A New Year of Hope

After crises and loss, libraries remain resolute and ready

January 4, 2021

From the President, by Julius C. Jefferson Jr.

Looking back, 2020 was a year for the record books. In my inaugural address last June, I spoke about the pivotal moment we are living through—and about how libraries have been here before: In 1876, the year ALA was founded, the country faced a divided presidential election that all but halted progress toward freedom and altered the trajectory of our country.

Similarly, 2020 made an indelible impression on the history of our country, and it has left us collectively exhausted. Many will remember it as the year we were locked down, Zoomed out, and either lonely or wanting to be alone. We lost loved ones, icons, and champions. We were confronted with furloughs and loss of income. Libraries of all kinds were challenged with finding ways to keep our communities connected and securing the funding to keep our libraries operating.

Alongside the cumulative losses of 2020, we saw a year of opportunity. A year when library professionals answered the call to serve amid multiple crises. A year when library workers again proved to be essential “first restorers” or “second responders.” Libraries connected America in ways that have brought our communities closer. My national virtual ALA presidential tour, “Holding Space,” showed that even when our buildings are not open, libraries are never closed.

In 2020, I saw ALA substantively respond to injustice, share resources for libraries during the pandemic, advocate for COVID-19 relief funding, promote participation in the decennial census, and contribute to historic voter turnout by engaging voters in the electoral process.

Through our advocacy, we gave our communities a voice, and our elected officials responded with increases in funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Thanks to the Association’s voice in Washington, the Federal Communications Commission recognized libraries’ tireless efforts to close the digital divide in communities that do not have access to affordable, reliable broadband. In September 2020, for instance, the agency announced that “America’s libraries” were among those to receive its inaugural DOER (Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition) Program award for organizations.

As we move into 2021, I say with great pride that I am part of the library community. Librarians and library workers and our fundamental values have been challenged time after time, yet libraries are still standing. Libraries and library workers will continue the work of responding to our patrons’ needs and restoring our communities. And library advocates will continue to tell stories that demonstrate the value of libraries.

I am also proud to be part of ALA. With six months remaining in my term as your president, I am committed to making the Association more inclusive, nimble, fiscally stable, and in tune with the current needs of library professionals and the communities we serve.

ALA will strengthen our profession by focusing on our programmatic priorities; advancing the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion; building the ALA brand; and modernizing our Association so we can move Forward Together. I’m excited that we’ll be together in January 2021 for ALA’s final Midwinter Meeting as we prepare for a revitalized event—LibLearnX—in January 2022.

We will move into the new year with optimism, and I predict 2021 will deliver the substance of things we hope for: a more perfect union and a stronger ALA. In the face of uncertainty, know that ALA continues to hold space for you and your communities.


From the President, by Julius C. Jefferson Jr.

We the People

Let’s carry the profession into the future by working together

From the President, by Julius C. Jefferson Jr.

Stand Up, Speak Out

Let’s carry on the legacy of the late civil rights activist John Lewis