS. I don’t have your expertise in these areas, but I imagine you appreciate even more than I do what it took to establish a single set of subject headings allowing for description and access to content from across 20+ organizations, including academic libraries, public libraries, special libraries, as well as art, historical, and natural history museums. EXPLORE is the foundation for meaningful collaboration across member institutions and across the City of Chicago, and it demonstrates the importance of ALCTS-type expertise for the future of libraries. It also demonstrates the ways in which ALCTS-type expertise is an essential complement to expertise we associate with other divisions, including LITA, ACRL, and PLA, and with the local focus we associate with chapters. To do the work that is ahead of us, this sort of collaboration is essential.

Another example of what ALCTS members can bring to the table is expertise that promotes the empowerment of marginalized communities. We have seen this in several “public engagement” projects that bring expertise in the organization, description, and preservation of information to individuals and community groups, but another local example of this for me has been the Read/Write Library, which is currently housed in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. A recent profile of this community library and the role it plays in the lives of its users noted the role of “radical catalogers” who helped to make sense of this grassroots collection and the way in which it could become the foundation for services emphasizing community empowerment. The ability to organize, describe, and provide access to content created by diverse communities is essential today, and that is where ALCTS members excel.

These are just two examples of the ways in which the expertise traditionally housed in ALCTS can be mobilized across the Association at a time when questions of how access to, and preservation of, information (in all formats) is the starting point for a suite of services designed to demonstrate the role that libraries play in the lives of individuals and communities today.

What do you see as the greatest challenges facing individuals engaged in the area of work represented by ALCTS in the near future? How can ALA assist ALCTS members to meet those challenges?

Just as EXPLORE Chicago Collections demonstrates the potential inherent in a single discovery point for print and digital collections, the challenge of the hybrid collection remains a great challenge for libraries and for ALCTS members. In addition to the challenge of description and discovery are the ongoing challenges around e-resource management, shifting approaches to copyright, licensing and digital rights management, and access to the data on usage of print and digital collections essential to decision-making about our collections and the ways in which our users can access and employ those collections. The need to continue re-thinking legacy workflows around the acquisition, description, and provision of access to content remains a priority, as does the need to better integrate traditional and emergent areas of public and technical services if we are to provide the best services to the users of our library resources, spaces, and services. The call over the past several weeks to initiate large-scale programs to protect access to data sources and other content associated with the U.S. federal government suggests a significant challenge to ALCTS members that we could not have imagined six months ago, and I expect that similar challenges may come our way as the Trump Administration pursues an agenda with implications for government information services, copyright, support for libraries and museums, and other information and educational policies. ALA can help ALCTS members to meet these challenges by continuing to provide opportunities for high-quality professional development, by fostering greater collaboration across ALA divisions in areas of shared concern, and by ensuring that the member expertise housed in divisions like ALCTS is employed in the crafting of ALA policies, programs, and position statements.

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

The question of “connection” with the Association is one that has come up repeatedly in my discussions with individual members, round tables, divisions, and chapters. It is, as I have said elsewhere, one of the fundamental challenges facing the Association going forward, and one that we must address in new ways if the Association is to remain as important a part of our professional lives as it has been for decades. One way to address this issue will be to continue the focus on finding “big picture” issues that benefit from collaboration across divisions and other ALA units. Intentional development of ALA-level committees and task forces that include experts from across ALA units is one way this might be done. Another approach might be to routinely set aside time and space at conference for the sort of “Town Hall” meeting that we saw at Midwinter on the issue of professional values; one that was notable for the broad engagement it fostered across divisions. Proactive approaches to bringing new and experienced voices together on ALA committees, programs, and leadership opportunities will be critical, as will efforts to remove barriers to participation, e.g., greater attention to virtual participation. Finally, the ALA President can set an important example in working with his or her leadership cohort, at the divisional, round table, and chapter levels, to immediately begin the work of identifying “concerns of the Association, as a whole” that have a meaningful connection to, and can be informed by, the specialized ways in which those concerns are expressed within different ALA units.

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?

I think I have addressed this question, in large part, in my responses to the earlier questions. At a very fundamental level, though, it is the responsibility of ALA leadership to support an organizational culture allowing members, at whatever level, to see themselves, and the importance of their work, within the Association. ALCTS members are integrally involved in issues of strategic concern to the Association, and the expertise historically associated with ALCTS members is essential to many “top of mind” concerns and opportunities for partnerships within the libraries/archives/museums/educational sphere. It is the responsibility of the ALA President to actively engage membership so that each of us can see the value of what we do for the Association, and so that each of us can appreciate the opportunities we gain for personal and professional growth through our work with ALA. At a much smaller level, this has been my charge as the director of a library that is just as diverse in the concerns of its staff as ALA is, writ large; the issues of engagement, of appreciation, and of recognition of the expertise and contributions made by a library staff made up of diverse individuals are very similar to those of an Association made up of diverse divisions. The ALA President’s charge is to ensure that every member has the opportunity to see himself or herself in the work of the Association, and to see how membership makes a difference in the work that he or she does at every level. I would embrace that charge.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these issues with the members of ALCTS. You can find more information about my campaign, as well as links to other Q&A sessions I’ve done with ALA divisions, round tables, and affiliates, here.