Question & Answer with ALA President-Elect & Treasurer Candidates
ALA Treasurer Candidate: Clara Bohrer
Clara, tell us a little about yourself…
I have spent my entire career in public libraries, holding a variety of administrative positions in branch, outreach, adult and youth services. I am currently director of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library, Michigan. I am active professionally at the regional and state level, have served as President of the Michigan Library Association, and am currently a trustee of the Oakland County Library, Michigan. I'm also active in my community and have been president, treasurer, and board member of local community organizations. My work-life passion is early literacy. I love the theater, college football games, good films, playing tennis, cooking, traveling, and of course, reading a good thriller.
What was your path to leadership within ALA?
My first position was as a youth librarian. I joined the Association of Library Service to Children and the Public Library Association at the same time I joined ALA. I became active in both divisions, which helped me find a �home� in what is a very large and complex organization. My path to leadership began with appointments, many times as chair, to committees and task forces within ALSC and PLA. Over the years, I have been elected to progressively more responsible positions, including board member of ALSC and PLA, and President of the Public Library Association. Because of my eight years' experience on the PLA Budget and Finance committee, experience on division boards, and as division past-president and conference chair for a PLA National Conference, I was asked to serve on the ALA Budget and Analysis Review Committee (BARC) in 2009. I have chaired BARC for the past two years. This led to my involvement in the ALA Finance and Audit Committee, the 2012 Auditor Review Team, immersion in ALA finances, and my nomination as a candidate for ALA Treasurer.
What was it like for you as a new ALA member?
I proudly became a member of ALA shortly after graduating. I was fortunate to have colleagues within my library, who encouraged me to become involved in ALA and guided me through my first couple Annual Conferences and Midwinter Meetings. I paid my own dues during the early part of my career and had to attend conferences on my own time. I made this investment in the Association because I saw the benefits my colleagues gained from their membership. Both as a new ALA member in my first job and today as a seasoned Association veteran, I appreciate the extraordinary opportunities our Association provides to help us grow professionally and to put into practice what we value.
As a new member, I had the chance to meet a diverse set of colleagues from around the country. I became part of several networks that continue to this day to be important sounding boards for ideas that I can use to improve library service and benefit my community. I always return from conferences with ideas and perspectives that I can apply to my work, which my employers appreciated. I found that as I advanced from one library position to the next, my involvement in ALA was seen as a commitment to my profession and to my professional development.
What will you do to improve engagement within ALA for new members?
I think NMRT does a great job of making opportunities available for new member engagement within ALA through its mentoring program, information about scholarships and grants, and initiatives such as Ladders to Leadership. But not all our newer members know about these opportunities, particularly if they are not a member of NMRT. I constantly hear from people, "How do I get involved?"
As Treasurer, I also will be a member of the ALA Executive Board. In this position, I will support strengthening communication to alert new ALA members and student chapters to opportunities that exist for them to be involved across all units. I will also support mentor programs, reach out to encourage even greater diversity in leadership positions, work to increase our endowment that will help further support scholarships, and speak to the importance of developing leaders for the future of our libraries and our profession.
What advice do you have for new members who want to get involved in ALA?
While it is always good to fill out official volunteer forms, you can also take other approaches. Identify a committee that interests you and sit in on the meetings. Give the chair your business card with a note saying you want to be involved. Chairs and committee members are often asked for recommendations to fill committee openings. Send an email expressing your interest directly to the member leader who is in charge of making appointments within a round table or division. Show interest and be persistent.
When I was PLA President-Elect and had numerous committee and task force appointments to make, I reached out to committee chairs, committee members and my network for recommendations. I received direct emails from people who wanted to become involved and I always acted on them. My goal was to get new members involved within PLA as a way to increase diversity and strengthen our Association. I know all member leaders making appointments across the Association want to do the same thing.
If you aren't able to regularly attend conferences, there are many opportunities to be a virtual member of committees. Seek out those opportunities and volunteer. Join the ALA Think Tank, which is Facebook's largest, active info-sharing group for librarians. This group makes it happen virtually! Become involved in a mentorship program. A mentor is a valuable resource that can help you with both your career and your involvement in ALA.
Most importantly, when you take on an assignment with ALA, give it your all. Actively participate in discussions. Volunteer to take a leadership role in some aspect of the committee's work. A person who consistently performs well on a committee or task force assignment is noticed and as a result, more opportunities become available.
In the information profession world, what is your favorite word or topic?
The lifelong literacy continuum including early literacy, digital literacy, information literacy.
In the information profession world, what turns you on?
Open and equitable access.
What profession other than librarianship would you like to attempt?
Architect—designing great spaces for people and communities.
Learn more at my campaign website