Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion

“ALA must be a platform for participation and empowerment. My focus will be on creating an ethos of hospitality that welcomes all members and removes barriers to participation across the association. Many in ALA have worked to identify and eliminate practices of exclusion; however, an ethos of hospitality requires more. We must also create and support practices of inclusion. It is not enough to remove barriers; we must also build bridges. We must intentionally create space for diversity to strengthen ALA as an inclusive and collegial community of practice.”
(Lisa’s Candidate Statement: An Ethos of Hospitality)


 

As a candidate for ALA President, I’ve spoken repeatedly about my priority for fostering diversity and inclusion. I believe the issues we face are systemic. As systemic issues, they demand systematic solutions and collective action. Systematic and collective are exactly the kinds of things that an association should be able to do and I am ready to lead us in this work as ALA President.

We have serious issues in our field. Data from ALA shows that the number and percent of librarians from traditionally underrepresented groups has been in decline for years. Chris Bourg wrote a very informative blog post, The Unbearable Whiteness of Librarianship, on the lack of diversity in the profession and included thoughtful analysis of the recruitment efforts that we would need for the profession’s racial diversity to match that of the United States. The data are sobering.

I also believe – based more on personal observation and conversations (since the research base is still developing on these topics) – that the profession also needs to look hard at issues related to retention. Librarians have skills that they can use in many different settings. Are we making certain that libraries are workplaces of choice because they are workplaces of diversity, equity, and inclusion? If people choose libraries as their workplaces of choice, what environment do they find within those libraries? Do they find an environment that is supportive of their growth and development? An environment in which diversity and inclusion are central to mission and prioritized by administration? Or, do they find a hostile and threatening setting that drives them out of the profession?

We also need to acknowledge that, while the ranks of those who have an MLS are not as diverse as we want, many times the staff in our libraries are much more diverse in their composition. We need to ask ourselves some serious questions about why our diversity is concentrated in lower paid positions. We need to ask why there are a the lack of pathways from staff positions to librarian positions and whether we have structured a system that creates barriers and disincentives for a staff-to-librarian pathway. And, we must ask ourselves how we can change.

I admit that I do not have easy answers to offer. I have a lot of questions and I think that we have a lot of work to do. This work requires inclusive, honest, and sometimes bracing conversations. The ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion has done a great job engaging the ALA membership in its work. I attended a session they hosted at the National Conference of African American Librarians last fall and was inspired by the discussion. The work of this task force has already raised awareness and laid the foundation for future action.

April Hathcock, who is running for ALA Council, is also doing great work to amplify conversations about diversity and inclusion through her blog At the Intersection. I also recommend Jennifer Vinopal’s essay, The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action, for understanding how privilege, bias, and power effect diversity and inclusion in our field. Her recommended practical steps for library leaders function as a strong call to action and engagement on these issues.

It is crucial that we also move from conversation to action. Figuring out the right action to take when so many have tried things that have not worked will be challenging. But, because there is so much energy waiting to be unleashed from people who are passionate about these issues, I am hopeful. I believe we are ready for deep engagement with some very big and long-standing structural problems within our society as well as within our profession and I would welcome the opportunity to support and foster that engagement as ALA President.

Finally, above all, as ALA President, I promise that I will listen. I will ask questions. I will engage. I know that cannot rely on my own privileged experience as my only guide. As ALA President, I promise to create space for diversity, to champion inclusion, and to dismantle exclusion. That is the Ethos of Hospitality that I will bring to the association.


 

Note: Though I have focused on racial and ethnic diversity in this essay, we have work to do with respect to other aspects of inclusion as well. As an example, while I’m pleased that ALA has charged a Conference Accessibility Task Force to look closely at ways to improve accessibility at conference, I also look forward to follow-on work that examines other barriers to participation in ALA for members with disabilities. I was disappointed that ALA did not include the onsite captions in the YouTube video of the Candidates Forum from Midwinter. I made a personal donation to Circulating Ideas to fund transcription of the podcast interview with all three president candidates because it is important to me that members with hearing disabilities have access to candidate information. My commitment to extending digital inclusion practices will also enable participation for people who are not able to travel to events. I am confident that there are additional strategies that would improve inclusion for members with disabilities and look forward to conversations on this topic as well.


 

[This post draws on the Q&A with the Black Caucus of ALA, my reflection on attending the National Conference of African American Librariansmy interview with Circulating Ideas podcast, my Candidate Statement, and a number of other Reflections blog posts. I’ve synthesized here but for easier reading did not make many referring links within the narrative. I’ve talked about these issues so often that almost every sentence could have more than one footnote!]

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.

Committed to Privacy, Data Security and Civil Liberties

The Apple/FBI court case has raised threats to privacy, data security, and civil liberties to a new level of public awareness and media attention. I am pleased that ALA has been actively monitoring the case and I am proud of our advocacy for privacy and constitutional freedoms.

I believe 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.

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Many conference calls and webinar presentations on privacy mean my headset gets used a lot!

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 Principles, Policies, and Procedures: From Values to Organizational Practices (strategies for developing library privacy policies) during a NISO Privacy Webinar – Understanding Library Policies. And, announced today, I will be co-presenting an ACRL Webinar with Andrew Asher on Privacy and the Online Classroom: Learning Analytics, Ethical Considerations, and Responsible Practice in April. Andrew and I have presented together previously and materials from our 2015 ALA Annual presentation, All the Data: Privacy, Service Quality, and Analytics are freely available.  I’ll also be an invited speaker on Learning Analytics: Opportunities and Risks at the “At the Intersection: Libraries & the Digital Learning Ecosystem” conference that is being hosted by the CIC Center for Library Initiatives.

ALA has a new director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, Jamie LaRue. If you didn’t have a chance to participate in the webinar “Meet Jamie LaRue!” I highly recommend listening to the recording. I appreciate Jamie’s strong commitment to our library values and participatory approach to engaging with those who seek to challenge library materials or censor others.

As ALA President, I would be pleased to work with Jamie and proud to speak out on behalf of our commitment to privacy, freedom, and civic liberties.

Call for Expressions of Interest and/or Nominations

Call for Expressions of Interest and/or Nominations!
Lisa_coaster_red

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 now so we are ready to go.

There are specific projects that I have promised but there will also be other projects that emerge.

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

https://illinois.edu/sb/sec/2832718

A Supporter of School Libraries and Library Workers

I want to share with you my commitment to school libraries and school library workers.

At Midwinter, I had a chance to meet with the Board of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) to discuss the recent passage of ESSA and how I would approach advocacy for school libraries and librarians with national agencies and state education departments as ALA President.

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

My support for school libraries is not just in the abstract. In my career, I have worked as a school librarian and used my roles in higher education to advocate for school libraries and librarians. My work includes:

  • Acting Head of University Laboratory High School Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2004), while Frances Harris was on sabbatical writing her book, I Found It On the Internet: Coming of Age Online.
  • Founder and convener of the Central Illinois Library Instruction Group (1999-2002), which brought together high school and college librarians in the region to foster partnerships around information literacy, teaching, and learning.
  • Member of School Library Implementation Task Force (2013), OITP Digital Literacy Task Force (2011-2013, and the National Expert Panel for the OLS Libraries, Literacy, and Gaming Initiative (2008-2011) in ALA.
  • Workshop leader on k-20 curricular alignment and high school-to-college transition.
  • Speaker at past AASL and Treasure Mountain conferences.
  • Author of “Technology and the Concept of Information Literacy for Pre-Service Teachers.” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 22(1), 7-18.
  • Mentor and instructor for many students studying school librarianship in the UIUC Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
  • Engaged with support for school libraries internationally, e.g., at the IFLA 2015 Satellite Conference on School Libraries & Guided Inquiry: Taking Stock & Taking Action.
  • Focused my ALA President campaign platform on supporting member engagement, digitally inclusive practices in ALA, and active advocacy for library workers salaries, benefits, and workplace conditions, which are particularly important for small libraries with challenging budget situations.
  • Support and advocacy for ESSA using materials from AASL.

I believe we must work to ensure librarians in every school and inclusion of school libraries in education funding and policy frameworks. Our children deserve the benefits of having a school library and librarian and our society needs informed and well-educated graduates.

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Library portal that supports our student teachers.

As I have always worked at institutions that educate future teachers, I’ve also worked to ensure that future teachers understand the potential of partnering with their school librarians. I was particularly proud to fund the development of our Library’s portal: Take Us to School! Resources for Student Teachers.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of school libraries and librarians. I welcome the opportunity to amplify the work of AASL as ALA President!

As an International and Global Librarian

I’m regularly reminded of the phrase “Global Reach, Local Touch,” the theme of my colleague Barbara Ford, professor emerita of the University of Illinois Library, when she was ALA President in 1997-1998.

Engaging internationally has been a great joy of my career. I have had the opportunity to share my experiences with and to learn from librarians on every continent. Seeing libraries across the world has broadened my perspective, further strengthened my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and enhanced my abilities to serve locally.

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Leading a discussion on Education for Information Literacy Practitioners at IFLA 2014 with 150+ people attending.

I have been active in International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) since 2001, when I attended my first IFLA conference in Boston. I’m excited to welcome delegates to the IFLA Conference back to the United States this year for the meeting in Columbus, Ohio. I currently serve on the Standing Committee of the IFLA Information Literacy Section, to which I was originally appointed as a representative of ALA and ACRL. I have also served on the Standards Procedures Manual Working Group of the IFLA Committee on Standards. I have helped organize and have presented at multiple satellite and world congress programs.

I’ve also been internationally engaged through ALA. I currently serve on the International Relations Committee and enjoy using my expertise in global education and information policy in the context of the committee’s work. I am also a member of the International Relations Roundtable (IRRT). I served on the IRRT  International Reception Committee and contributed to the IRRT 60th Anniversary Endowment Campaign.

Locally, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a very international university and so too is our University Library. The campus has more than 10,000 international students as well as 2015 international faculty and staff. The University Library’s collections include nearly 2 million volumes in over 150 languages.

The University Library is also home to the globally-renowned Mortenson Center for International Library Programs, which aims to strengthen international ties among libraries and librarians worldwide for the promotion of international education, understanding, and peace and has provided professional development programs to library workers from more than 90 countries. It has been a pleasure to meet with many of the groups who have visited our campus, to serve as a Mortenson Friend (local mentor), and to provide training at the University of Ghana through one of Mortenson’s international grants.

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Conducting a week-long workshop on information literacy capacity for JULAC libraries in Hong Kong in January 2016.

My library colleague Lian Ruan, current president of the Chinese American Librarians Association (CALA), hosts the annual Chinese Librarians Scholarly Exchange Program and it has been my honor to work with many of the groups as well as hundreds of other visiting scholars, members of delegations, etc. I am a life member of CALA and have found CALA resources useful in my work locally and in the information literacy professional development training that I have conducted in Hong Kong for ACRL and JULAC.

With my colleague Clara Chu, who is also affiliate faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at Illinois, I have developed the course LIS590IIP: International Information Associations and Policy, which will be offered for the first time this coming summer.

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Speaking on technology implications for libraries at the SLA Arabian Gulf Chapter Conference 2015 in Abu Dhabi.

My interest in global librarianship has also led me to take course in the Global Studies in Education program in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at Illinois.

I am currently working on a research project to examine the trends in international doctoral student enrollment in the United States and whether students return to their home countries when they complete their studies.

I have great passion for engaging internationally. I would welcome the opportunity to represent ALA to the global library community!

Leadership Q+A

Library Lost & Found:Library Leaders Dropping Knowledge asked the candidates for ALA President a series of questions. My answers are below and also posted online. I welcome feedback and your perspectives! I ask for your vote.

Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe
ALA President Candidate

Introductory Statement:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these questions and engage with Library Lost & Found (LL&F) readers. I particularly enjoy the Leader Interview series on the blog. Hearing other people’s stories and insights is a great way to reflection on one’s own story and purpose and find new ideas and inspirations.

I invite LL&F readers to visit my website (http://lisa4ala.org) for more information about my candidacy for ALA President. Please 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). I hope to have your vote in the ALA President election!

  1. What does library leadership mean to you?

To me, library leadership means acting in service to individuals and society through one’s work in libraries or in other settings as guided by the values of librarianship. Though there are leadership positions – those with specific management and administrative responsibilities – in libraries, I believe leadership-in-action is not restricted to formal positions. Library leadership can be enacted by anyone who works proactively to influence how libraries develop in order to better meet the needs of their communities.

As such, my leadership approach is highly participatory and democratic. When I was head of the Undergraduate Library at the University of Illinois I worked with an external consultant on an organizational development initiative. The consultant asked who should be involved in the team and I immediately responded: “everyone who works here – all of the librarians and staff!” He was surprised that I would choose to have 30+ people on a team but I couldn’t imagine re-thinking the organization and how we did our work without everyone’s involvement. My belief is that we have too much important work to do in our libraries and professional organizations to leave anyone’s perspectives and talents behind!

  1. Who has inspired you as a library leader?

So many people have inspired me as a library leader that this post would be way too long if I named them all! So, let me choose one person to tell you about and what I learned from working with her.

Mary Ellen Davis is the Executive Director of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), which is a division of the American Library Association. I had the privilege of working with her when I was ACRL President in 2010-2011. It was a very busy year. There is a full annual report but let me highlight a few items that underscore just how busy it was:

In addition to working with me as ACRL President, and the ACRL Board of Directors as a group, Mary Ellen was also supervising a staff of approximately 40 FTE located in Chicago (at ALA headquarters) and in Middleton, Connecticut (where Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries is located). And of course, she is accountable to both the ALA Executive Director as well as 11,000+ ACRL members!

Why do I list all of this? Because I think it makes it clear why Mary Ellen is such an inspiration to me. Her workload is intense and she is accountable to many different stakeholders. As I worked with her I observed many characteristics that I have sought to emulate but let me reflect on just a few:

  • Coaching – Mary Ellen works to bring out the best in everyone. She has the ability to assess peoples’ strengths and support them as they develop in areas of weakness, all the while helping them feel an increasing sense of confidence. As my term as President progressed, I felt supported but also challenged and was a more effective leader for her investment in me. I’m also a better mentor and coach for others now because I learned from her approach.
  • Compassion – Mary Ellen’s attention to the individual person, not just the position that they have, is rooted in a deep-seated compassion and care for others. Her first response when someone is struggling is “how can I help”– not to take over but to be supportive. She brings a calm sense of purpose to these moments that I admire and I learned from her how to better discern what is needed in a moment of crisis.
  • Commitment – Mary Ellen is “all in” as the saying goes. She is committed to the association, its members, and her staff as well as librarianship and libraries more generally. I remember the first time I visited her office – there was a sign on the door: “to serve and delight members.” This clear and visible statement of purpose inspired me to challenge myself to have clarity of my own purpose and to make it know to others.

Let me add a personal note that Mary Ellen also brings a playfulness to her work that is absolutely delightful. Because of her, I’ve learned to bring fun into even the most serious work because it is not only more enjoyable but also more effective!

  1. Tell us about your career path. When did you decide to take on a leadership role?

My path into librarianship started in fall 1989 when I started college at the University of St. Thomas and took a library tour. The librarian mentioned that they were hiring work-study students. I applied on the spot – it seemed like a great job given my intention to go to law school! A year in, I had changed my career aspirations and prepared to head off to library school after graduation. I’m very grateful to Janice Kragness, then a reference librarian, who first suggested librarianship to me. I was an intern at the Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Minnesota State Department of Education as well. During library school, I worked in the Reference and Agriculture Libraries as well as the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Beth Woodard was a wonderful mentor and helped me discover my specialty area within librarianship.

I started my first librarian position as Reference Librarian in 1995 at Parkland (Community) College and became the Library Instruction Coordinator at Illinois State University in 1998. I started at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2002, where I am now Professor and Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library and Affiliated Faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. At Illinois, I have also served as Acting Head of the University High School Library, Head of the Undergraduate Library, Acting Coordinator for Staff Development and Training, and the Coordinator for Strategic Planning. I am also very engaged with students in the LIS program.

Going back to my definition of library leadership, I have tried to serve the needs of individuals and society throughout my career. While I was in library school, I learned about ALA and observed how effective it was to work across institutional boundaries and library types. I decided then that I wanted to contribute to that work.

My first appointment in ALA was on the ACRL Instruction Section Name Change Implementation Task Force (changing the name from Bibliographic Instruction Section) and also I served as an intern on the ACRL Instruction Section Membership Committee that year. I must have done okay since I was asked to step in as chair of the Membership Committee when there was an unexpected mid-year vacancy!

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to serve in a variety of leadership roles, and I always find it rewarding to serve the profession and to work collaboratively with colleagues. It is an honor to contribute to our community of practice.

  1. What specific skills would you recommend ALA members learn to enhance their leadership abilities?

The specific skills that I would recommend ALA members learn in order to enhance their leadership abilities are those related to appreciative inquiry. The appreciative inquiry approach to organizational change was originally articulated by David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney and is based in a:

“search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential.” (What is Appreciative Inquiry?)

I noticed that Jon Cawthorne, a library leader I admire, mentioned the book Appreciative Inquiry in his LF&F leader interview as well!

Starting from an appreciation of strengths and identifying what individuals and groups do well is a strong foundation for addressing challenging circumstances and overcoming barriers. By engaging a community in finding solutions together, we can build partnerships to address areas of weakness and, like individual strands braided into a rope, together we are stronger than we can be on our own.

  1. What change do you want to see in the library world?

In my candidate statement, An Ethos of Hospitality, I detail my priority for eliminating exclusion and achieving inclusion in our library work.

I am very proud of ALA and the work that we do together as colleagues. By joining together, we accomplish more than we can alone. We are a strong community of practice. But, we can be stronger. I believe that ALA must be a platform for participation and empowerment.

Many in ALA have worked to identify and eliminate practices of exclusion; however, an ethos of hospitality requires more. We must also create and support practices of inclusion. It is not enough to remove barriers; we must also build bridges. We must intentionally create space for diversity to strengthen ALA as an inclusive and collegial community of practice.

Here are four specific actions to expect from me as ALA President:

  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 exclude 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). 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.  I welcome the opportunity to lead ALA, our strong community of practice that can be made stronger. I invite all LL&F readers to join me in this work.

ALA Members Sent “Blast Email” Today

All ALA members with their communications preference set to receive email from ALA were sent a “Blast Email” from each of the candidates for ALA President today. I’m reproducing mine below as well. Please vote for me!


I write today to ask Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe for
 ALA Presidentfor your vote as a Candidate for ALA President.

I won’t take much of your time but let me address the question “Why Lisa?”

  • I have a proven track record of leadership though inclusive practices. I have led strategic planning processes in my own organization as well as in ACRL.  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.
  • I detail specific action items in my Candidate Statement so that ALA members can hold me accountable to my promise to support greater inclusion and member engagement in ALA.

Standing for election for the ALA Presidency is a great honor. I’ve relied on colleagues in ALA at every stage in my career – as an undergraduate student exploring career options, as a graduate student considering LIS specializations, as an information literacy specialist, as a school librarian, and as an LIS educator.  I want to give back to the community that has given me so much.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my candidacy with you. For more information, please visit my website (http://lisa4ala.org) and be in touch via email (lisalibrarian@gmail.com), Facebook (http://facebook.com/lisa4ala/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/lisa4alaprez or https://twitter.com/lisalibrarian).

Thank you for your vote.

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