Meet the Candidates for ALA President: Kelvin Watson

Two candidates appeal to ALA members for their vote

March 1, 2022

Kelvin Watson

Greetings, fellow members.

Back when I was an MLS student, I received the kind of meaningful support from ALA that made me a lifelong admirer of this distinguished organization and its mission. It also reinforced why I was drawn to the profession after a career in library book distribution and bookstore retailing, where I witnessed firsthand how librarians uplift lives. This understanding is why I proudly and humbly accept the nomination for ALA president.

Not nearly enough people realize the critical role libraries play in economically depressed communities, and how heavily marginalized populations—BIPOC patrons, veterans, immigrants, those who have faced incarceration, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities—continue to rely upon them.

To reach more people from all walks of life, I propose a national rebranding campaign, spotlighting how libraries improve lives. This will be done through the stories of individual ALA members who bring unique experiences to their work. The campaign will redefine the local library as the dynamic community resource that it is—a place where education, opportunity, and inclusion await.

ALA’s new Pivot Strategy is geared toward transformation and sustainability, and I am fully behind this call for rethinking and retooling. To grow and revitalize our membership, I am looking to attract new library professionals and support staff by developing career paths that will appeal to people with wide-ranging educational backgrounds. The national rebranding campaign will jump-start these internal and external growth initiatives to help ensure we remain an essential voice for the next 150 years.

As president, I will demonstrate our intrinsic value to state and federal leaders as we deliver on Build Back Better funding for library infrastructure, technology, elevated training for library staff, and broadband access.

In my role as cochair of the ALA Digital Content Working Group, I am heartened to see Congress taking steps to address the ebook pricing structure that publishers have imposed on library budgets for years. US Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) and US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) are leading this charge and will need ALA’s full support and resources to prevail.

We must also address the troubling trend of censorship, which has become a divisive new political tool. Some of this country’s best-loved literature, which tells important truths about lived experiences, has come under attack. As defenders of free speech, who better to address this threat than ALA?

Over the past two years, ALA has been a beacon, guiding our profession through these unparalleled times and providing leadership with its advocacy and partnerships to support all libraries and communities while balancing the changes that the pandemic has brought with it. We must build upon this unique moment, revitalizing our mission while remaining agile to adapt quickly to whatever comes next.

I encourage fellow ALA members to imagine new possibilities along with me. It would be an honor and a privilege to lead ALA through this time.

I hope you will consider me for your vote so that we can make 2023–2024 a year to see real returns on your membership investment.


Emily Drabinski

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Peter Hepburn

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