Some Good News Out There Too

October 20, 2010

ALA President Roberta Stevens (third from left) joins KLA officials (from left) Terry Buckner, Leoma Dunn, Emmalee Hoover, Debbe Oberhausen, and Wayne Onkst, state librarian and commissioner, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

One of the best aspects of being ALA president is the opportunity to be a part of state chapter conferences.  I’d like to focus on my experience at the Kentucky Library Association/Kentucky School Media Association joint conference in Louisville, September 15-18.

The hospitality of colleagues in Kentucky was outstanding, thanks to Emmalee Hoover, Leoma Dunn, and Debbe Oberhausen. The trio were kind enough to include me in the Old Louisville Ghost Walk, a visual feast of magnificent Victorian homes with the best of storytelling by David Dominé. What really impressed me, however, was the enthusiasm and positive attitude of the KLA/KSMA members. They are definitely using the lessons of ALA’s Advocacy University with great success and have incorporated quite a few magical touches of their own.

J.C. Morgan, director of Campbell County Public Library and chair of the Kentucky Public Librarians Association, led the effort to line the halls of the tunnel connecting the state capitol building and annex with READ posters featuring state legislators and other elected officials. Another year, images of Kentucky libraries and the people using them were prominently displayed and linked to a state map. Libraries can’t be far from the minds of those controlling the funding when they pass these pictures every day.

What was most heartening though was hearing the pride in the voice of Wayne Onkst, state librarian and commissioner, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, during his presentation. Like others, their state library budget has taken a hit, but new or substantially renovated libraries are still opening, 11 in the past year with nine more underway.

We’ve had some tough times, such as recent events in New Jersey, but it isn’t all bad out there. Instead of being beaten down by cutbacks, the resilient Kentucky group is looking at these occurrences as temporary setbacks. It is that spunky can-do approach and the confidence of knowing that libraries are key players in an information-rich and information-dependent global marketplace that will get us through the challenges we face today.

During my presidential year, one of the key objectives is to highlight the characteristics of 21st-century libraries. We must construct new buildings and rebuild and remodel older ones to reflect our users’ expectations about the services and convenience a library should offer and the demand for a pleasant and comfortable environment. We face a similar challenge and opportunity to retrofit our staff so that they combine both the core values of librarianship with the business skills demanded to demonstrate the return on investment made in collections, personnel, and facilities.

We are transforming and will continue—with the help of ALA and its professional development offerings—to transform our skill sets and organizational structures to ensure libraries are not only content-driven but also customer-driven. We will build collaborative partnerships with government and businesses to increase the reach and sphere of influence of our libraries, the hearts and minds of the local, school, or campus communities.

Thank you, my Kentucky friends, for your gracious reminder of those characteristics that have made our nation and our libraries models for the world and leaders in the 21st-century.

My presidential task force, chaired by Annelle Huggins, associate dean, university libraries at the University of Memphis, and executive director of the Tennessee Library Association, will explore ways that ALA and state chapters can work effectively together. The task forces analysis and report will help guide ALA in strengthening relationships and support with state-level associations that are relied upon by so many libraries.


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