ALA Executive Director names 13 leaders to ALA Business Advisory Group

For Immediate Release
Fri, 01/15/2021


Stephanie Hlywak


Communications and Marketing Office

CHICAGO—The American Library Association (ALA) today announced that Executive Director Tracie D. Hall has appointed 13 members to the newly revived ALA Business Advisory Group. Well recognized for their individual achievements, this group of advisors comes from libraries, civic life, technology, and academia and bring the power of their collective expertise to supporting ALA’s business development. They are:

  • Charles Adler, co-founder of crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Of libraries, he notes: “Libraries provide the public with a space to explore oneself through the writings of others, fact, and fiction. Libraries are the platforms for education, public discourse, community engagement, the curious exploration of ideas and so much more.”
  • Adam Bush, co-founder and Provost of College Unbound, a degree completion college working both inside and outside carceral spaces of Rhode Island. He says of his involvement, “Working within Higher Education towards more inclusive systems of study and learning, I value libraries because they have always been sites for community-based learning, struggle, and organizing. This is profoundly unique and something to cherish.”
  • Amy Eshleman, former Director of inaugural YOUMedia Center at Chicago Public Library and wife of Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of the City of Chicago. She notes, “A library at its finest is an equitable heartbeat of its community – nurturing and impacting the dreams, conversations, learning, and joy of any person who explores its possibilities."
  • Mae Hong, vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. She says, “Libraries are the gateway to infinite new places, people, ideas and times.”
  • Sandee Kastrul, president and co-founder of i.c.stars, an innovative nonprofit leadership and technology training program founded in 1999 to prepare inner-city adults for technology careers and community leadership. She notes, “A library is a transporter into a world of ideas. Libraries matter because they are a safe place for all to access information and convert it into knowledge.”
  • Eric Klinenberg, Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University and author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. He says, “Libraries stand for and exemplify something that needs defending: the public institutions that — even in an age of atomization, polarization and inequality — serve as the bedrock of civil society. If we have any chance of rebuilding a better society, the library is precisely what we need."
  • Jim Neal, University Librarian Emeritus at Columbia University.  Of libraries he notes, “Libraries are an essential component of what we call community: preserving the culture, providing free and open access to information, breaking down barriers, enabling achievement and success, and fighting for social and racial justice.”
  • Marie Oestergaard, Director of Dokk1: Aarhus Public Library (Aarhus, Denmark). She says, “Libraries are a movement – a democratic space for interaction, knowledge, and play, that strengthens societal cohesion and empowers people to stay competent in their own lives.”
  • Veronda Pitchford, Assistant Director of Califa Group, a nonprofit library membership consortium in California. She notes, “Libraries live at the intersection of trust and information equity and fill the chasm of misinformation with facts, access, inclusion, and opportunity.”
  • Harper Reed, Chief Technology Officer, Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. Of his interest in this work, “Ever since I was a child, libraries represented the future: the science books, sci-fi novels, and, of course, computers. However, we now live in the future - it just isn't evenly distributed. Libraries have a chance to distribute that future to more and more people. I am excited to be a part of that future.”
  • Pam Sandlian Smith, Director of Anythink Libraries in Adams County, Colorado. She says, "Libraries are the great equalizer for people as they provide information, ideas, and inspiration. Libraries are hope."
  • Joyce Valenza, Associate Teaching Professor at Rutgers University School of Communication and Information Science and coordinator of the School Library Concentration. She notes, “Libraries are critical equity institutions. For librarians, the recognition of information privilege—that one person has clear advantage over another—is a call to action, pointing to our responsibilities to reflect on the disparities in information access present in our own communities, to raise awareness, and to work to bridge gaps.”
  • Kelvin Watson, Director of Broward Public Library. He notes, “I believe that libraries matter, because people matter. Digitally or physically, today’s libraries are community builders and life changers, providing access, information and education to any and everyone.”

Hall said, “This Business Advisory Group is no less than a dream team of thinkers who each in their own way have and are changing the course of library, business, and public practice. Each one of them brings a fresh way of thinking about libraries that will challenge and enrich ALA’s business development strategies going forward. When I look at ALA, I see an extraordinary opportunity, and I wanted to be surrounded by a group of people who I could rely on to push our business model and my own leadership forward.” 

An initiative originally conceived by Past ALA President Jim Neal (2017-18) to support ALA’s investigation of new business models, the Business Advisory Group was reconstituted in late 2020 by Hall to support the launch and stated goals of the association’s developing strategic plan and to bring their innovative approaches and powerful networks to the table for the association’s benefit and that of the wider LIS sector and the general public.

Advisory Group members have agreed to serve terms of 12 and 24 months and are charged with the exploration and advisement on strategies related to ALA’s new business development.

Under Hall’s leadership, ALA will move to double its three traditional revenue streams (Conference Services, Membership and Publishing) to six (with the addition of Continuing Education, Contributed Revenue, and Data Research & Design).

For full biographies and photos of the advisory group members, please visit . 

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit