Officially Speaking | May 2014
“Hope and keep busy”—Abba May Alcott
I discovered the above quote on a recent trip to Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, the former home of Louisa May Alcott and her family. It struck me that this could be an apt credo for ALSC members.
During this past year I have had the good fortune to be immersed in the fine work of our membership and staff who do so much to contribute to the profession by:
• Serving on committees to identify the finest activities and media for children, recommend guidelines for the very best in service to children and families, and recognize the achievements of our members.
• Sharing experiences in the field via presentations, programs, classes, and webinars.
• Shaping the focus of the association through Board service.
• Contributing their expertise by publishing in a wide variety of formal and informal communication outlets.
• Developing and refining tools and resources to enhance our efforts.
• Asking important questions that spark conversation and innovation.
• Advocating for increased awareness and attention to the important role of libraries within local communities.
• And, always being available with advice, encouragement and support for their colleagues.
ALSC is precisely the very picture of creative collaboration, a partnership driven by hope and infused with optimism.
I find that hope and optimism are inherent in work with children. Even the smallest triumphs demonstrated in daily library work signal the promise of a better world. There is no more compatible company than those who share this aspiration and devote their endeavors to achieving it.
I am delighted that the Charlemae Rollins President’s Program at this year’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas will showcase some of our optimistic allies who are also dedicated to creating a better future for children through libraries. Organized by Rachel Payne and Brandy Sanchez, The Ripple Effect: Library Partnerships that Positively Impact Children, Families, Communities, and Beyond will inspire attendees to initiate and nurture meaningful partnerships within their own communities. Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist, will describe her experiences with family literacy and the Book in Every Bed movement she developed with the Family Reading Partnership of Tompkins County (N.Y.). Anna McQuinn, author of Lola at the Library, will speak of her work in the United Kingdom to bring young children and their families from immigrant communities into libraries. A panel of librarians from across the country will round out the program by discussing innovative partnerships that support children and families.
Stephen Colbert has noted, “saying ‘yes’ begins things. Saying ‘yes’ is how things grow. Saying ‘yes’ leads to knowledge... So for as long as you have the strength to, say ‘yes’.” Thank you all for keeping busy and saying “YES”. I am honored and grateful to be in your company!--Starr LaTronica, ALSC President
Libraries from Now On: Public Support Is Key
Librarians and futurist thinkers from around the country are meeting in Washington to discuss the future of libraries as part of a symposium funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The title of the two-day symposium is “Libraries from Now On.” Here is a central question we are asked to address:
What are some of the specific steps that we need to take to help build public support for the role that libraries and other cultural institutions play in creating a better future for individuals and communities?
It is interesting to note that this question does not ask what libraries should be doing in the future. It asks how to build public support for what we do. Inherent in this question is an understanding that libraries do, in fact, serve vital community functions that will be relevant to future citizens of the world but this is not widely known. Why?
Traditionally we have made our priority service and not public image. How much of our day is spent really marketing what the library does to people who need to know? In many libraries the only staffs that really talk about the value of libraries as a distinct and articulated part of their job responsibilities are higher level administrators. Front line staff members spend their time serving the needs of the people who already use the library. With limited resources, less staff, and less hours to spend outside in the community, we have less opportunity to be where our users aren’t. Our customers know our value, but we need to make the case to those who don’t. We need to prioritize what we do with this in mind.
Technology is an enhancement to libraries not a replacement for them. Relevance must be a key component of our new advocacy messages. The question of the need for libraries and librarians in our tech savvy world is a question that comes from people (the public) who don’t use libraries on a regular basis. Technology alone doesn’t help achieve what we want for our future: engaged citizens, healthy, productive families, and skilled workers. Our value comes, not from our discreet pieces: internet access, books, a practice place for new readers, quality literacy-based programs for all ages, common space for community purpose, but the critical synergy of it all coming together. An internet connection and a collection of books and resources are a library in the same way a fire hydrant is water. If your house is burning, a fire hydrant won’t save it. You need the important connecting resources of hose and trained fire fighters to direct it.
Libraries and education get linked together and the perception is they are both failing. We know there are challenges to closing the achievement gap and the need to provide children with opportunities that optimize their abilities. Stories about falling test scores, poor job preparation, and lack/waste of resources for school funding abound. There is good news out there too, but it is harder to find in the main stream. Our job then is to advocate for education in all its forms--formal and informal, and for all libraries--public, school, academic. We are connected together in policy on some level, but more importantly, we are connected in people’s minds. We should use that connection for good. Collaborate whenever and wherever we can. We should tell more stories about our positive work with schools, the potential value of working hand in hand with our school library colleagues, citing studies that make the case that reading and access to books and language are great predictors to school success.
Public support is a nebulous thing as varied as the communities we serve. Will the public support what it doesn’t understand or what it believes to be in opposition to its views? What one community values is not the same as that of another community. Economic level of residents, geography, tradition, demographics, and existing library infrastructure all play a part in the complex ideas related to public support for libraries. The important idea for all of us to remember is that, as public institutions, we depend on public support that is linked strongly to the public’s opinion of our work. If the view our public holds of us is antiquated, short-sighted, or misinformed, it is incumbent on all of us, particularly those of us who serve the future most directly, to change that view one well-told story at a time. --Ellen Riordan, ALSC Vice-President/President-Elect
Thank You to Our Most Recent Donors
Many thanks to the following generous contributors to ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit www.ala.org/alsc and click on "About ALSC--Contact ALSC--Donate to ALSC” on the left-hand navigation menu.
Friends of ALSC
Leland and Susan Faust
Heidi K. Hammond
Michael P. Santangelo
Heidi K. Hammond
Michael P. Santangelo
Pura Belpé Award Endowment
We sincerely thank ALSC Past President Ellen Fader, Portland, Oregon, for her generous donation in support of a second 2014-2015 ALSC Spectrum Scholar. Her gift is a true testament to her commitment to the library profession and exemplary library service to children. Her contribution not only covers a full Spectrum Scholarship, but also a Spectrum Scholar Follow-Up grant—to support a Spectrum Scholar alumnus entering the final semester of work in the Fall of 2014, a grant (up to $1,000) to attend the 2014 ALSC National Institute, plus discretionary funds to be used towards job interviews.
Thank you, Ellen!