ALA provides a strong, unified voice for our libraries. Much of the Association’s strength comes not just from our divisions, round tables, and other ALA units, but also from our chapters and affiliates. Each year, many chapters and affiliates invite the ALA president to participate in their conferences, providing a wonderful opportunity for both ALA’s leadership and chapters to learn ways we can contribute to each other’s successes.
As ALA president, I am able to see many other state associations in action. Four decades of active participation in ALA provided me with opportunities to work with colleagues from all 50 states (and D.C.). Participating in state conferences offers a totally different perspective. These visits are important, not just for goodwill but also for building our profession’s associations and informing ALA leadership about issues of particular interest at the state level.
My first stop was to the national conference and 40th anniversary of Reforma (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking) in Denver. The passion and commitment attendees had for developing and improving services to Latino and Spanish-speaking populations was evident in every element of the programming. Many longtime, well-known Reforma leaders contributed to the programs, interacting with library workers who were early in their careers. Several library schools exhibited, clearly seeking to promote the MLIS degree as well as ALA’s Spectrum Scholars Program.
The Arkansas Library Association held its centennial conference in Little Rock and launched the event with a dinner honoring ArkLA past presidents. I was made to feel welcome at every event and place, thanks to legendary Arkansas hospitality. The conference was in the heart of the downtown area, providing an opportunity to visit the Clinton Library and other local libraries. Again, the rich array of programs made the conference a great learning opportunity for longtime members as well as those who were attending their first conference. I had an opportunity to spend some time with the Young Library Professionals, a networking group open to MLIS grads and others, who were gracious enough to make me feel welcome at their evening social gathering.
In Kansas City, the Missouri Library Association rolled out the red carpet for me. I thoroughly enjoyed an evening I had requested to spend with MLIS students who were attending the conference. I felt such passion from these students for their chosen profession; the future of our libraries is in good hands. I delivered a conference keynote address that was also open to the general public, held at the Kansas City Public Library. KCPL has a remarkable reputation for creative programming, resulting in a large audience of conference attendees and local residents at my presentation, evident in the lively Q&A that followed.
Next I was off to Athens, Georgia, for the joint conference of not only the Georgia Library Association but also several other related associations. While there are differences in how these conferences are organized, so many of the session topics appear to be slight variations of programs at other conferences. In Georgia, as was the case at other state conferences, the exhibitors drew a lot of interest from attendees. I witnessed a BattleDecks competition, a common occurrence at conferences these days.
I finish this column while attending the Colorado Association of Libraries conference in Loveland. Again, I have felt generously welcomed, thrilled to have an opportunity to offer a keynote address, and excited about the work that CAL is doing to support libraries.
Thank you, ALA chapters and affiliates, for the great work you do.
ALA President MOLLY RAPHAEL is the retired director of the Multnomah County (Oreg.) Library and the District of Columbia Public Library in Washington, D.C. Visit mollyraphael.org. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.