Candidate Q&A: Interviews with candidates for ALA President 2022-2023

The Spectrum Advisory Committee compiled topics from the Spectrum community and created three questions to pose to the candidates for the 2022-2023 ALA Presidency: Stacey A. Aldrich, Ed Garcia, and Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada. Each candidate's responses are included below. The 2021 ALA Elections open on March 8, 2021, and close on April 7, 2021.

Be sure to also check out our 2021 Spectrum Elections Guide highlighting Spectrum Scholars standing for election across our organization.

Photos from left to right of ALA Candidates Stacey A. Aldrich, Ed Garcia, and Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada

What does Equality, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) mean to you professionally and personally?

Stacey Aldrich: For me, EDI means responsibility in my professional and personal life. 'Lokahi' in Hawaiian means 'unity.' It means that we are all already connected and we must take time to find those connections. It also means that we are responsible to and for each other. EDI is a responsibility to each other to find the ways that we are connected and to support and create space for everyone. The Spectrum Scholarship program an amazing program that creates connections, opportunities, and space for new and diverse voices to strengthen our profession. I am connected to you all and dedicated to supporting you and all of the current and new ways that we can continue to show through action that EDI is a core value of our profession.

Ed Garcia: We, as an Association, should strive for a more inclusive library community which means continuing to promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility at all levels of ALA and our profession. Our libraries and our Association should reflect the communities we serve. I have worked my entire career to advance these principles within ALA and in my community. I served on the Committee on Diversity and served two terms on the Spectrum Scholar selection jury. I was honored to have been part of the most diverse Executive Board in the history of ALA.

Lessa Pelayo-Lozada: EDI is the core of everything I do and the lens through which I do it. As a diaspora mixed race Native Hawaiian woman of color, I have committed much of my work to advancing library workers of color in the field, diversifying collections, and helping to institutionalize the values of EDI across all libraries. I have done this as an ALA Executive Board Member and Chair of the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS) Advisory Committee, as a past president and current Executive Director of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), and as Chair of my library’s racial equity team called BUILD.

What’s one thing that you think ALA should change?

Ed Garcia: Complexity. If ALA could streamline our business systems, infrastructure, and processes, the Association would be more responsive to member needs and more stable and sustainable financially. Members could focus on the important work of improving our profession and finding their path in ALA, instead of being mired in process and inefficient systems.

Lessa Pelayo-Lozada: As Chair of the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE), which looked at strengthening and improving ALA for the future, one of the most striking needs that members indicated they wished to see was more short-term, goal-oriented, project-based opportunities to volunteer. For many, especially during a pandemic, making 2-3 year commitments as a committee member can be tough, but if we can share out and ask for volunteers on an ongoing basis for projects that have perhaps a 6-month to 1-year commitment, we can bring more voices to the work of the association.

Stacey Aldrich: Membership and Navigation. Okay, that’s two, but they are connected. We need to make becoming a member easier and we need to have new and affordable models for membership. Once you are a member we need customizable maps that help our colleagues feel valued and provide clear pathways to finding learning opportunities and their place within the organization.

Many school districts across the U.S. continue to cut school librarian positions or put paraprofessionals and/or classroom teachers in the library to save money. What ideas do you have to advocate for certified school librarians in all schools, and how would you support librarians in ALA?

Lessa Pelayo-Lozada: I would work closely with AASL to determine the best role for the ALA President and the AASL President to collaborate on advocacy for ensuring each school has a certified school librarian. The letter that AASL sent to President Biden is a good start and we need to ensure that we are also following up and working with AASL chapters on the local level when appropriate. I am open to understanding how I can best be of service to school librarians nationwide and want to include as many school librarian voices as possible in all aspects of ALA.

Stacey Aldrich: School librarians are such an important part of the library and information ecosystem, and vital to the success of our students. There are two ideas that I would start with:

  1. Open up a dialogue with national education organizations like the National Education Association and get on all of their agendas for conversation and presentations about the importance of school librarians and libraries to student achievement.
  2. We must do intentional future focus work together on the future of education and what will school libraries be in the next 10-20 years. From that work, we need to build strategies for thriving in new educational paradigms and messages to help stakeholders think about the future and see the opportunities.

Ed Garcia: In response to districts eliminating school librarian positions, I wrote a bill as Legislative Action Chair of the Rhode Island Library Association calling for school librarians to be required in all schools and for the statewide adoption of the AASL standards. Our Department of Education lobbied against the bill and it didn’t pass, but it gave us the opportunity to have constructive meetings and we are hopeful to have adoption in Fall 2021. At ALA, I would bring that level of commitment using my experiences locally to advocate for school librarians. During my presidential year, I would partner with AASL and our state chapters and hold a national conversation on the importance of school librarians and advocating at both the federal and local level for funding to retain these positions. It is also important to have equitable representation of school librarians at all levels of ALA to ensure these issues remain a priority..

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