The American Library Association (ALA)’s burgeoning budget crisis and dip in membership shows the group is having a tough time thriving as a multi-type library organization. It might be easy to cast a net of blame across the tepid economy, the aging profession, even entrenched leadership in ALA itself. But we think ALA’s membership woes are caused by a lack of unity across librarianship, a problem that is reinforced by ALA’s organizational structure and too narrow publications. In the tradition of thinking such as Andy Woodworth’s ‘big tent’ librarianship, we believe the leadership of the ALA should be at the forefront of unifying librarianship, working to link our academic, public, and school libraries and librarians. Instead, we shudder as we see ALA working to reinforce silos that separate public, academic, and school libraries from one another, rather than bridges to connect them.
Imagine that you bought a new jacket on Amazon.com and received an email a month later from the manufacturer telling you that you paid the wrong amount for the jacket and that you owe the company several hundred dollars more. This may seem implausible, but for academic libraries that buy DVDs through distributors like Amazon.com, it is a recurring problem: after buying DVDs at retail prices, they get an official-looking email saying they owe more.
The American Library Association (ALA) recently announced a statement of appropriate conduct for ALA conferences. This statement is a mechanism for addressing disputes, but it is also a declaration of values: it signals to everyone who we are. Furthermore, it’s part of an ongoing dialog about inclusion in library-related conference communities.
LIS faculties need diversity: more so of gender, of ability, of thought, and of race and ethnicity. If we as a profession keep saying that we must recruit more minority students because this makes us better prepared to serve increasingly diverse patron populations, shouldn’t we do the same at the faculty ranks?
The iconic image of library workers pushing book trucks is quickly slipping into obsolescence. According to figures from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), student employment in libraries dropped 23 percent between 2000 and 2010, while support staff declined 16 percent. If the 2008 recession played a role in these declines, it somehow failed to prevent the library professional category from rising 9 percent in the same period. In fact, it is the evolving nature of library work that is driving these changes, not the recession. Lower skill library work is disappearing, and it will never come back.
What would happen to our libraries if the following statement became a reality: “If you can buy a book, you can’t borrow it?” What if I told you that it’s on the verge of happening internationally, and in a way that is pretty despicable? For years, international negotiations have been moving forward on a treaty is to make it possible for people who are blind, or have other print disabilities like dyslexia, to get access to the books they need. At first, private interests were supportive. Then, they realized they could squeeze something out of this treaty that would greatly benefit them—stricter international copyright law.
The personality, or personomy, or personhood/agency, of Edward Snowden is drawing lots of attention at the moment. He has been attacked and praised. As I have written elsewhere, some of those attacks walk parallel lines to a lie, but here I’d like to consider something that happened way back in the last decade. Forget Snowden for a minute.
Michael Kelley’s April 29, 2013 editorial “Can We Talk about the MLS?” and the 157 comments posted to that article so far prompted us to consider accountability for the American Library Association’s (ALA) accreditation of graduate programs in library and information science. The ALA Standards emphasize what programs must accomplish in terms of strategic planning and student learning outcomes. ALA does not dictate what those outcomes should be nor does it specify any particular courses that must be offered in an MLIS program. So, what does it mean to be a graduate of an ALA accredited program?
During the past twelve years, librarianship has been my ticket to adventure. Fueled by wanderlust and a burning curiosity about libraries and locations all over the U.S., I embarked on an expedition of discovery just after receiving my MLIS. During this journey, I worked on all three coasts and gained invaluable experience in academic libraries that included community colleges and universities large and small, public and private. I have seen exemplary practices and have survived dysfunction. I have interviewed countless times and have sat on the other side of the interview table as a search committee member on many occasions. Some of the places and faces I have encountered I miss dearly. Others looked best as they shrank in my rear-view mirror. I have laughed, I have learned. I have made mistakes that I’m hoping to help you avoid.
Library leaders at all levels are, and will be, in great demand in the coming days and years. Our profession is caught in the societal turbulence that grips us all. Budgets are tight, debts are huge, and technology is forcing change in all facets of society. These challenges will demand energetic and wise leadership if our profession is to prosper. What qualities will best enable our leaders to lead successfully for themselves, their libraries, and the profession?