ALCTS Asked and I Answered

The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) asked the candidates for ALA President a series of questions. My answers are below and also posted at: http://www.ala.org/alctsnews/features/elections-2016-ala-pres-questions. I welcome feedback and ongoing conversation with my ideas and your perspectives!

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

Why did you decide to run for ALA president? If you are elected, what will be your primary focus? What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

I am very proud of ALA and the work that we do together as colleagues. We have a strong Code of Ethics that guides our practice and we are an influential force in policy-making. We engage important conversations around privacy and intellectual freedom. We are leaders in using technology and standards to organize and advance access to information. By joining together as a community of colleagues, we accomplish more than we can alone.

I also believe, however, that there is a need to improve our association. ALA is the oldest and largest library association in the world and we need it to be the most engaged library association in the world as well. Unfortunately, we have many talented members and non-members who are not yet engaged in our collective work.

Because I believe that ALA must be a platform for participation and empowerment for all members, my focus will be on creating an ethos of hospitality that welcomes all members and removes barriers to participation and collaboration across the association. We must create and support practices of inclusion. We must intentionally create space for diversity to strengthen ALA as an inclusive and collegial community of practice.

To begin, here are four specific actions to build the ethos of hospitality that you can expect from me:

  1. I will charge my appointments committee to appoint at least one person who has not previously served on an ALA committee to each committee. I took this approach as ACRL President and welcomed many newer members of the profession into leadership positions and increased the diversity of committee membership.
  2. I commit to using ALA President funds to support promising examples of digital inclusion and to share those practices across the association. ALA policy allows us to conduct our work virtually; however, we often still rely on in-person meetings. This excludes members who are unable to travel for financial, health, work, etc. reasons. We can do better.
  3. I will re-engage the vision for the ALA Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA). The ALA President is also the ALA-APA President. Library workers need a strong organization to advocate for wages, benefits, etc.
  4. I will lead ALA in systematically re-examining the viability of holding two conferences/year and the effect of doing so on member engagement and the ecosystem of division and state conferences.

As ALA President, I will be a passionate voice for libraries and library workers, for dismantling exclusion, and for pursuing an ethos of hospitality and inclusion. We are a strong community of practice that can be made stronger. This is why I decided to run for ALA President.

Please discuss how your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS. How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?

I hope that ALCTS and all other ALA groups join me in working to create a culture of inclusion and accessibility across our association. Adopting the practice of making space on committees for those who have never served before (which is similar to but an expansion of the philosophy of the intern positions that already exist in ALCTS) and experimenting with digital engagement are just two ways that we can pursue inclusion. I look forward to the creativity that I know will come from engaging this across ALA.

The videos that ALCTS has posted on YouTube, e.g. ALCTS 101, are great and I noticed the ALCTS New Member Interest Group as well. These are the kinds of activities that I would like to highlight and share across ALA so that successful practices within one division are disseminated and can be adopted/adapted by other groups within ALA. I hope that ALCTS will pursue the funding that I plan to make available and be a partner in my digital inclusion initiatives.

With these specific examples of the ways that ALCTS is carrying out the goals in its Strategic Plan 2015, ALCTS is well-poised to be a partner in achieving my ALA President goals and my President goals are well-aligned with ALCTS priorities!

What do you see as the greatest challenges facing individuals engaged in the areas of work represented by ALCTS (acquisitions, cataloging, serials, preservation, and collection development) in the near future? How can ALA assist ALCTS members to meet those challenges?

The greatest challenges facing individuals engaged in the areas of work represented by ALCTS (acquisitions, cataloging, serials, preservation, and collection development) relate to the fact that when this work is done well it disappears into the background and is taken for granted. The skills, training, management, and expertise that are required are not as well understood or appreciated as they deserve to be. In addition, these areas are often considered for outsourcing in times of budget cuts. The challenge is how to advocate so that these areas have sufficient resources and ongoing investment in order to continue to do excellent work and to ensure that any outsourcing is pursued strategically and with attention to quality assurance, which still needs to be monitored internally.

(As a side note, I find this is something I have in common with you. As the Coordinator for Information Literacy, I’m a midlevel administrator and much of my effort is focused on ensuring that our library has reliable and robust instructional infrastructures: the tools, resources, communications, workflows, campus collaborations, information sharing mechanisms, etc. that my colleagues need in order to create information literacy programs for their user communities. When they are in place and working well, they are relatively invisible.)

I see the role of the ALA President as bringing visibility to all aspects of library work. I believe strongly in the importance of the areas represented by ALCTS. I have been on my library’s discovery system team for more years than I can count, serving as co-chair for a few, and also was on the steering committee of our consortium the last time that we selected a new integrated library system. Recently, I served on a NISO working group related to privacy in library third-party databases and systems and have been recently been appointed to another on privacy in research data. Nevertheless, the bulk of my expertise is primarily in information literacy and so I would look to partner with ALCTS leaders on how to best articulate the value and impact of your work.

How can ALA ensure that certain members, whose primary affiliation is to a “type of activity” division, feel connected to the concerns of the organization as a whole? How might their involvement be increased? How might ALA’s awareness of their concerns be increased?

As ALA President, I will meet regularly with the Division Presidents and other leaders who are elected this spring. We will meet over the coming three years and I believe that those meetings have the potential for working collaboratively across the association on topics of mutual interest and concern.

I see it as part of the role of the ALA President to signal and suggest where partnerships would be possible and fruitful. It is also the role of the ALA President to lead efforts to remove obstacles to collaboration. For example, the ACRL Board asked the ALA presidential candidates a question about supporting member efforts with “managing research data (acquiring, storing, organizing and analyzing it).” In my response I said:

As ACRL leaders know, ACRL is not the only division whose members are engaged in this work. This is a good example of a case where ALA needs to be a platform for divisions and other units working together. At times, unfortunately, ALA structures and policies can create barriers to partnerships. If elected ALA President, I anticipate taking an active role in helping the association develop creative solutions to working collaboratively on issues and challenges that cross organizational lines. By doing so we can create value for our members and better meet their needs through professional development and program support. (C&RL News, March 2016, p. 147+)

ALCTS is clearly one of the divisions that is also working in the area of research data services, as an example. Bringing together the skills and perspectives from both “type of library “and “type of activity” groups in ALA can only strengthen our ability to engage and lead on these critical issues in libraries.

In recent years it has been difficult for ALCTS members to “see themselves” or to see that the association embraces issues that are critical to ALCTS. What steps will you take to increase ALA’s inclusiveness within its own ranks?

My answer here cannot help but reference my candidate statement and the “ethos of hospitality” that I am championing. Our mission is too important to sideline any members of our ALA community.

This is a very challenging issue and, whether this exclusion is structural, financial, policy-based, administrative, etc. (or all of these things!), is not clear to me. Again, I see meetings with the Division Presidents and other leaders who are elected this spring as a productive forum for engagement on the topic of exclusion/inclusion.

One thing, however, that I have come to realize is that many people who are active in ALA, but active primarily within the divisions, do not know the policies and procedures for getting ALA Council attention to their issues. Given the complexity of ALA governance structure, those policies and procedures are also complex. I have been pleased to see that ALA Council has been offering more training for ALA Council members recently as well as seeking to improve the Membership Meetings. I would like to see training sessions and support for people who are not on ALA Council about the mechanisms for engaging with ALA Council and bringing forward resolutions and action items.

Finally, as ALA President, I can promise you that I will listen to your concerns because listening is a key component of inclusion. I will ask questions. I will converse. I know that I cannot rely on my own experience as my only guide and I hope you will join me in this conversation.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions and engage with ALCTS members. For more information about my candidacy for ALA President, please visit my website (http://lisa4ala.org) and also be in touch via email (lisalibrarian@gmail.com), Facebook (http://facebook.com/lisa4ala/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/lisa4alaprez or https://twitter.com/lisalibrarian).

Finally, for more information about all of the candidates: ALA hosted a Presidential and Treasurer Candidates’ Forum during the ALA Midwinter meeting and a recording is available online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktLPu6fb2M8) and Circulating Ideas also interviewed the presidential candidates in a podcast (https://circulatingideas.com/2016/02/16/episode-86-ala-presidential-candidates-2016/).

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