Looking back. Two years ago, I learned that I had won the ALA election. I felt exhilarated but also somewhat uneasy. Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels told my husband that I was ALA’s for the next couple of years. As president-elect, I worked hard to plan initiatives, appoint committees, and travel to conferences and speaking engagements. I felt that I was managing to juggle the work and still maintain a life outside of ALA.
Over the years, I have observed many successful ALA presidents, so I knew each year was different. The library landscape keeps changing, and each president “drops in” for a year and leads ALA as best he or she can.
If you want to know what an ALA president does, here’s a quick summary. I worked many long days and spent nearly half the year on the road, participating in numerous chapter, affiliate, and division conferences, international conferences, library and library school visits, and many other appearances. Each of these occasions allowed me to meet members and others in library communities throughout the United States and in places as far away as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and New Zealand. While I often gave a keynote address or a workshop, I always tried to find time to visit with colleagues and learn about their successes, interests, and concerns. I also asked how ALA could help them and in what ways ALA could be better and stronger.
I often heard from our colleagues how honored they were to have the ALA president attend their conferences. I, too, felt very honored to be part of their gatherings. Time and time again, colleagues, who were committed to building better library programs and services, welcomed and inspired me. Whenever I could, I met with library and information science students, sometimes at state conferences but also by visiting LIS schools. I can tell you with certainty that our profession is in good hands. The excitement and energy of these future librarians for their chosen profession is amazing.
And then there is the internal governance role of the president, but that is for another time.
Looking forward. Soon many of us will be gathering in Anaheim, California, for the 2012 Annual Conference. We will have hundreds of programs to help attendees think about library issues in new and different ways. As always, the hundreds of exhibitors—many who use ALA conferences to unveil new technologies, publications, equipment, and services—will be a big draw for attendees.
Join us for the Opening General Session with Rebecca MacKinnon, journalist and internet policy specialist, to hear her discuss the urgent question of how technology should be governed to support the rights and liberties of users around the world.
Hear from well-known authors like Jodi Picoult, Sherman Alexie, John Irving, and many, many more. Attend as many of the programs as you can, with a variety covering hot topic issues. Find opportunities to share your expertise and insights in the varied discussion groups, Conversation Starter programs, and other networking opportunities.
In short, come prepared for a great learning experience, and opportunities to relax and engage with your colleagues not just from across the United States but from other countries as well. Oh, and did I forget to say that we would be in Southern California, where there are a myriad of attractions for adding a little extra vacation time?
Many thanks. This is my last column. It’s been a privilege and honor to lead ALA this year. Thank you for giving me the opportunity and for supporting our work. Now it’s Maureen Sullivan’s turn.