Cecilia McGowan, ALSC President, 2019-2020

Message from Cecilia | About Cecilia

Message from Cecilia

Photo of Cecilia McGowan

Hello ALSC members and prospective members!  I can’t tell you how thrilled and proud I am to be the President of ALSC!  It is a penultimate honor to have been chosen as your representative as I believe you are all positive, passionate and electrifying forces in the lives of all children.  ALSC strives to represent, educate and serve the needs of members and prospective members and ultimately those we serve.  Those we serve are the children, parents and caregivers, teachers and everyone in our communities who live, work and interact children every day.  That’s all of us!  But those who serve children inside and outside their libraries have a unique and significant role.  No matter your experience, no matter where you live, ALSC is the division that exists to serve you and those we serve.  We are guided in all we do by our Vision, our Core Values and our focused Strategic Action.  We don’t just post these words; we live by them in our day-to-day and year-by-year work.  They are not empty words or promises.  We have made significant progress since the development of the Strategic Plan, but we are coming up to the time where we will be discussing the future of the plan and how to proceed beyond 2020.  What is your role in this?  We need active, engaged, committed members to continue to improve.  Now is the time for you to get involved and make ALSC better through your advocacy!  We cannot improve without your help.  We need every one of you.  We understand that many of you do not have the capacity to attend conferences but there are so many opportunities within ALSC committees where conference attendance is not required.  Take a look at our committee page and note all the virtual opportunities.  We need members just like you in all our committees in order to represent all the children across the nation.  Visit the Appointments Process and Volunteering page and sign up today!

The substantive work of our division happens through process committees, task forces and working groups.  Coming from the recommendation of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion with ALSC Implementation Task Force will be the Communities of Practice Task Force, which will be a “training series to help library staff serving youth increase their cultural humility and to promote these values in all aspects of library service to children”.  Look for more information about this later this summer.  A brand-new committee soon to be seated is the Early and Family Literacy Committee, which will begin work later this summer as well.  

As important as serving on committees, task forces and working groups is, it’s not the only thing we do to serve the needs of our members; we have a vast array of online and in-person educational opportunities, professional tools, resources, publications, Mentoring, Initiatives, to name but a few.  

I’m looking forward to meeting and working with many of you over the next year!  Please do not hesitate to email me or an ALSC staff member with questions, comments, concerns, compliments or improvements!  I’m here to serve you and those you serve.    

Cecilia P. McGowan
ALSC President, 2019-2020

About Cecilia

There are two passions (besides my family) that have led me to the place and the person I am today: stories and gardens.  From the moment I was born I was listening to my mother’s fantastical stories (some in books, most of them not) and living outdoors as much as possible.  My mother’s people were farmers and though they farmed for a living I wouldn’t call them gardeners.  Oh, they had flowers on the edges, but mostly it was about food and alfalfa.  My mother was the real gardener and I grew up outside with her immersed in the spoken and written word and plants.  I was born in a little desert town in southern California over the mountains from the LA basin that today is a bedroom community for LA.  I understood from an early age what a little water, seeds and sun could do, and I felt the same way about books, stories and libraries: they are miraculous and change us in ways that we aren’t even aware of. We moved around a lot when I was growing up and the very first place my mother sought the very first day in town was the library.  Even before the boxes were unpacked or groceries were bought, a visit to the library and a library card were the first order of business.  Big towns, little towns, hot towns, cold towns, we were fortunate to always have a library within 10 miles of where we lived.  I don’t remember ever attending a program in a library, but I do remember every one of those buildings and how I felt in them and how I was treated in them.  When I entered high school (I attended 5 of them due to moving), I always sought a job in the library; it was my home wherever I happened to live.  

I am the first person on both sides of my family to attend college and the only one with a graduate degree.  I was a bit of an oddity to both sides of my family, who were and are smart, successful people, but no one was a book person besides my mother, my sister and myself.  I worked and/or hung out in the school library beginning in middle school and continued through the 5 high schools I attended and into college.  It’s curious I didn’t ever think of becoming a school librarian; I always wanted to be a public children’s librarian.  I didn’t realize my dream of attending library school until I was 31 but I blazed through a two-year program in 18 months as I had two young children to support.  I was fortunate in getting my first job in Spokane in Eastern Washington as it had 4 branch libraries and a main downtown branch.  I was in a shopping mall library and, because our library system was small and not rule-bound, I was able to try new programs without a lot of fuss.  I had the first toddler story times east of the Cascades and visited schools for book clubs at least once a week, where I took boxes of books to booktalk and leave in the classroom.  Frankly, I was out of the library more than I was in during the school months and mostly in the library for summer reading.  In my career as a librarian for Spokane Public and Spokane County Libraries I had the roles of manager, teen/children/adult librarian; at one library I was all of those.  I ended my time in Spokane as the Youth Services Manager for Spokane Public.  When I moved to the King County Library System (KCLS) as a children’s librarian, I was back to the great work that goes into being an on-the-desk and out-in-the-community librarian.  Soon after I became a children’s manager and then Children’s Services Coordinator, from which I retired a year ago.  During my time at KCLS we started the tremendously popular online story time companion Tell Me a Story, free lunches in 12 libraries, summer library outreach to underserved populations of children in our service area including book delivery, book giveaways and participation in Summer Reading.  Thousands of children each summer are provided access to materials and Summer Reading who are not able to physically visit a library.  

The focus for all the work I’ve done in the past and that which I do now is: how is what I am doing each day positively impacting the lives of all children?  If I don’t have a good answer to that question, I need to change something.  

And what of gardening?  On retiring last year, I moved back to the Spokane area and more acres that we need, which my sister and I are slowly fashioning into beautiful gardens.  It’s challenging as we have chickens, deer and the occasional moose wandering through as well as very cold winters and short hot summers.  But I love a challenge!  I’m also continuing my work as a Master Gardener, which I have been for 14 years.  Being a Master Gardener is talking about plants and asking probing reference interview questions: the perfect fit for a passionate book and plant person!

I’ve been fortunate in my work with ALSC to be on quite a few committees, a chair, a PGC and now the ultimate role as President.  ALSC has always been my inspirational tool and resource, a friend to turn to when I need advice and a welcoming space for most.  We’re working on making it a welcoming space for all – stay tuned for more on that.  I hope you will join me in continuing to make ALSC the preeminent division for service to children, caregivers, and families.