As I was driving to the Oregon coast yesterday for a long weekend of rest post Midwinter, I was listening to the latest episode of one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. “The Empty Chair” explores all the things that we have lost in the past year since the first American case of COVID-19, and I was overcome by the sheer volume of people and experiences that we can never get back—and how much will never be the same even when everyone is safely vaccinated. Reflecting on what I thought this year would be and what it has turned into had me simultaneously crying and laughing. The best laid plans and all that, but, when I sat down to write this column, I realized in spite of it all, I feel so lucky to be leading this division and to be surrounded by amazing professionals determined to forge ahead and build healthy, successful futures for all children. Thank you for your commitment to each other, your communities, and our work.
Although our final ALA Midwinter meeting was not what many expected, I enjoyed many great sessions—how amazing to hear from Cicely Tyson, Ibram X. Kendi, Amanda Gorman, and Dr. Jill Biden all in one weekend! I was so happy to see many of you at the ALSC Happy Hour, kudos to the Membership committee for a wonderful event. I heard about so many wonderful sessions and meetings; I am grateful to ALA and ALSC staff for their hard work in converting as many meetings to virtual as possible so that we could continue to do the important work of the association.
Committees, task forces, and working groups are hard at work. Hearing about and discussing the projects and activities that are moving the needle forward in our strategic areas of advocacy, diversity & inclusion, and learning & development was inspiring. You can read about some of the work of the ALSC Board as well as other committees by visiting the ALSC library on ALA Connect. The Board met again on February 4 for an extended meeting to finish discussing agenda items we could not get to during the Midwinter session. We are also planning a working meeting for the spring to dive back into our Strategic Plan to check progress and set new targets.
One particular initiative that I’m excited about is our roll out of the ALSC Community Agreements. In June 2019, then president Cecilia McGowan put together a small working group of board members to draft community agreements—these ground rules would outline best practices to ensure that everyone has an opportunity for expression, accountability, and growth. The ALSC Board approved the draft agreements and we piloted their use as a Board in late 2019. This year, the pilot ended and we evaluated the practice and adjusted language in a few areas. ALSC leadership is committed to creating an environment that embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion, and we see these community agreements as a step in that direction. We stand against any type of discrimination within the profession at large and amid our professional associations and meetings. As such, the ALSC Board will continue to champion these community agreements, and any ALSC meeting or forum or presentation will follow them. They provide a guide to how topics are discussed, the language used, and how our different experiences, identities, and knowledge are reflected in our thought processes, discussions, and decisions. Here are the ALSC community agreements, and they can be found at the bottom of every ALSC Board agenda:
- Speak for yourself. Use "I" and be aware that your perspective is not everyone's perspective or the 'normal' perspective.
- Embrace multiple perspectives to engage in curiosity-driven dialogue (not debate or argument). Have compassion for and honor people’s varied journeys while respecting their humanity. The goal of dialogue should not be to change anyone’s mind, but to offer and receive a perspective for consideration and curiosity. Even if your every cell feels in disagreement with someone’s perspective, right and wrong binaries rarely build connection and understanding. Do note that racism, bigotry, and all other forms of oppression are not a difference of opinion and will not be tolerated.
- Be aware of the privilege, oppressions, and life experiences you carry and how they might impact your discussion process.
- Listen to and use people’s correct pronouns. Let people know how you would like to be addressed during introductions, and include pronouns if you would like. If pronouns are not shared or if you are unsure of someone’s pronouns, refer to the person by their name.
- Share the air. Be aware of how much you are talking versus listening. Challenge yourself to invite others into the conversation, and “step up” if you are prone to not participating. We all have something to bring to the discussion.
- Interrupt attempts to derail. Oftentimes, discomfort is so great that we immediately attempt to change the conversation to something that feels more comfortable. Before you know it, the conversation is about the weather, when we were talking about equity. Work to stay engaged when you feel uncomfortable and make mistakes (this is when learning happens).
- Acknowledge intent while addressing impact. Work to not personalize the responses of others while taking care to be mindful of the impact of our words and our actions on others. Understand that intent does not equal impact and acknowledge the impact of something that was said or done during the conversation (or break) by criticizing ideas and not individuals.
- Interrupt bias and take feedback. It is everybody's responsibility to hold one another accountable. If you observe something oppressive being said or done (by yourself or others), mark it. For example, "ouch" and "oops" are words that can be spoken to mark moments when you recognize something oppressive is said ("ouch") or you notice a mistake that you've made ("oops"). If you experience feedback from an "oops" or "ouch" it is your responsibility to keep learning. You can reach out to the Chair, Co-Chair, or discussion leader(s) to address it (after the meeting, via email, in person, etc.). "Ouch" and "oops," when used, remind everyone that deeper dialog, reflection, and learning will happen later.
- Remember that we all have opportunities to grow. Feedback is a gift of experience and expertise, and it acknowledges that learning is complex and never-ending. Receive it and consider systems of dominance and power at play in community conversations and interactions. Be aware of the lenses you do and do not have as a result of your identities and experiences.
Youth Media Awards
Congratulations to all award-winning authors and illustrators of the 2021 youth media awards. Although I would have loved to be on the stage, absorbing your energy as I announced the winning and honor titles, I appreciate your comments following the ceremony. Remember you can still view the recording of the presentation! None of this would be possible if not for the committee chairs and members-- I can’t even imagine deliberating in this new environment. Yet you all all accomplished it with grace and managed to make history again with your selections; I thank you for your hard work.
In addition to the award committees, there are even more avenues within our ALSC committees to network and become involved in activities that help library staff engage communities. If you haven’t completed a volunteer form, I strongly encourage you to do so. Vice President Lucia Gonzalez will begin making her first committee appointments very soon. Visit our volunteer webpage for information on the appointment process and timeline, as well as a link to the volunteer form. Looking forward to engaging with you all!—Kirby McCurtis, ALSC President
Hello, ALSC Peeps! The ALA 2021 Midwinter Meeting has come and gone. It was our last MW as we know it, and it was virtual. Sadly, there were no fantastic new restaurants to feast in with my favorite library friends and colleagues, or wonderful sites to see or libraries to visit, but on the flip side, I spent most of the meeting time in jammies and sweats as I cozily sipped my tea and nibbled home baked goodies. Here is hoping we can raise a glass and celebrate the NEW incarnation of our Midwinter gathering—LibLearnX—next year in San Antonio! As for now, I am happy to share with you some of the highlights of Council news for ALA MW 2021.
News from Council Executive Committee
ALA’s Focus: Renewal; Stronger Association; Stronger Membership
57,000 members is considered too small to do all that we want to accomplish as an association. The Association has two primary goals: to increase membership and increase revenue.
ALA is facing changes at every level.
- Forward Together (association governance)
- Operating Agreement (functional governance)
- Pivot Strategy (performance governance)
Three new revenue streams are being added: Continuing Education, Contributed Revenue, and Data, Research, & Design to the three existing streams of Membership, Conference Services, and Publishing.
Implementation Action Items
Implementation Action (Item 1): The ALA Council APPROVED, changes to ALA Bylaws Article VI, Section 3, Section 4b. Section 4c.; Article VIII, Section 2a, Section 2b. Response: Council approved language, which will be placed on the 2021 ALA Election Ballot for Membership vote. (See CD 25.1—2020 ALA Virtual Council Meeting)
Implementation Action (Item 2): The ALA Council APPROVED, changes to the requirements for a quorum in the Bylaws to make them consistent with the Constitution. Article II, Section 5c. Response: Council approved language, which will be placed on the 2021 ALA Election Ballot for Membership vote. (See CD 25.1—2020 ALA Virtual Council Meeting)
Implementation Action: The ALA Council ADOPTED AS AMENDED, the ALA Forward Together Steering Committee Timeline 1. ALA Council, as the policy-making body of the Association, takes responsibility for the decision making on the Forward Together process; 2. ALA Council requests that the ALA Executive Board present the SCOE Report with specific action items and a draft timeline to ALA Council along with consolidated feedback from the various conversation sessions, hearings, and email commentary prior to a fall meeting; 3. That the President call at least one meeting of ALA Council (fall meeting) prior to the Midwinter Meeting devoted exclusively to discussion of changes to the structure of ALA governance and the detailed plans for a Constitutional Convention; 4. ALA Council requests the Forward Together Working Group and the Forward Together Fiscal Analysis Working Group provide regular, ongoing formal updates to ALA Council for discussion prior to ALA Annual Conference in Chicago in 2021; 5. ALA Council requests that the timeline include scheduling a Constitutional Convention before and during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago in 2021. (See CD 42—2020 ALA Virtual Council Meeting)
Executive Board Election
The following individuals were elected to the ALA Executive Board:
Christina Rodriguez, OCLC
Ana Elise de Campos Salles, San Francisco Public Library
Sam Helmick, Iowa City Public Library
Forward Together Working Group Report (CD 35)-
A Forward Together Resolution Working Group was formed. This group will write the resolutions that Council will vote on to put the Forward Together plan in place. Things that we do know at this time: There will be a small reduction in Round Tables. There will be some restructuring of Council, including less at-large councilors, more meetings closer together, and more engagement and working groups for Councilors. What we do not know yet is exactly how it all will look. Resolutions come to council by annual.
Resolutions Adopted by the ALA Council
- RESOLUTION in Support of Broadband as a Human Right
- RESOLUTION to Condemn White Supremacy and Fascism as Antithetical to Library Work
- RESOLUTION to Prioritize Library Workers to Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine
- RESOLUTION in Opposition to Facial Recognition Software in Libraries
- RESOLUTION on the Misuse of Behavioral Data Surveillance in Libraries
In addition, eight Memorial resolutions and five Tribute resolutions were passed.
A revised RESOLUTION on replacing the Library of Congress Subject Heading "Illegal aliens" with "Undocumented immigrants" was removed, to be evaluated at the 2021 Annual Conference.—Respectively submitted, Kimberly A. Patton, ALSC Division Councilor
Congratulations to the following individuals who reached 25 years of ALSC membership in 2020. We appreciate your commitment to the association and profession. A silver anniversary member is recognized in the ALSC Voices section of each issue of ALSC Matters.
Stephanie D. Bange
Sharon R. Dykstra
Kathryn J. Ferrell-Bargeloh
Nancy A. Hawkins
Caitlin D. Jacobson
Joyce R. Laiosa
Karen R. Lemmons
Daryl L. Mark
Ruth Anne Mielke
Wendie C. Old
Elizabeth Wright Redford
Amy B. Roberts
Gwen G. Thomas
April Halprin Wayland
Lucinda S. Whitehurst
Many thanks to the following generous contributors to Friends of ALSC. To learn how you can support ALSC, visit our website.
Gold Circle - $500 - $999
Silver Circle - $250 to $499
Notables Circle - $100 to $249
Therese G Bigelow
Linda M. Pavonetti
Friends Circle - up to $99