Meet the Candidates for ALA President: Jim Neal

Three candidates appeal to ALA members for their vote

March 1, 2016

James Neal, candidate for ALA president
James Neal, candidate for ALA president

Librarians and other information professionals: We dare to be bold, courageous, and challenging!

As your president, I will build on the Libraries Transform focus of current ALA President Sari Feldman, and the Expert in the Library theme of President-Elect Julie Todaro. My vision projects that we are: virtual, engaged with our users and in our communities in ever more rigorous and effective ways; we are virtuoso, smart but always ready to learn; and we are virtuous, radically collaborative and always working in the public interest. This vision aligns well with ALA’s three strategic initiatives: advocacy, information policy, and professional and leadership development.

There is a saying: Every snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty. The vitality and impact of our Association, our profession, and our libraries will require a powerful collective commitment to action and transformation. Now is the time for an outward view, not an inward emphasis.

What is my vision for the Association? ALA helps librarians to better engage and empower their communities. ALA enables librarians to be more effective agents of innovative and positive change. ALA leads the profession to translate a commitment to diversity into impactful actions for inclusion. And ALA puts us at the table where the futures of our communities, our nation, and our world are being debated.

We need to advocate. ALA will help connect librarians to the priority social and economic issues of our time: climate change, economic inequality, health care, immigration, and gun control. ALA will continue to champion libraries and library professionals working with children and youth as the essential foundation of lifelong learning and student success. ALA will initiate and support legislation and policies that both expand barrier-free access to information and counter censorship and surveillance.

We need to educate. ALA will build a network of peer sharing on fresh ideas and best practices across the library field. ALA will position librarians as primary agents of learning and personal development in their communities. ALA will strengthen the rigor and expand the availability of continuing professional education and certification for library workers.

We need to activate. ALA will sustain and grow the work of the Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion so that the Association and libraries are models of leadership and action. ALA will advance the work of the Center for the Future of Libraries as both a think tank and a laboratory for innovation. ALA will review, refresh, and extend the working relationships among the Association, the offices, divisions, round tables, and chapters so we are focused on and invested in shared priorities. There is so much more hope and power when we are working together. ALA will carefully evaluate the purpose, scheduling, and technologies supporting Annual Conferences, Midwinter Meetings, and governance groups.

What does the future look like for librarians and other information professionals? Author Ken Kesey once noted that “you can’t count the apples in the seed.” The future for librarians and other information professionals is difficult to predict. But we do know that we will be transformed: what we are and what we do (our roles); how we are viewed and understood (our image); and how we do it (our strategies and processes).

We will continue to be characterized by legacy, innovation, and leadership. We uphold a remarkable heritage and a set of core values. We are systematically applying new knowledge to new resources to produce new goods, new services, and new markets. We are pushing the edge by defining an exciting future for libraries, engaged with our users in ways that advance their needs and expectations.

Here’s how ALA can help us to be more effective library professionals:

  • with a clear sense of mission (why did we join this profession?)
  • self-vision (what do we want to accomplish?)
  • a base of knowledge (what tools will enable us to be effective?)
  • strategic positioning (what will be our career path?)
  • commitment to continuous improvement (how will we grow and advance?)
  • and a powerful professional voice (how will we serve the profession?)

ALA is facing three critical challenges: (1) to its traditional lines of business and revenue (membership, conferences, publishing); (2) in attracting the participation and involvement of the new library professional; (3) and in public understanding and support of the library in all of its settings.

I will bring to ALA a strong record of involvement in the work of the Association, its Executive Board, Council, committees, divisions, round tables, finances, and fundraising, as well as leadership roles in other national and international library organizations. I will bring a career devoted to mentoring the new and midcareer librarian and to a more diverse and inclusive profession.

I will bring experience as a spokesperson for libraries in local, national, and global forums, testifying before congressional committees, state legislatures, and international groups on policy issues and on the continuing relevance and impact of the library and the librarian. I take seriously my professional voice, in my teaching, conference presentations, writing, consulting, and service to the profession.

I am eager to be your ALA president, and I need your vote!

Read statements from the other two candidates for president:

Christine Lind Hage
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe


Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, candidate for ALA president

Meet the Candidates for ALA President: Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

Three candidates appeal to ALA members for their vote

Susan Hildreth, candidate for ALA treasurer

Meet the Candidate for ALA Treasurer: Susan Hildreth

Former IMLS director appeals to ALA members for their vote