Librarianship is at a tipping point. We have challenges. But there has never, not in human history, been a time so thrilling to be in our field. A new generation of librarians—more diverse, more tech savvy, bringing a new kind of social energy—is joining us and our colleagues at just the right moment. Every day, we are working together to make a difference to our larger communities—school, academic, public, and an emerging global culture.
I have spent my career as librarian, community leader, newspaper columnist, radio and TV show host, writer, teacher, and a leader of statewide, regional, national, and even international efforts in positioning the library for tomorrow. If we are to survive and thrive in that tomorrow, we must shift public perceptions of our roles. As ALA President, I will not only communicate the services we provide but also highlight our value in strengthening our communities. Here are three ways I will focus public attention:
First, we must elevate librarians as community leaders. We should turn outward, build on the exciting work of “embedded librarianship” and take it up a notch. Imagine librarians who catalog their community (school, university, or civic) leaders, conduct in-depth conversations to identify shared aspirations and concerns, then pick and deliver high impact projects that move whole communities forward.
If we are to survive and thrive, we must shift public perceptions of our roles.
Second, we must unleash our power in the marketplace. This means we should define and defend digital publishing agreements that enhance our purchasing power, increase access, and honor creators. This is a time of experimentation: We need larger scale, statewide or regional infrastructure, library-run repositories that make common cause with scholars, students, authors, musicians, and artists. We need to embrace the disruption of digital publishing by stepping from the fringe of the revolution to the heart of it. We must move from gatekeeper to gardener, along the lines of the Digital Public Library of America, the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries model, Califa, the statewide experiments of Arizona, Colorado, and Massachusetts. With the explosion of independent and self-publishing, we are seeing the greatest output of human creation in the life of our species—an unprecedented opportunity to give voice to those who have been ignored or marginalized for so long.
Finally, we must showcase our leadership as 21st-century literacy champions. This starts with early childhood literacy and continues throughout the lives of all members of our community. Children with an abundance of books in their homes are healthier as children and live longer as adults. They stay in school and stay out of jail. They make more money and enjoy a better quality of life. Information-literate adults are armed with the skills and knowledge they need to live, learn, work, and govern in communities that can compete and flourish in the 21st-century information society. Our message must penetrate the culture of our media and public policymakers. It must communicate how we make our society healthier, and increase the freedom, productivity, and creativity of our constituents.
In my time as a front-line librarian, administrator, and consultant, I have relished my contact with others in our field. We are united by a passion for service and eagerly share all we’ve learned with one another. All of the people within our circle take genuine pleasure in helping others. Now let’s take it one ring outward, moving from assisting one person at a time to benefiting our entire operating environment.
A vote for me is a vote toward this new reality of librarians as bold, deeply engaged, and informed community leaders—valued partners in the work of discovery, creation, and prosperity.
And do vote! I am honored to be among the candidates for your president. Speak up about the kind of leadership you want ALA to demonstrate. ALA needs your thoughtful participation. Together, we can position the library of tomorrow to make a real difference in the future of our many interrelated communities.