March 22, 2018

ALA Presidential Candidates Present Their Platforms | ALA Midwinter 2015

ALA_logoThe American Library Association (ALA) Presidential Candidates’ Forum, held Saturday evening, offered an opportunity for the four candidates running for the 2016–17 ALA presidency to present their platforms and answer audience questions. Candidates Joseph Janes, James LaRue, JP Porcaro, and Julie Todaro discussed their philosophies and history of service—both within and outside ALA—and answered questions on subjects ranging from their membership in ALA’s Freedom to Read Foundation to the relevance of current library education and job prospects for future librarians. Barbara Stripling, ALA president from 2013–14, moderated the forum.

LaRue and Todaro were nominated by the ALA nominating committee; Janes and Porcaro via petitions originated and signed by ALA members. The roster of candidates, announced in September 2014, offers a broad representation of service in the field, including public libraries, two- and four-year colleges, private consultancy, governmental organizations, and special interest groups.

ALA_JanesJoseph Janes, associate professor and chair of the MLIS program at the University of Washington Information School, led off his platform description by wondering—non-rhetorically—where people would be without libraries, adding, “I want to tell that story.” Having served on numerous ALA committees, including the Office for information Technology Policy Advisory Committee and the Committee for Accreditation, and as an active member of several other ALA divisions, Janes hoped that he could find ways to build a strong consensus within the organization so that it could continue to serve the greater library populace. “I tire of people thinking we’re a luxury,” he stated. “I’m tired of people thinking we are nice. We are absolutely the most important part of any community. We are the most important profession in the world.”

ALA_Jamie-LaRue-largeJames (Jamie) LaRue, CEO of LaRue & Associates and former director of the Douglas County (CO) Library System and Colorado Librarian of the year, as well as an LJ columnist on Self-Publishing and Libraries, has worked in all sectors of the library world: local, regional, statewide, and national. He has served on ALA’s Digital Content Working Group and OCLC’s executive council as well, and wants to see libraries at the heart of the digital publishing revolution, as community leaders, and as the public-facing experts on information policy. He also spoke strongly of advocating for libraries’ roles in creating lifelong learners, citing his own experiences as a child with his local bookmobile. “The purpose of ALA,” he said, is to try to pull everybody together around a few very simple and powerful things,” adding, “Librarians need to know how to talk to people who are not librarians.”

ALA_PorcaroJP Porcaro is the librarian for acquisitions and technological discovery at the New Jersey City University Guarini Library, Jersey City, NJ, and a 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker. As the first Millennial to run for the office—he founded the popular Facebook group ALA Think Tank and created the ALA Games and Gaming Round Table—he expressed concern for the next generation of American voters, and the importance that libraries be part of their landscape. Porcaro’s responses to several questions clearly reflected the concerns of many librarians today; when asked about involvement in the Freedom to Read Foundation, he noted that “ALA is a very expensive thing to be involved in, and I can’t afford to join everything,” although his institution is a member. He wants to see an ALA that values diverse librarians at all levels, he told the room, and that listens to its members: “The best way to work with divisions [within ALA] is to find out what is important to them…and to just listen.” He added, “I don’t think what I’m doing is library work. It’s human work.”

ALA_Todaro BW croppedJulie Todaro, dean of library services at Austin (TX) Community College, brings a career of service to her candidacy, including terms as president of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), president of the Texas Library Association, and chair of the Texas Council of Academic Libraries—and with this service ethic, an understanding of organizations such as ALA with many moving parts. ALA has done an extraordinary job promoting the value of libraries, she said, and now needs to do the same for librarians. “You can have the most beautiful library, the best access, the best service,” but without the people who make it happen, she explained, the library alone isn’t enough. As the only community college–affiliated candidate and a self-admitted multitasker, she expressed a strong commitment to service across the entire library spectrum—“and [the ALA presidency] is the bucket list of service.”

Voting will take place from March 24–May 1, online or via smartphone; individuals who are unable to vote online due to a disability, or who are without Internet access, can obtain a paper ballot by contacting ALA customer service. Only current ALA members in good standing as of January 31, 2015 are eligible to vote.

You can watch the entire proceedings below. For more in-depth coverage, look for LJ’s upcoming conversations with the individual candidates before the ballots open.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.



  1. With all due respect to the press, I did not say this or anything like this as I don’t feel this is true.

    **********She wants to address ALA’s role as an accrediting body for MLIS programs, concerned that “we are cranking out unemployable librarians.” ******************

    Please listen to the webcast again….and attribute this to the right person.

  2. Elizabeth Olesh says:

    Also, I’m pretty sure Mr. LaRue said, “We need to know how to talk to people who are not librarians,” in the context of his comments on community-building.

    • Regina Renee says:

      Elizabeth, you are correct. Mr. LaRue made the point that we know how to talk to librarians, but we need to know how to talk to people who are not librarians.

  3. Could you correct my name as well?

  4. Jules Shore says:

    I appreciate that you’re highlighting the Presidential Candidates’ Forum for your readership. Why not link to the whole record on YouTube for the sake of those interested in watching it all?

    • Thank you, Jules! I was looking for that link on the LJ report!

    • C. Rankin says:

      I’m glad they’re highlighting it, too, but I can’t believe the errors in attribution and even names that appeared in this article. No excuse, really. There’s a recording, and the names and positions are readily available from a variety of sources. LJ really seems to cover ALA news grudgingly, and it shows.

  5. Lisa Peet Lisa Peet says:

    Corrections and suggestions all appreciated — thank you.

  6. Greg Tomasino says:

    Such suffering seen by Library Journal reporters during the ALA’s recent Midwinter conference. It must have been like reporting from Afghanistan. I have an idea that will save Library Journal money and time next Midwinter conference: don’t attend! The “articles” here about the event in Library Journal were written well after the conference was over and could easily have been pieced together from press releases and other news sources (even the weather complaints). They probably would have been more accurate. Stay in New York or wherever and save yourselves the pain and the expense.

  7. Gretchen McCord says:

    When I first read the following statement in this report, I was appalled:

    [W]hen asked about involvement in the Freedom to Read Foundation, [JP Porcaro] noted that “ALA is a very expensive thing to be involved in, and I can’t afford to join everything.”

    My first interpretation of this statement was that Mr. Porcaro thinks it is not worth the $35/year basic membership fee to support the only organization in the country dedicated to protecting, defending, and promoting our First Amendment right to receive information and, more specifically, the First Amendment rights of libraries. After all, the right to receive information is THE most fundamental right represented by libraries and librarians. It is the very foundation of the majority of our activities in our professional practices, as well as our professional ethics and values.

    I appreciate the fact that librarianship is a massively underpaid profession, and it wasn’t the idea that Mr. Porcaro might choose to spend his money elsewhere that bothered me. It was the idea that a future President of the ALA could be putting forth the idea that supporting the First Amendment right to read is not a worthwhile endeavour and, just as importantly, the complete lack of trepidation in publicly stating such.

    Then I realized that I was being too harsh. As I thought about it, I realized that Mr. Porcaro probably isn’t familiar with the Freedom to Read Foundation and doesn’t realize it’s not just another interest-based unit of ALA (in fact, it’s not a part of ALA at all but an independent non-profit affiliated with ALA; see for more information). I’m sure that Mr. Porcaro’s intention was not to disparage FTRF or the First Amendment, its value to libraries, or the responsibility of librarians to support First Amendment rights.

    But there’s still a real problem here. The problem is not that Mr. Porcaro doesn’t know about the Freedom to Read Foundation.

    The problem is that, for those who are familiar with FTRF, or those who might look into it after it was raised in this forum, his statement implies that FTRF is not important enough to be worth the support of a would-be President of the American Library Association.

    The problem (assuming it was not his intent to send such a message) is that he spoke without really thinking through the ramifications of his statement or the fact that it was being made in such a very public forum, which would become even more public when the recording of the forum was posted online.

    LIke it or not, the role of President of ALA is a very political and highly public position. This person may testify before Congress, be interviewed by national media, and negotiate with powerful industry lobbies, among other important tasks.

    This gaffe on Mr. Porcaro’s part strongly suggests that he is not yet ready for such a position. And at this pivotal time for libraries, libraries cannot afford someone as ALA President who is not ready.

    • I’m sorry, but I just have to point out that the membership rate for a “regular” library is $135 dollars, not $35 and that IS expensive. $35 is the fee for student members. And that’s $135 before you add memberships to the subgroups like ACRL or RUSA.

    • I’m sorry, but that’s not a lot of money for dues for a professional membership. It’s a little more than $11/month. If someone is in a position where $11 a month will break them, perhaps spending time leading the organization isn’t the best use of their time…

    • Mr. Porcaro’s comment about the costs of membership is one that ALA should be heeding. ALA membership is $135 per year, and then there are additional fees if you want to be part of AASL ($50), ALCTS ($65), ALSC ($50), ACRL ($60), ASCLA ($54), LLAMA ($50), LITA ($60), PLA ($70), RUSA ($60), YALSA ($60), and the 20 or so different round tables at $15-$20 each. FTRF is an additional $35, and membership in state organizations is additional to that. Librarians have to make choices. The various divisions, round tables, and organizations are competing with each other for membership and funds.

      That one might forgo membership in the FTRF for membership in an ALA division is a function of financial reality for many librarians, and an understandable choice given that ALA membership includes support of its own Office for Intellectual Freedom which overlaps the work of the FTRF. The FTRF acknowledges this overlap in its strategic plan, citing its relationship to the ALA as both a strength and a weakness.

      In that strategic plan, the FTRF lists awareness of the organization as its first goal, and it lists expanding membership among librarians as the first objective in support of that goal. Despite acknowledging that awareness of their organization is a major issue to be addressed, here the FTRF chooses to chastise a candidate for not being sufficiently aware or supportive of the work of the FTRF simply because he does not have a personal membership (though his library has an institutional one and he publicly states his support for your work). It also cites itself above as “the only organization in the country dedicated to protecting, defending, and promoting” the First Amendment when libraries all over the country do this every day. The ALA does this every day.

      I don’t think Mr. Porcaro made a gaffe. He expressed a reality regarding the difficulty in attending to the diversity of issues that libraries and librarians face every day, only one of which is free speech. Instead of polishing his words in political-speak, he spoke unvarnished truth: the librarian who can’t afford multiple memberships is a microcosm for librarianship, which struggles to do justice to all of its causes.

      I think the FTRF missed an opportunity here to build its relationship with librarians, to teach readers about how our two organizations can collaborate, and to invite the newest generation of librarians to be involved. Instead, it chose to take offense at what it perceived as lack of awareness on the part of Mr. Porcaro and to insult Mr. Porcaro with a shallow review of his statements. As a founder of the ALA Think Tank (no relation to ALA), Mr. Porcaro has thousands of followers, many from the newest generation of librarians with whom the FTRF recognizes it has a perception issue: “FTRF is perceived as too ‘clubby’ and closed to new generations of members” (FTRF Strategic Plan). If there was a gaffe made here, I think it belongs to the FTRF.

    • AnotherUnderemployedLibrarian says:

      His statement about FTRF does not have any weight as to why I do not think he is ALA President material.

      I have been in the public library field for over 8 years and I have never heard of the FTRF mentioned among library peers. Your whole comment reeks of snobbishness, that’s not going to win over any public librarian who has never heard of this foundation. HE’S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF ALA NOT FTRF. It’s bad enough that I feel like ALA does not do enough to support this profession effectively and efficiently, what can FTRF do for library workers on the frontlines?

      Who would have ever thought that I would be defending THIS guy…

  8. regular librarian*