Moving Forward Together

Standing up and speaking out on our vision and values is key

January 3, 2017

Julie B. Todaro

The American Library Association (ALA) represents not only thousands of professionals but also hundreds of thousands of constituents in more than 120,000 academic, public, school, and special libraries. Our professionals strive every day—in often challenging circumstances—to build community and help transform the lives of those in our community.

Being all things to all people, however, is impossible. This is why the Association steps in, to set the vision and tone for professionals to follow throughout their working days, though it is not always easy. In the past months I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and I have at times felt helpless during one of the most sustained, vitriolic election seasons in our nation’s history, watching as policy issues affect our communities and our very institutions.

Because of this, I released a statement in late November, stating, “ALA believes that the struggle against racism, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination is central to our mission. We will continue to support efforts to abolish intolerance and cultural invisibility, stand up for all the members of the communities we serve, and promote understanding and inclusion through our work.”
I meant it.

As a profession, we have remained consistent in our beliefs, no matter the difficulty or challenge.

As a profession, we have remained consistent in our beliefs, no matter the difficulty or challenge, and we must continue to do so.
Some have chided me for saying we must move forward, because they think it means acquiescing in our vision and values. To me, moving forward means carefully planning for how we take our next steps. We can’t ignore where we are now, but we must educate others as to what our ideals are and what our values mean. We must continue to be inclusive beacons for meaningful and equitable public discourse, push for social justice, champion intellectual freedom, fight for equitable access to resources and services for our constituents, protect privacy, commit to diversity, and strive to ensure that we help build and sustain a literate constituency.

Support through difficult times

Though these difficult times are unprecedented, they are not insurmountable. We need to rethink how we illustrate what we do and the incredible impact we have. This means identifying expertise in our practices and processes and divvying responsibilities. We should commit to supporting those who research and identify; those who create; and those who deliver. When I deliver, and when all of us deliver, we must reaffirm and illustrate that every single message is founded on our longstanding principles.

We have much to offer in the years ahead, creating, for instance, pathfinders to crisis toolkits that ensure equity and diversity; materials and resources that celebrate our differences; links to guidelines for managing harassment and bullying; statements affirming our beliefs; and a wide range of other resources. In addition, we have unique expertise and leadership in our ALA offices and divisions, providing mission statements, goals, and initiatives, not to mention tireless support for us. We also have unique expertise in our member groups—via committees, task forces, and other working groups that advance both general organizational roles and specific projects. And we have unique expertise and commitment from our membership, including librarians, library workers, and stakeholders.

My hope is that decision makers will focus on working together to improve the lives of all Americans, including the most vulnerable. We will continue to work together to aggressively defend what we do and who we are, and we will advance our agenda in our communities and transform the lives of our constituents.