September 17, 2017

Meet United for Libraries’ New Executive Director, President-Elect

United for Libraries (UFL), the division of the American Library Association (ALA) that supports library trustees, Friends, and foundations, recently filled two major leadership positions. Skip Dye, VP of library marketing and digital sales at big five publisher Penguin Random House (PRH), was elected 2018–19 UFL president, and will serve as president-elect during 2017–18. Dye has been a corporate at large member of the UFL board since 2015. Beth Nawalinski, who has served as UFL deputy executive director since 2015 and has led the division’s revenue-producing programs, internal and external communications, and membership retention and growth, will step in as executive director (ED) July 31 to succeed retiring ED Sally Reed.

LJ caught up with Dye and Nawalinski to learn more about their work with UFL and their thoughts about expanding roles for library advocates.

Hotline: How did you first become involved with UFL?

SD: My connection to library trustees began before UFL was formed. The Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA) joined forces with Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA) in 2009. Before that time, PRH (then Random House) also supported this organization. PRH has promoted and celebrated the work of this division by hosting a party at ALA Midwinter and Annual in [its] honor.

BN: Libraries have been a focal point and second home to me throughout my life. Having moved extensively as a military child, the library in each town was a familiar and comfortable setting…. [My] passion for libraries led me to shift my career focus from engineering to libraries. As Public Information Specialist with the Norfolk Public Library, VA, I worked closely with the Friends of the Library group and trustees. I designed and coordinated annual advocacy campaigns on behalf of the board and Friends, and assisted the board with preparing budget presentations. Over the past 15 years, with FOLUSA and then UFL, I have worked closely with trustees to provide training, tools, resources, and guidance to help them effectively govern and advocate for their library.

Skip, what is the crossover between the work you do in publishing and your service as UFL president? Has your experience with UFL changed your perspective at PRH?

SD: I am fortunate to work with two very passionate groups that love reading, celebrate authors, and value the power of literature to change an individual, a family, and a community: PRH and libraries. From these two, my…understanding [of] the needs of libraries will add a useful perspective on another side of the library marketplace. I am a strong advocate for libraries among my colleagues and with our authors. [My UFL experience] has opened my eyes to the good works done by patrons, trustees, and friends groups in supporting their libraries. I have brought back to my marketing team and to our corporate areas at PRH valued insights and a more well-rounded understanding of the challenges facing libraries. I encourage other companies that work with libraries to become a corporate partner with UFL. The experience has proven to be invaluable.

Beth, how will your role as ED differ from other roles you’ve held at UFL?

BN: Each of the roles I’ve held within the organization has helped to prepare me for my new role. I will build on my experience in membership growth and retention, revenue development, and member engagement as I move to a greater focus on strategic planning as well as broader—and deeper—involvement within ALA and across the library community, as well as seeking out new partnership opportunities outside the library world. I am looking forward to this more outward focused aspect as well as to the strategic planning process the UFL board, members, and staff will be undertaking over the next year.

What would you like to see trustees doing more of, and what do you think is the secret of great trusteeship? How can that best be fostered?

SD: I am looking forward to learning more from library trustees. Their role with their library’s director and community leaders has never been more important. UFL is in place to understand how this new call for advocacy needs to be supported and fostered. Good partnership skills are being tested with rising financial pressures—sharing struggles and successes, offering best practices, discussing strategic fundraising ideas and how to foster partnerships with other community stakeholders like schools, businesses, and other organizations. Trustees need UFL’s support to nurture more cooperation among other libraries in their surrounding communities or in other states. Passion married with measured planning and thoughtfulness: that’s what is needed.

BN: I would like to see trustees more involved in public awareness and advocacy—not just in their local communities, but also at the state and national levels. When trustees have a broader understanding of the national issues impacting libraries at the local level, they are better able to govern, ensure adequate funding, and help the library meet their community’s needs. Great trustees have an interest in the library, time to dedicate to their role, understand the difference between governance and management, know the needs of their community and the library, stay informed about state and national issues and trends impacting libraries, and seek opportunities for continuing education as they fulfill their role on behalf of their libraries. I believe this can best be fostered when trustees join and participate in their state trustee association and UFL, and take advantage of the many tools, resources, and guidance [opportunities] available.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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