Libraries Connect Us

Equity at the intersection of service

July 8, 2021

Connection—across our diverse backgrounds, experiences, and futures—is a theme of my presidential year, and it is a necessary conversation. Demographers predict that by 2050, African Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, Latinx, and Indigenous people will constitute the majority of Americans. So how does the American Library Association (ALA) fit into our rapidly evolving democracy? How can we connect to one another as librarians and use the tools of our profession to foster connections with others?

Taking on the struggle against racism, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination is central to ALA’s mission of fostering cultural understanding and defending equity, diversity, and inclusion. In that spirit, my presidential plans focus on equity at the intersection of service. During my term, I will advocate for four initiatives, collectively called “Libraries Connect.”

The first focus area will be digital equity. The inequitable access to broadband in this country came into sharp focus during the pandemic, and our members responded by passing a strong resolution calling for broadband internet access to be considered a human right.

Continuing in the path of my predecessor, Julius C. Jefferson Jr., who worked throughout his year to highlight tribal, rural, prison, and historically Black college and university libraries, we will visit libraries across the country to spotlight library workers as unsung heroes. Our goals are to bring attention and recognition to libraries and library workers—the challenges they face and the need for credentialed, diverse staff to serve our communities—and to showcase their work.

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the American Library Association–Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA), I cannot think of a more appropriate focus. Both my successor, President-Elect Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada, and I share this commitment to highlight how the ALA-APA partnership has empowered individual librarians to do amazing work in their communities.

My third major initiative is to champion literacy, which is a core value of the Association and, together with equity, must be the cornerstone of all work done throughout ALA. I plan to institute stronger literacy programs supported by the Association, including equity-based traditional literacy programs as well as digital, health care, and financial literacy programs. Literacy is critical for success at every stage of life; throughout the year I will share the value of credentialed school librarians and the need for school libraries as a foundation for literacy and a love of reading.

The fourth major area of focus is sustainability. To thrive and evolve into the future, ALA must adopt the “triple bottom line” mindset of sustainability: We must embody practices that are environmentally sound, economically feasible, and socially equitable. Planned outcomes include a basic briefing on sustainability for the field, a course to help provide the foundational knowledge necessary for library workers to think more sustainably, and a partnership with the Sustainable Libraries Initiative to open the door for public, academic, and school libraries across the country to participate in their Sustainable Library Certification Program.

As I take the president’s gavel, I do so with the privilege of being the first person of Asian American origin to hold this role. As a young person I did not see many positive images of people who looked like me, who represented my cultural community. I hope that in serving in such a visible leadership position within the library world I can be the connection, inspiration, and example I once sought.

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