Library Journal Asked and I Answered

Library Journal sent 10 questions to the candidates for ALA President, which are published online. Unfortunately, they combined all paragraphs into one under each question and so I’m making a copy of mine available here for easier reading.

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe
Candidate for ALA President
Library Journal Q&A

  1. Everyone effectively summed up their positions on ALA’s three strategic directions of advocacy, information policy, and professional and leadership development in the forum at Midwinter. Aside from those three areas, what is it that will make you the best possible leader for ALA? What sets your candidacy apart?

Thank you for these questions and the opportunity to share my thoughts with the readers of Library Journal. 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 (@lisa4alaprez or @lisalibrarian).

Why Lisa for ALA President? I am ready to lead on ALA’s strategic directions of advocacy, information policy, and professional and leadership development and I have also identified specific action plans to make ALA an even better association than it already is.

It is not enough for ALA to have a robust public policy and advocacy agenda. ALA must be a platform for full member participation in our collective work if we are to achieve our mission.

In my Candidate Statement, An Ethos of Hospitality, I detail specific actions that I pledge to take so that ALA members can hold me accountable to my promise to foster greater inclusion, diversity, and member engagement and to remove barriers to participation.

The other unique aspect of my candidacy is my vision for embracing not only the position of ALA President but also the jointly held position of President of the ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA). As I have found myself saying time and time again, libraries cannot live on love alone and neither can library workers. Library workers deserve good wages and benefits, excellent working conditions, and ongoing training and development. I believe that ALA-APA is our vehicle for collectively addressing systemic problems in these areas and securing change. I am committed to leading that charge.

  1. What do you predict will be the most important issues facing ALA during your prospective tenure? And how will you handle them?

From an external perspective, public policy issues related to intellectual property and digital inclusion are going to be very important issues in the coming years (e.g., copyright, international trade agreements, net neutrality, etc.).

Content and connectivity industries will continue to seek to shape the legal and regulatory environment to increase profits and, in doing so, erode the public and societal goods of free access to information and an informed citizenry. ALA will need to be vigilant and active in responding to this environment and also be proactive in pursuing our own values and priorities.

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has created an opportunity to improve our school libraries. We will need to advocate at the state level in order to ensure that the opportunity becomes a reality.

Likewise, the recently announced Open eBooks Initiative that is part of ConnectEd is an opportunity to highlight the key role that school and public libraries play in supporting literacy and providing access to reading materials.

Finally, anticipating that Carla Hayden will be confirmed as the Librarian of Congress (and I really must say how exciting it was to hear of her nomination – I cheered out loud in an airport lounge area when I saw the news!), the ALA President will have the opportunity to build a strong partnership with her as she leads the Library of Congress into a new era of innovation.

From an internal perspective, the most pressing issue for ALA is recruiting and retaining members by delivering value-for-membership as a diverse and inclusive organization while also supporting state and local associations. Just as libraries need to understand the needs of their communities and meet them so too does ALA.

  1. Why does ALA membership still matter? What lessons can be drawn from CLA’s dissolution?

The participation factors and national dynamics were very different for the Canadian Library Association (CLA) than they are for ALA. Nonetheless, one of the most important lessons that can be drawn from the dissolution of CLA is that ALA must continue to understand and meet the needs of its members. If ALA does not, members will look elsewhere.

Fortunately, ALA offers a variety of benefits and forms of value for members. Some members value professional participation opportunities, others seek a Washington advocate, some look forward to meeting up with colleagues at the conferences, and others need a place to see the latest products and meet with publishers and vendors. Some see it as a venue to work on projects with colleagues, others treasure a unique opportunity to hear directly from intellectual and political leaders, etc.

It is vital that we maintain the benefits that continue to be valued. At the same time, member needs change in a networked environment and, like other professional associations, ALA must also identify new ways to serve our members. My plans to foster digitally inclusive practices and to lead a fresh look at the conference ecosystem are examples of the proactive strategies ALA can pursue to meet member needs.

  1. On conferences, some have argued that face-to-face ALA Midwinter and Annual meetings are not sustainable. What new, affordable, virtual meeting/committee opportunities would you recommend ALA explore?

I believe that expanding participation through digital technologies is imperative for member engagement in ALA. We are fortunate to have such technologies available to us and they are mature enough to be a reliable option for the association.

As I wrote in my candidate statement:

“2. I commit to using ALA President funds to support promising exemplars of digital inclusion and to share those practices across the association. ALA policy has been revised to allow the association to conduct its work virtually; however, many of our practices reflect historic reliance on in-person meetings. These practices exclude members who are unable to travel to ALA conferences for financial, health, work, etc. reasons. We can do better.” (An Ethos of Hospitality, #2)

Digitally inclusive practices will enable greater participation in the association across our full membership and, in many cases, also enable ALA to address issues that emerge outside of conference in a more timely manner.

I also wrote that:

“4. I believe that ALA must re-examine the long-term viability of holding two conferences each year and the effect of doing so on member engagement and on the ecosystem of division and state chapter conferences. As ALA President, I will bring to the Executive Board a proposal for a task force on the future of ALA conferences to systematically and inclusively consider this topic.” (An Ethos of Hospitality, #4)

I’ve been pleased to receive enthusiastic support for this proposal from ALA members as well as exhibiters and vendors. By working together, we will be able to identify and adopt the most promising and sustainable practices for conferences in order to continue to strengthen our ALA community of practice.

  1. Given that privacy and protection of civil liberties is a major concern of ALA’s, what is your take on the nuances of the Apple/FBI/terrorism case?

Given the twists and turns this case has taken, by the time this is Q+A published, the nuances of the Apple/FBI/terrorism case will likely have evolved! Nonetheless, what I can say with certainty is that I am pleased that ALA has been actively monitoring the case and I am proud of our advocacy for privacy and constitutional freedoms.

I think we can anticipate that, regardless of the outcome of this specific case, we will see increasing efforts over the coming years to expand surveillance and erode privacy.

Given these circumstances, I have been working to bring attention to privacy and data security issues in libraries, particularly with respect to the third party databases and networked resources that we provide. I was a member of the national advisory committee that oversaw the development of the NISO Consensus Principles on Users’ Digital Privacy in Library, Publisher, and Software-Provider Systems and am now participating in the international Research Data Alliance-NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets Working Group.

At my own library, I have been serving on the Privacy Policies Implementation Team, which articulated a set of privacy and data security principles, conducted a thorough review of our policies, and made recommendations for patron and staff training. Later this month I will be speaking on strategies for developing library privacy policies during a NISO Privacy Webinar – Understanding Library Policies. Materials from a 2015 ALA Annual presentation, All the Data: Privacy, Service Quality, and Analytics, which I developed collaboratively with Andrew Asher, are also freely available online.

As ALA President, I would proud to speak out on behalf of our commitment to privacy and freedom.

  1. What will your plans be to engage the library elements of the federal ConnectEd initiative and the implementation of ESSA? How will ALA be involved?

As I mentioned above, the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has created a fantastic opportunity to improve our school libraries. We will need to advocate at the state level, however, in order to ensure that the opportunity becomes a reality. We must work to ensure librarians in every school and inclusion of school libraries in education funding packages and policy frameworks. Our children deserve school libraries and librarians.

In a parallel way, ConnectEd also offers great opportunities to strengthen libraries and community infrastructure. The ConnectEd Library Challenge, with its vision that every school child also has a public library card, is enhancing library services to our communities while also improving the stewardship of collection budgets. The recently announced Open eBooks Initiative also highlights the key roles that school and public libraries play in supporting literacy and providing access to reading materials.

I believe that the ALA President must work collaboratively with all of the ALA Divisions and rally the association behind issues for which particular divisions are best suited to provide leadership. The strength of having type-of-library divisions – in this case AASL and PLA – is that we have strong leadership in focused areas. I would seek to support division leaders in their roles while using my position as ALA President to amplify their message.

  1. What would you tell a current LIS student or early career librarian?

Working with LIS students and new professionals is one of the joys of being a librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and engaging with GSLIS on our campus.

My advice to LIS students and new professionals is to identify people who have the job that you want (or job you just got hired to do!) and connect with them. Doing so enables you to gain a fuller understanding of the nature of the job while also developing your professional network. This is easy to say and it is possibly a bit more difficult to do! I gave practical how-to tips in answering a similar question in an interview with Hack Library School.

An additional strategy that I’d like to highlight is peer mentoring. I’ve been very inspired on this topic by Sarah Crissinger, who was my graduate assistant last year when she was doing her LIS degree and who wrote about the power of peer mentoring on ACRLog. While experienced professionals have useful perspectives to share with LIS students and new professionals, discussions with peers are equally valuable for helping make sense of what one is observing and experiencing. I think peer mentoring is an unrecognized asset in professional associations and, as ALA President, I hope to bring attention to its importance and consider how ALA can support and facilitate it.

Finally, and extremely pragmatically, I want to make certain that LIS student and early career librarians know about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. So many newer librarians are struggling with crushing student loan payments. While not everyone will qualify for this loan forgiveness program, many will. I hope that ALA-APA will develop strategies for addressing student loan debt in our field more systematically as well.

  1. What is the best question anyone has asked you during your campaign, and why?

I think the best question is really the simplest one: “Why do you want to be ALA President?” This question gets to the heart of things.

My simple answer is “I want to make a difference and believe that I can.” But, the question calls for more.

First, I believe that I’m the right person for what ALA needs in a President at this time. ALA needs is a president who is thinking about the future of the association and where the field will be in 20+ years. We are moving to a more digital future, a more distributed future, and a future that needs the participation of our newer members so that the association has long-term vitality. I have specific action plans that engage these trends and I am energetic, passionate, and committed to ALA. As a life member, I have a long-term commitment to the association.

Second, I have a proven track record of leadership though inclusive practices. I led strategic planning in my own library last year and in Association of College and Research Libraries when I was ACRL President in 2010-2011. I am very effective in leading large groups of people, who represent a diversity of perspectives, in identifying what they want achieve and strategies for aligning resources in order to do so. My success as Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a result of bringing together stakeholder groups within our distributed library system as well as on campus and across institutions.

Finally, the timing is right. I have recently concluded a number of other large projects and I have the support of my library administration to devote the time and effort required to be an effective ALA President.

Ultimately, I accepted the nomination to be a candidate for ALA President because I wanted to use my skills and talents to serve libraries and library workers. I believe I can make a difference and hope that ALA members will give me that chance.

  1. What do you wish the other candidates were talking about/addressing?

As a candidate for ALA President, one is also a standing for election to the position of President of the ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA).

I wish I had heard the other candidates discuss the systemic problems that we have in our job market and in workplace conditions. I believe that job availability, wages, benefits, student loan debt, training and development, inclusion, etc., are very important issues for ALA members.

For too many LIS graduates, while libraries are their workplaces of choice, jobs are scarce; library workers of all types face low wages and inadequate benefits; retired library workers find their pensions inadequate; and, library administrators find themselves managing staffing reduction processes that are externally imposed.

Neither individual students nor individual library workers nor individual libraries can fully address the systemic problems that we are facing. Systematic action is needed. ALA-APA is our vehicle for collectively addressing these problems, securing change, and supporting library workers.

I have pledged to be a strong voice for library workers and to seek to grow the influence of ALA-APA. The ALA President must be fully engaged as ALA-APA President and not ignore this important role.

  1. What are you reading?

I just started reading Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow by Cheryl Knott. It is insightful and eye-opening – as history often is.

I also subscribe to a long list of magazines about travel and am always in the middle of multiple issues of National Geographic Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR, etc.

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