Faculty Are Lifelong Learners #txla16

20160419_154445I’m attending the Texas Library Association Conference (#txla16) this week as a candidate for ALA President.  I’ve already enjoyed meeting many Texas librarians and look forward to talking with more over the coming days. I can’t say enough in appreciation of the hospitality and welcome that Patricia Smith, Executive Director, and her TLA team extends to the candidates. What a warm and supportive welcome!

I also had the pleasure of being invited to lead a session today as well: Faculty Are Life-Long Learners; So, Why Not Teach Them Information Literacy?  I was thrilled that the session drew a crowd and not just academic librarians but many school librarians as well. It was great to have both of these communities together talking information literacy and outreach to instructors!

My handout is loaded in the conference app but the discussion brought forward so many additional ideas that I thought I’d combine my handout with everyone else’s ideas and summarize the session here. And, I’m also making good on the promise I made in the session that I would do so!

I started my sharing my philosophy that effective faculty development for information literacy starts with understanding the challenges that faculty are facing in their work. By understanding their challenges, we can position information literacy (and other library services) as solutions to problems rather than putting forth information literacy as another problem for the faculty to solve. Whether it is students who are not using credible sources in their papers, article manuscripts that do not fit with known publication outlets in their fields, a need for images to use in presentations that are not restricted by license or copyright, etc., information literacy instruction can come to the rescue.

The session then explored different aspects of faculty development programming: purpose, faculty role, program modes, and campus partners. Here is a summary of the ideas that emerged:

What is the purpose of the faculty development program that you are planning?

  • Individual Change
  • Organizational Change
  • Train-the-Trainers/Multiply Library Influence
  • Support QEP or Other Organizational Transformation Effort
  • Curricular Change – Support for Change Approved and/or Advocate for Change
  • Develop Faculty as Library Advocates

What is the role of the faculty that you are targeting for the faculty development program that you are planning?

  • Scholar/Researcher
  • Teacher
  • Service
  • Mentor/Advisor
  • Clinician
  • Recruiter
  • Activist
  • Library Advocate

What are possible program modes for the faculty development program that you are planning?

  • Workshops and Seminars
  • Discussion Groups
  • Assignment Design
  • Course Consultations
  • Selected Dissemination of Information
  • Institutes
  • Webinars
  • Self-Paced Learning
  • Games

Which campus partners could you collaborate with in development and marketing the faculty development program that you are planning?

  • Centers for Teaching/Learning
  • Academic Technologies
  • Distance Learning
  • QEP Office
  • Welcome Center
  • Facilities Management
  • Student life
  • Dual Enrollment Program Staff
  • Office of Research Services
  • Bookstore
  • Other Faculty Who are Library Advocates
  • Tutoring Center

 

At the end of the discussion, I asked each person to identify their next steps. What would they do …

  • In the next week …
  • In the next month …
  • In the next year …

What will you do?

Privacy in Research Data at FORCE11 #force2016

Slide01I had the pleasure of attending FORCE11 2016 Conference pre-conference in Portland today as a member of the RDA/NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets Working Group. I’m grateful to Todd Carpenter, NISO Executive Director, for including me in this project, which is a follow-on to the project group that I was a member of that produced the NISO Consensus Principles on Users’ Digital Privacy in Library, Publisher, and Software ­Provider Systems [PDF].

We had our first discussion at the Research Data Alliance Seventh Plenary Meeting in Tokyo in March, which introduced the project and examined in detail the question of whether the project is best suited to be an RDA Interest Group or Working Group. The discussion at FORCE11 reviewed these issues as well but quickly focused on some questions of substance about the content of the framework that is being created and what will be most useful for the community.

As the Case Statement for the Working Group states, the goal is to “develop a framework for how researchers and repositories should appropriately manage human-subject datasets, to develop a metadata set to describe the privacy-related aspects of research datasets, compile a bibliography of related resources, and to build awareness of the privacy implications of research-data sharing.”

The Case Statement also presents a Work Plan for the group: “focus on world-wide legal frameworks and the impacts these frameworks have on data sharing, especially with human-subject data. After gathering these legal strictures and comparing the differences and similarities, the group will begin crafting a set of principles that will provide guidance to the researcher and repository communities on how to manage these data when they are received. Building on these, the group will craft a set of use cases on how the principles will be applied. After these elements are completed, an effort to advance the principles through promotion and community outreach will be developed and executed.”

Today’s discussion was, as expected (since we are at the beginning of the work and thus in brainstorming mode), wide-ranging. Nonetheless, as I listened to the comments and questions, a few themes emerged from my perspective:

  • Principles and Practices – Though there is need to identify the what and why, the framework will provide value to the community if it also includes indicators of the how. Specifically, the discussion revealed a need for best practices in governance of privacy in data sets and best practices in technology and metadata infrastructures. How can the framework respond to known use cases while also anticipating future ones?
  • Stakeholders – The stakeholders for this topic are diverse and multiple. Though the document might be useful to all, using a smaller set of identified stakeholders as a focus might prove a useful way to scope the framework. Possibilities discussed included chief information officers, vice-presidents for research, and repository managers. What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing one or more stakeholder groups as the focus and likewise of not doing so?
  • Unique Contribution – Privacy in research data sets is a topic that could also include IRB, legal compliance, etc.  The framework may be most useful if it makes a unique contribution, acknowledging but not duplicating other work that focuses on human subjects ethics, institutional legal compliance/risk, etc. What is the unique contribution of the proposed framework?
  • Level of Abstraction – The framework is necessarily abstracted from the particulars of an individual researcher, institution, or discipline and local decisions can benefit from a general framework. How can the framework find the right level of abstraction so that it is generalization but also usable in practice?
  • International – The international nature of the framework adds another layer of complexity to the question of the level of abstraction. How can the framework account for but not be subsumed within any particular set of national and/or multinational policy and legal guidelines?

The RDA/NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets Working Group will be holding a number of conference calls in the coming months to discuss these issues as well as a public symposium on September 11, 2016 in Denver. Anyone is welcome to contribute to the group by joining the forum on the RDA/NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets Working Group website to receive notifications of meetings and other events as well as drafts of the framework as it emerges.

 

Information Technology in Research Libraries #CNI16s

From Invasive to Integrated-  Information Technology and Library Leadership, Structure, and Culture - CNILast week Dale Askey and I led an issue-oriented session at the Spring Meeting of the Coalition of Networked Information (CNI) titled Invasive to Integrated: Information Technology and Library Leadership, Structure, and Culture (includes link to presentation slides).

The session was the result of a discussion on Twitter, prompted by Dale’s observation:

“chronic issue w library org charts: ‘IT’ (however named) shoved into one box. all other work is broken into components.” Dale Askey (@daskey) November 13, 2015

As we chatted over the intervening months, we discovered we share some views on what causes problems with information technology (IT) in research libraries and that we diverge at times. In many cases, our disagreements generated more new ideas than our agreements as another perspective added nuance and depth to our own understandings.

What Dale and I found that we absolutely have in common is the belief that problems will not be addressed if we do not have open and honest conversations in the broader research library community. We need to explore different ideas and possible actions for change. We intentionally selected CNI as the venue for our session because CNI meetings bring together library directors/associate directors and technology leaders.

We started our session with the assertion that, given the number and variety of significant IT projects supported and led by research libraries, one could incorrectly assume that IT has been successfully integrated into our organizations. We observed that, unlike other recent library service program developments (e.g., information literacy and scholarly communications), which also started on the margins of research libraries, IT has not found its way to the “middle” in most of our organizations. We believe that IT workers, not solely but in particular, experience the lingering divide between IT and the library culture as an unproductive chasm. We note that research libraries struggle to develop robust applicants pools for leadership roles such as Associate University Librarian for IT. Something is amiss with information technology in research libraries.

Marty Cagan’s Moving from an IT to a Product Organization provides a succinct statement of the challenge that research libraries are facing:

“Over the past 10 years, virtually all of these companies as well as those from dozens of other industries have realized that they need to use the Internet to engage directly with their customers online … many of these companies are trying to manage this new customer-facing internet software as if it were their internal-facing IT software, and the result is that many of these companies provide terrible online customer experiences, and worse, they don’t have the organization, people or processes in place to improve them.”

Ithaka S&R issued a very relevant Issue Brief the week before the CNI meeting, Library Leadership for the Digital Age, in which Deanna Marcum writes:

“Libraries are in a pivotal moment, and a digital mindset is needed at every level of the organization. The utilization of digital technology in making research and teaching and learning easier and more efficient for those they serve is critical. Libraries’ very survival depends on making the transition from a local institution to a node in a national and international information ecosystem. The skills needed to build a local collection are not sufficient for seeing the challenges and opportunities in a global environment.”

How is this manifest in research libraries? Internally, there are missed opportunities to engage and capitalize on IT talent. Library IT professionals have skills and abilities that libraries struggle to leverage in their operations and services. Libraries are challenged to recruit and retain IT professionals and the demographic profile of library IT is often less diverse than the libraries overall (which is particularly problematic given libraries themselves are not necessarily diverse). Library IT professionals are often organizationally separate from services and collections, reporting as an administrative service like human resources and budget/finance rather than integrated with the library’s strategic priorities.

Externally the missed opportunities are even greater. As Cagan points out, the result is a terrible user experience and lack of mechanisms for improvement. Library leaders in user services, library facilities, and content access/re-use are hampered in achieving effective and efficient experiences for users by limited use of technology. Virtual reference service, for example, remains a separate application on most library websites, not integrated into the workflow of using databases or accessing content. (A notable exception to this was presented at CNI, Transformational Online Reference with a Proactive, Context-sensitive Chat System: Using Triggers to Encourage Patrons to Ask Questionsproviding empirical evidence that failing to leverage technology truncates use of library services.) Ultimately, research libraries are unable to compete with other information services, which have emerged as competitors in the digital information age. (As I’ve written elsewhere, research libraries are increasingly absent from statements of scholarly information access and sharing; however, technology could also be used to assert our substantial and enduring roles.)

Though it is crucial to accurately understand the dimensions and aspects of challenging situations, it is worthwhile to consider analogous situations in order to develop useful insights. Information literacy and scholarly communications are two areas of work that have moved from the margins of research libraries to centrality in strategic plans and initiatives. Information literacy was a contested area of work as recently as the early 1990s when articles questioned whether librarians should be educators. Scholarly communications is a more recently developed service area and, though the parameters are still being defined, it is already codified in library organizational charts and strategic plans.

From these two cases, Dale and I observed three key factors in transforming information literacy and scholarly communications from operational activities into strategic initiatives:

  • Leadership – Library leaders need to have a vision of and commitment to library IT as a strategic asset and not only an operational utility. When hiring library IT leaders, search committees should look for candidates from within traditional IT units but also consider individuals who have leveraged technology in services or collections work.
  • Structure – Library IT is typically treated as a monolithic unit within an organizational chart, with little attention to role differentiation of the staff or alignment with user services or library collections. Having a complementary overlay or matrix structure for how different IT professionals work collaboratively with other units could highlight the variety of roles within IT and how they interact with the variety of professionals elsewhere in the organization.
  • Culture – When the culture of library IT is distinct from (and perhaps even in opposition to) the library culture at large, it is a signal that library IT professionals are, at best, siloed in the organization and, potentially worst, alienated and disaffected. Building a shared culture across the organization that values IT work as equally important is crucial.

Dale and I were hopeful that we would have 15-20 people attend the session. We were gratified to have almost 60 highly engaged participants. In fact, they were so engaged that the discussion took over before we finished presenting … but, honestly, we didn’t mind at all!

The comments and questions came so fast and furiously that it wasn’t possible to take the detailed notes that I had planned. Instead, as soon as the session was over, I took some time to reflect and write down thoughts and impressions. So, with the apology that this is not a comprehensive summary of the discussion, here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Diversity – Though much of the discussion in the session focused on questions of gender (with an intriguing side conversation on what are the appropriate statistics to benchmark against), questions of diversity in library IT need more attention and intentional action. Library IT could be a model for our campuses of what diverse and inclusive IT staffing and organizational culture look like. Are libraries willing to rise to that challenge? To not only meet a benchmark of acceptable performance but to aspire to be a campus model?
  • Professional Development – Too many library IT job ads require applicants to have already done what the person being hired will do. Once in the position, the person is required to be satisfied doing only that because of a lack of career paths. Some libraries seem so fearful of losing their IT professionals that they do not invest in their development and training. Just as we grow leaders for our own (or other) libraries by sending people to the ACRL information literacy immersion programs or ARL scholarly communications programs, research libraries could take the perspective that developing library IT leaders is a community task.
  • Values – Blending a group of professionals (IT) into an organization that is defined by the values and priorities of a different profession (librarians) creates a situation much different than years past when all library professionals had a common training in library science or archives. New hire orientation and training across the organization must focus on articulating the library’s mission and purpose in context of the parent institution and the values and beliefs that guide the development of services and collections. Engaging the multiplicity of values from different professionals can strengthen the library in developing its roles on campus.

I left CNI heartened that leaders in research libraries recognize the need to better integrate IT into our libraries. Our message clearly resonated beyond the research library community as Twitter was abuzz before the session ended with people asking how to bring this conversation to ALA and LITA events in the coming year. I look forward to participating and seeing what our community of practice can achieve!

 

 

Be Extraordinary #PLA2016

Screenshot 2016-04-10 22.18.16One of the best things about being a candidate for ALA President is the opportunity to get to know the different parts of the Association in greater depth. This week I attended the Public Library Association Conference (#PLA2016) in Denver.

What an inspiring and engaging event – very true to the conference theme: BE EXTRAORDINARY! I particularly love the booklet that all conference attendees received – Make It Extraordinary: A Little Guide to Your Big Ideas. I am also enjoying the PLA 2016 Be Extraordinary 30 Day Challenge on Facebook.
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I spent most of my time at the conference at the #Lisa4ALAprez information table in the exhibits hall. I handed out 1400 bookmarks and 200 stickers and had a lot of fun meeting people who stepped up to a “pic with the prez” candidate photo booth at my table.

Many people commented that they had already voted in the election, which was great to hear. Even nicer was hearing how many had voted for me because they had read my candidate statement, An Ethos of Hospitality, and appreciated both the specificity of my statement as well as my emphasis on inclusion, support for new professionals, using technology to expand engagement in the work of ALA, and/or willingness to consider new conference models. I am pleased that my platform is resonating with so many ALA members.

A number of conference attendees also wanted to know more about my own work as a librarian and I was happy to share about my position as the Coordinator for Information Literacy in the University of Illinois Library and as Affiliate Faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS). I was also able to share some advice as a mentor during Friday’s Speed Mentoring event – that was intense and fun!

On the last day of the conference, with the exhibits ended, I was able to attend a few sessions. Anand Giridharadas Big Ideas talk was challenging and a call to empathy and inclusion delivered with compassion and humor. I added my voice to his #aTrueAmericanIs Twitter conversation.

I next attended The Changing Landscape of Library Privacy, which provided a succinct review of library values and current challenges to privacy. Give my own work on privacy, data security, and civil liberties, I was pleased that the conversation was nuanced and acknowledged the tensions libraries are negotiating in our current complex digital environment.  I next attended Blowing Up the PLDS: Measuring Impact. The Value of Academic Libraries was one of my initiatives as ACRL President (2010-2011) and an ongoing area of interest for me. I was intrigued with the Team-Based Inquiry model that was presented and look forward to learning more about it.

In the evenings, I enjoyed the camaraderie and fun of the conference receptions, social gatherings, and dinner with other Illinois GSLIS alumni. I was pleased as well to attend EveryLibrary PLA Afterhours event and contribute funds to their important political work on behalf of libraries and the communities that they serve.  I think I introduced myself personally to about 400-500 people at these events! Though it was fast-paced, I learned a great deal about what people were taking away from the conference and what issues are most important to them.

20160409_093556.jpgOverall, I found the PLA 2016 Conference to be great fun, extremely informative, and always engaging. I hope to be back at the PLA 2018 Conference as ALA President!

BE EXTRAORDINARY!

_____

P.S. With this chance to attend the PLA conference, I’ve now experienced all three of the “type of library” division conferences (I’ve attended the conferences of the American Association of School Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries many times). All three have an energy and pacing that reflects a different kind of event than the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference. I’m more resolved than ever that now is the time to think carefully about our conference ecosystem and whether it is best suited to the current needs of our communities of practice. Maybe it is but I can’t help but wonder what we might invent that would be even better than our current models if we let ourselves free of current assumptions and practices. What we have now is good but maybe there is something out there that would be even better?

The Library Website is the Classroom

This morning I came across the handout from a talk I gave at the 1999 ALA Midwinter Meeting at the ACRL Alliances for New Directions in Teaching and Learning Discussion Group. The title was “Virtual Futures: Developing New Models of Instruction” and my assertion was that libraries need to become “rich interactive learning environments” that “extend time and place.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on what changes we have seen in library websites since that 1999 talk, in which I strongly urged librarians to post copies of their print handouts online, given that this morning I also uploaded the slides from my presentation at the 2015 ALPSP Conference, Discovery is Delivery: Articulating a User-Centric Framework of Principles for Library Service Development, in which I discuss the robust discovery environment that is our library website at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Information literacy and instruction has been central to my career as a librarian from the time I discovered the specialty in library school. I have taught hundreds of course and thousands of students in ways that come immediately to mind – in a physical classroom, demonstrating, facilitating, giving feedback, etc. I find this work very rewarding and experience great joy in watching students take hold of their research topics and in working collaboratively with faculty on assignment and course design.

I also, however, practice my information literacy craft in another way that is less obvious but ultimately reaches even more students than I could ever reach directly in a classroom. For more than 20 years I have been serving on local, regional, and national teams that are responsible for the design and implementation of online research environments because I recognize that the library website is a classroom for our users. This is true for those who receive information literacy instruction directly and those who do not. My goal is to contribute to creating online research environments that support successful information seeking practices and serve the inquiry goals of our users.

I am also motivated by a desire to stop devoting our limited instruction time to training users to wrestle with systems that are at best cumbersome and are sometimes just plain broken. It demoralizes even the most dedicated instruction librarians I know to have to explain how to use library tools that are in desperate need of usability and user experience improvements. You may have watched Roger Schonfeld’s painful journey from citation to full-text PDF in Dismantling the Stumbling Blocks that Impede Researcher Access to E-Resources; imagine having the burden of teaching students that this is the way it is designed to work!

I’m pleased that, as Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I have been a welcomed and active partner in our discovery and delivery work since my very first months on the job in 2002 when I was appointed to “Access Task Force Working Group 1: Integrated Information Environment/Portals” that recommended the Library implement a federated search system and OpenURL resolver.It is a great strength of our library that we have always included public services, technical services, and technology services experts on our discovery system implementation teams, starting from when we implemented an automated library circulation system in the 1970s! I’ve been on groups that implemented Voyager, attempted implementation of WebFeat, implemented SFX, piloted and then decommissioned Primo, transitioned from OCLC FirstSearch to WorldCat Discovery, and created and continue to develop Easy Search.

With almost 15 years of work in this area at Illinois, I’ve been involved in many specific projects. I’m particularly proud of the work that Susan Avery and I did to assess Primo from an information literacy and student learning perspective (presented at LOEX 2014) and how our work has served as a basis for other librarians doing similar evaluations. I am also pleased with the results of a project that I coordinated to review a decade of user survey results [Graduate/Professional Survey (2004), Undergraduate Survey (2005); Faculty/Staff Survey (2006); LibQUAL+ (2008); Ithaka S+R Faculty Survey (2013);  LibQUAL+ (2014)] to investigate trends in user perspectives on discovery and principles for user-centered design. We found that our users consistently value seamless digital delivery, coherent discovery pathways, tools that are as simple as possible but not simplistic, tools that provide not everything but “my everything,” transparency, and independence. I also did a analysis of the reports library teams have written about our discovery systems. Library staff prioritize transparency, predictability/explain-ability, customizability, and co-development opportunities in information discovery systems.

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Discovery is Delivery

Our user and staff principles are very complementary and serve as a strong, guiding foundation for the work of the Search, Discovery, and Delivery working group, which is responsible for continuing to develop Easy Search. While we have integrated WorldCat Discovery as a target in Easy Search, we have determined that Easy Search better meets the needs of our users as the default search box on the website than any currently commercially available discovery layer that could replace it. As an evidence-based organization, we will continue our assessment and analysis (see our Discovery Research Portal for a much longer list of studies than I have mentioned already).

As an information literacy librarian, I look forward to many years to come serving on working groups, task forces, implementation teams, and committees that will continue to seek the creation of the best possible discovery and delivery environments for our users. We have made progress but have a long way to go. I remain committed though. The library website is a classroom for which I am an instructional designer.

 

 

 

 

Information Literacy Leadership and Program Evaluation

We are fortunate to have two strong organizations in Illinois that provide professional development for academic and research librarians.

A fun fact – their acronyms share the same letters – CARLI and IACRL. CARLI is the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois and IACRL is the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries.

20160317_134228
With Anne Zald

Last week they teamed up to offer an IACRL Pre-Conference Sponsored by CARLI on Curriculum Mapping. My long-time ACRL Immersion faculty colleague and fellow Illinois librarian, Anne Zald, gave an outstanding workshop in the morning on Curriculum Mapping to Integrate & Communicate Information Literacy.

I followed up with an afternoon workshop on Information Literacy Leadership and Program Evaluation: Using a Curriculum Map for Program Development. As part of this session, I gave an overview of logic models and how they assist with planning, assessment, and promoting information literacy programs.

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The Cookies

Throughout the day, the conversations and questions were insightful and probing. There was so much energy around thinking deeply and strategically about our information literacy programs and how they align with campus curricula. (There were also some awesome cookies!)

The Illinois academic library community of practice is strong and the ideas that the day generated for making it stronger are very promising. I look forward to what’s next!

There Is a Place for You with LISA4ALA!

Please let me know how you’d like to contribute if I’m elected ALA President. I know from being ACRL President that the work starts about 2 minutes after they say “congratulations!” – so one must be preparing even while voting is still underway!

(If you haven’t yet, please be certain to vote as well! Don’t know where to access the ballot? Go here: https://www.directvote.net/ala/sendid.aspx?year=16!)

If you are interested in contributing to my presidential initiatives, I’d love to hear from you. There are specific projects that I have promised but there will also be other projects that emerge. I haven’t promised any positions to anyone during the election so everything is open. Please let me know how you want to contribute and I will find a place for you!

Lisa at Computer
Preparing an ACRL Document at an IFLA Conference

The questions that you will see on the webform (https://illinois.edu/sb/sec/2832718) are also listed below if you want to consider before accessing the form.

Please indicate any/all interest you have and recommend others as well!

__________

Interest in Contributing to LISA4ALA Initiatives?

Please provide your contact information.

1. Name?
2. Email Address?
3. Phone number? (Optional)
4. Address? (Optional)

The ALA President-Elect gets to work right after the election results are announced. If you are interested in contributing to my presidential initiatives, I’d love to hear from you. There are specific projects that I have promised but there will also be other projects that emerge. Please indicate any/all interest you have!

5. Would you like to be on a working group related to any of the action items promised in the LISA4ALA Candidate Statement?

  •   APPOINTMENTS – “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.”
  • DIGITAL INCLUSION – “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 exclude members who are unable to travel for financial, health, work, etc. reasons. We can do better.”
  • ADVOCACY FOR LIBRARY WORKERS – “I will re-engage the vision for the ALA Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA). Library workers need a strong organization to advocate for wages, benefits, etc.”
  • CONFERENCE ECOSYSTEM AND VIABILITY – “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.”

6. Would you be interested in serving on other working groups that may emerge over time?

Yes/No/Other:

7. Would you like to recommend someone else to serve on any of the above working groups or for others that may emerge? If so, who? (Please provide the name and contact information for the person you are nominating. If for a specific working group, please indicate that are well.)

8. Is there anything you would like at add?

9. Enter email address to receive a copy of this survey:

What Does the ALA President Actually Do?

“You’re a candidate? That’s great! I’ll vote for you! Um … what does the ALA President do?”

During the time I’ve been a candidate for the position of ALA President, I’ve experienced this conversation more than a few times. Fortunately, there is a job description available [PDF]. But, I thought I might pull out a few of the more significant general statements and provide a bit of commentary here as well.

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Representing Members: Presenting the ACRL Excellence Award to the Z. Smith Reynolds Library in 2011

“The role of the ALA President is to be the Association’s chief spokesperson and to work closely with the ALA’s Executive Director in identifying and promoting library issues nationwide and internationally. The ALA President is recognized as the Association’s leader by its members.”

To me, the most important component of this is the clear statement that the ALA President represents members in carrying out the role of chief spokesperson and collaborator with the ALA Executive Director. As a members-focused candidate, I have worked to ensure that I am aware of the issues that are of concern to our members and to propose actions that I would take as President to address those concerns. As President, my priority will be to continue to be in conversation with the ALA membership at large and align my efforts with our collective concerns. I have also worked with Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director, for many years and anticipate that we would have a very strong partnership and be highly productive in our collaboration.

“He/she also is vital to the governance of the Association and serves as presiding officer at Executive Board and Council meetings.”

At this point in my life, I have no idea how many meetings I’ve been in much less how many I have chaired – in the thousands and thousands. Last I checked I was servicing on 32 committees in my institution or in professional associations. What I do know is that I am skilled at meeting facilitation, comfortable with a variety of approaches to parliamentary procedure, and have been commended for my ability to ensure that all viewpoints have a chance to be shared. As a democratic organization, the ALA President has the responsibility of ensuring that process and procedure serves our democracy and that they do not stifle participation or engagement.

“The ALA President also serves as President of the ALA-Allied Professional Association* [ALA-APA].”

A role I welcome and embrace. See more at Why I Support the ALA-Allied Professional Association.

“Based on the experience of successful Past Presidents, an incoming ALA President should realistically expect that this position will be equal to at least a half-time job.”

Noted and prepared. (Though I also think this may be understated!) I am fully prepared to take on the full range of responsibilities of the position and understand the scope and breadth of what is required. Having served as ACRL President, I understand the nature of this kind of leadership role. I am grateful to have the support of my library administration to take on this role and dedicate the time and effort necessary to be an effective ALA President.

I was somewhat surprised to see that the job description does not include mention of advocacy or our professional values. Perhaps that is assumed as the purpose for which all of this work is done; however, from my engagement with issues related to diversity and inclusion, I believe that it is important to name the purposes for which one acts.

I did notice that this job description is from 2006 and so perhaps an update is in order. While not the kind of thing that gets a press release, I did a lot of back-of-the-house association organization work with respect to committee charges and structure as ACRL President in addition to the more outward-facing initiatives – perhaps I can do that at ALA President as well!