Transforming the American Library Association Student Chapter at University of Southern California


When I first became president of the University of Southern California (USC) Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) ALA-Student Chapter in May 2016, I knew I wanted to put the Chapter on the map and truly make a difference. The MMLIS program is young, and I’m only the third president of the Chapter. There are so many passionate library students in the MMLIS program—library students who are already transforming lives; future librarians who are dedicated to the LIS field.

Teamwork is a key component of the program, and as a cohort, we are divided into new teams of four every semester and remain with that team across all three classes for the duration of the semester. With just two semesters left, I’ve had the opportunity to work with nearly all of the students in my cohort. Additionally, I’ve taken courses with students from the other cohorts, so I knew USC MMLIS students had strong voices that I could leverage to use for a public awareness campaign.

At-a-Glance Ways to Strengthen Your Student Chapter

Before detailing the activities my Chapter has been doing, here’s an at-a-glance list on how to strengthen your ALA Student Chapter. (Please note, I received approval from my two faculty advisors before carrying out any action.)

  • Create a logo (or revamp an old one!)
  • Advertise your Chapter’s events and activities by posting digital fliers on a shared space (Community Wall)
  • Post marketing items to community channels (list servs, social media, web page and blogs)
  • Host monthly virtual events for library students only
  • Launch a campaign to support ALA advocacy
  • Hold a raffle or other contest
  • Team up with other association chapters (e.g., SLA Student Chapter)
  • Involve your professors—most are more than happy to help!

Virtual Open House

Because the USC MMLIS program is delivered completely online with live virtual sessions, I wanted to stay in line with that format and envisioned the Chapter holding some kind of monthly event or activity for members. Hosting a virtual open house was a great first step for me to introduce myself as the new president and for the team of officers I brought with me: Kai Schott, Vice President; Rachel Friedman, Treasurer; Serene Salgado, Secretary; Dione Surdez Oliver, New Media Liaison.

Promoting the open house event was rather simple. New MMLIS students starting their first semester attend a Virtual Live Orientation session and administration had asked me to say a few words about the Chapter. Prior to orientation, I made a flier to promote the open house which was shown when I introduced myself and talked about the Chapter and upcoming event. The MMLIS program uses Moodle as its course management system which has a “Community Wall” where students, faculty, and staff post links, their thoughts or, in this case, promote the ALA-SC’s open house. I posted the flier for the open house. There’s also a e-list that reaches students’ e-mail inbox and I was able to send the open house flier through that means.

Community Digital Poster to promote online events

Community Digital Poster to promote online events

We now host a Virtual Open House at the beginning of each semester as a way for new MMLIS students to meet the ALA-SC officers and learn about the Chapter’s activities and events. It’s also a great way for students to socialize across cohorts and share their school, internship, and work experiences.

The Student Author Series

To keep the Chapter active, we host a monthly virtual event titled “Interview with an MMLIS Student Author.” The idea of interviewing a fellow student one-on-one with a live virtual audience occurred to me because several MMLIS students have written articles that have been published, rich articles that highlight key aspects of librarianship, current trends and issues in the LIS field, as well as course-related concepts. My process for this monthly event is to read the student author’s article and devise five questions to ask during the live event. I ask the author ahead of time whether or not they want to know the questions I have planned; some authors want to know so that they can plan their answers, while others feel that they can provide better answers when put on the spot. As I did with the open house, I created a flier to advertise the author event and used the Community Wall and e-list to ensure it reached MMLIS students.

The Chapter’s first author interview was a huge success. The question-and-answer session between interviewer and author lasted around twenty minutes, followed by an additional twenty minutes of questions from the audience. We had a wonderful dialogue around library leadership and management where nearly all of the attendees chimed in. The event was recorded for students who could not attend live, and I received a comment from a student thanking me for implementing this series, as it provides a much needed forum for library students to discuss all things related to the LIS field, as well as to talk about our coursework. That makes hosting these events all worthwhile.

The Chapter has authors lined up for the next three months (if we run out of student authors, we will ask our professors who have published works for an interview). I say “lined up” because the greatest challenge to hosting these virtual events is scheduling. Between the busy live session calendar for classes across all cohorts and having weekly deadlines for course deliverables on specific evenings, finding the opportune time is challenging. Adding to the challenge is scheduling a time that’s convenient for students across various time zones.

Community Poster to promote virtual meetings

Community Poster to promote virtual meetings

Libraries Transforms Campaign

I became familiar with ALA’s Libraries Transform campaign through reading the print version of American Libraries. The idea of spreading the word about how libraries transform lives appealed to me because in the digital age libraries are more relevant than ever; librarians more important than ever. Our communities need us to help navigate through the myriad of information; many communities need us to provide them with Internet access, and equal access to information sources. With a group of dedicated library students at my fingertips, I knew participating in the Libraries Transform campaign would be a perfect fit.

Looking through the Chapter’s Constitution and Bylaws, I spotted a clause having to do with committees. I reached out to my faculty advisors and asked if forming a committee was something the Chapter could indeed do and shared my idea of developing a Public Awareness Committee that could propel the Chapter’s participation in the Libraries Transform campaign. As has been my advertising process, I made a flier calling for committee members and a Chair and was happy with the emailed responses I received. A committee call was also a way to open up leadership positions to students from other cohorts since the committee needed a Chairperson. The committee currently has five members, at least until new cohorts begin at the start of the semester. I envisioned our Libraries Transform campaign happening in two phases, with phase one being gathering transformational stories on how libraries, librarians, and especially, library students transform lives as well as collecting “Because” statements; and phase two having to do with compiling what we’ve gathered, designing a poster, and presenting it onsite at the University of Southern California campus (and wherever or whoever else might have us!).

Community Poster to promote community events

Community Poster to promote community events

Throughout my LIS studies, I’ve read the importance of cross-departmental or multidisciplinary collaborations. Librarians oftentimes must work with those outside of the LIS field in order to promote their services, programs, and events. For phase one, the gathering of stories and “Because” statements, I consulted a friend, Anthony Profeta, who is a freelance user-experience designer and adjunct professor at Philadelphia University. Anthony worked with the Public Awareness Campaign Committee to develop phase one of the Libraries Transform campaign and designed the flier used to promote a raffle the Committee held as an incentive for students to enter transformational stories and “Because” statements. In exchange for their submissions, MMLIS students were automatically entered into a raffle drawing for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

And now, a few words from Anthony Profeta:

The Libraries Transform Contest

Building relevant touch points with brands can be challenging, even with audiences who are committed to a cause. If online contest campaigns can help users become engaged with a product or service, why not the ALA-SC? With the Libraries Transform campaign, we began by identifying the action we wanted the audience to take. The aim was to intersect getting involved by providing transformational stories and “Because” statements and having fun with the Libraries Transforms campaign. What could have been carried out by means of a simple e-mail request became a larger project when analyzing the kinds of cost-effective projects that could be implemented using a low barrier of technology. With an initial investment of a $10 Amazon card, we were inspired to look at this as more than a contest and more of an experience.

The contest’s objectives needed closer examination: why was it important to get entries and how might we communicate the contest to distance learning students? We started by creating an advertisement for the event; we knew there would be opportunities for announcements throughout the remainder of the contest time but needed a way to quickly communicate the contest and submission process.

Digital Poster announcing contest

Digital Poster announcing contest

Contest Artwork and Submission Collection

After consulting with the Public Awareness Campaign Committee, we devised a complete campaign strategy in just a few days. The important part of any online contest strategy is to create an end-to-end experience that guides would-be participants easily through the process. We decided on a three-part plan: a campaign driven by advertising, an entry collection system, and an ALA-SC branded parting gift to create a meaningful experience.

Libraries have always held a special place with me, and I was thrilled to be asked to donate the artwork announcing the raffle contest as well as the computer wallpaper for the participant gift. As a child, no matter the size of the library, it was my World Wide Web. They were fantastical information portals where all of my favorite people lived (Edison, Franklin, and Twain), something I tried to capture in the Libraries Transform raffle contest artwork. The artwork, “What Dreams May Come…” tips its hand to those magical times and became the premise for the campaign poster and the idea to reuse it as a promotional wallpaper and extension piece to further build the ALA-SC at USC brand.

We elected to use Google Forms®, a recent addition to the lineup of online polling and form creation software. Its features were more than robust enough to handle a branded presentation where we were able to explain contest goals and rules as well as construct an experience that allowed for both short and long form entries to the contest question, “Libraries transform because…”  In addition to entry collection, Google Forms® allowed us to securely and confidently collect participant names and e-mail addresses in a format (Google Sheets®) for easy winner selection and follow up. The online collection form provided us with the data and analytics to not only identify which participants met the contest deadline, but to administer and measure the contest success throughout the whole process.

Google Forms Analysis

Google Forms® Analysis

Throughout a two-week period, we delivered customized messaging inviting library student participation via live event mentions and targeted emails introducing USC MMLIS students to the Libraries Transform raffle contest. Branded emails and live event reminders were used to launch the contest on opening day, with deadline reminders on days 7, 5, and 1. Participants were then offered a free digital wallpaper of the poster artwork promoting both the Library Transforms campaign and as an incentive and reminder to enter the online contest.

Wallpaper Promotional giveaway

Wallpaper Promotional giveaway


Prior to holding the raffle contest, the Public Awareness Campaign Committee set the goal of collecting at least four “Because” statements and four transformation stories for the Libraries Transforms campaign. When phase one completed, the contest had more than quadrupled the target number of entries including eight stories. The entries and the inspiration they spark will be used to propel and promote future online and community events. In the end, teamwork and resourcefulness can go a long way. My own transformation began when I involved others in the process, challenges and rewards of ALA advocacy to promote the future of libraries, even in a digital age.

USC MMLIS ALA-SC Public Awareness Campaign Committee—Libraries Transform Campaign Statements and Stories

  1. “Because” Statements for Libraries Transform Campaign
    1. Because they are part of an ever-evolving society.—Oleg Kagan
    2. Because the library has given people a gathering place for community meetings.—Oleg Kagan
    3. Because access to information is a declining societal priority.—Caroline Muglia
    4. Because an overly connected society doesn’t mean that everyone has the technology or the skills to connect.—Caroline Muglia
    5. Because information is increasing but access isn’t a priority.—Caroline Muglia
    6. Because libraries house lots of freely available data!—Caroline Muglia
    7. Because technology tools aren’t just found in Silicon Valley.—Caroline Muglia
    8. Because libraries shape communities and communities shape libraries.—Caroline Muglia
    9. Because the Internet unconnected need connection to get ahead.—Caroline Muglia
    10. Because they give the user the power the search in any time period, place, or land. As someone who adores the library, it gave me the freedom to explore my every curiosity my mind hungered for. As a child and even today, when curiosity strikes, I know I can visit my school or local library to get the information my mind hungers for.—Nessa Villarreal
    11. Because your neighborhood branch is more than a building—it is an incubator of dreams.—Erin Rivero
    12. Because they are a well-spring of creativity and exploration.—Stephanie Osorio
    13. Because In my community, the two most obvious ways we make a difference are by (1) offering a space after school for children to do homework and get assistance with their homework and (2) providing free access to computers with internet.—Stacey Walter, Community Library Manager
    14. Because Our library has made a difference in our community for being a community gathering safe place where every age is welcomed to explore their interests, reach their goals and discover new worlds/possibilities via our programming and materials.—Gabriela Torres, Community Library Manager
    15. Because the library is the community's information hub and provides a safe and nurturing environment for social gathering as well.—Jing Li, Community Library Manager
  2. Student Stories that show how library students transform lives
    1. How library students transform lives: It was in graduate school when I realized that libraries could be created anywhere and by anyone. In 2011, living in North Carolina, I met a Professor of History who was interested in launching a digital library using the family heirlooms of the Lebanese community living in the state. As an advocate of learning new skills, I decided to help build what became a participatory community library filled with family collections of photos, documents, and images of 3-D artifacts. As the project gained in popularity, a focus on the Lebanese community in North Carolina expanded to involving the community in other southern states. In 2014, the project received a major donation of $8.1 to develop a Center to collect materials from the Lebanese diaspora, provide educational training, and to connect the community domestically and abroad. What started as a small community digital library has transformed into a nexus of understanding identity, culture, and belonging. (More:
    2. How library students transform lives: Library students bring fresh perspectives from their different backgrounds—whether as undergrads to graduate students, from another job, from a library position without the MLIS experience.—Meredith Sweet
    3. How library students transform lives:I have helped a couple of them start research papers for their undergrad history classes. I bring them books relevant to their subject matter, if I have them, I also continual recommend that they use their university library as well as their public library. I also continually tell those with children to visit the public library and get their kids into reading programs.—Kai Schott
    4. How library students transform lives:Library students shake up the status quo. We step into our internships with high hopes of absorbing our environments, yet the environments also learn from us. It's beautifully cyclical.—Dione Surdez Oliver
    5. How library students transform lives: I know I've educated several people around me who didn't realize you had to go to school to become a librarian. I think it's good for us to talk about what it takes and requires to be in a position like this. I also completely agree with Dione Oliver in that we should be shaking up the status quo! People new to any job/career field have the unique ability to reinvigorate tired practices.—Samantha Farley
    6. How libraries transform lives: While many are calling libraries “irrelevant” or “obsolete,”, libraries are regularly transforming to provide materials and services beyond books and Reference, that meet the needs of their unique communities.—Stacey Walter, Community Library Manager
    7. How librarians transform lives: We transform lives by helping people of all ages find and use resources for the substantial betterment of their lives while also helping to cultivate life-long learners.—Gabriela Torres, Community Library Manager
    8. To survive and to evolve in the ever changing modern world.—Jing Li, Community Library Manager


By Kimberly Tate-Louie and Anthony Profeta
September 4, 2016

Author Notes

Both the gatherers and the originators have consented to have their stories and statements publicly released. A special acknowledgment to Rachel Friedman, Jordan Taylor, and Raquel Villanueva for gathering statements and stories.

Stay tuned to see what we have in store for phase two of the Libraries Transform campaign, which focuses on presenting the statements and stories we collected and involves a photo contest.