Value and Impact

Making progress toward strengthening the future of ALA, libraries

June 1, 2018

ALA President Jim Neal

My service as president of the American Library Association (ALA) will end at the close of the 2018 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans. It has been a challenging, provocative, and rousing year. We have made important progress in several areas critical to the future vitality of the Association and the success of libraries.

Perhaps the most pressing arena has been federal funding for libraries and a wide range of legislative and legal battles in areas like intellectual freedom, privacy, net neutrality, copyright, and government information. We implemented the ALA Policy Corps: individuals who will develop deep and sustained knowledge of key policy sectors and will receive training in legislative work and media engagement. We are also building a national network of library advocates, with the goal of at least one individual in each of the 435 congressional districts.

Another priority has been the recruitment and appointment of a new ALA executive director. The first round of the search was not successful. In January, Mary Ghikas—who had been serving as interim executive director—agreed to serve as executive director through the 2020 Midwinter Meeting, where the goal is to introduce the new executive director. The search will resume early in 2019 as the matter of the educational requirements continues to be resolved.

The future financial and organizational health of the Association has also been a key focus. A comprehensive review of the governance and organization of ALA is advancing. Consultants are working with ALA on a review of membership models and engagement, and on communication and marketing. At the 2018 Annual Conference in New Orleans, there will be changes that will help streamline and enhance the experience for attendees. And work has begun on rethinking Midwinter.

In the financial sphere, the new business development process has been reactivated, a study on the future of the Association facility in Chicago and the improvement of staff work areas is moving forward, and major new investments in information technology, fundraising, and advocacy have been approved.

Some key initiatives have been launched and will continue during 2018–2019: expanded support for library disaster relief; advocacy for school libraries; improving the recruitment and retention of a diverse library workforce; stronger working relationships with national libraries and other library associations; and more rigorous library data collection and analysis.

The Libraries Transform campaign is our compelling and consistent message to communicate and celebrate the value and impact of libraries and library workers in lives and communities. A new focus to this message is “Libraries Lead,” as we provide influence, innovation, and solutions in our organizations, communities, profession, nation, and world.

I hope to see many of you at the Annual Conference in New Orleans, where there will be valuable opportunities for learning, sharing, networking, and fun. There will be a wide range of professional development opportunities, and the always valuable interaction with publishers and vendors on the exhibit floor. Come listen to the keynote speakers we have recruited: Viola Davis, Tracy K. Smith, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Michelle Obama.

I have enjoyed meeting so many colleagues at state conferences and library visits. And I thank the Council and Executive Board, a powerhouse advisory committee, and the outstanding division presidents for their guidance. And as ALA president, nothing is possible without the assistance and support of the remarkable ALA staff.


ALA President Jim Neal

Leaders in the Library

Building on the Libraries Transform campaign

ALA President Jim Neal

Hope, Power, Action

Despite funding victories, advocacy challenges remain