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Sunday, March 1, 2015

LaRue ALA presidential statement

[As published in the March/April 2015 issue of American Libraries.]

Librarianship is at a tipping point. We have challenges. But there has never, not in human history, been a time so thrilling to be in our field.  A new generation of librarians - more diverse, more tech-savvy, bringing a new kind of social energy - is joining us and our colleagues at just the right moment. Every day, we are working together to make a difference to our larger communities - school, academic, public, and an emerging global culture.

I have spent my career as librarian, community leader, newspaper columnist, radio and TV show host, writer, teacher, and a leader of statewide, regional, national, and even international efforts in positioning the library for tomorrow. If we are to survive and thrive in that tomorrow, we must shift public perceptions of our roles.  As ALA President, I will not only communicate the services we provide, but also highlight our value in strengthening our communities.  Here are three ways I will focus public attention:

First, we must elevate librarians as community leaders.  We should turn outward, build on the exciting work of "embedded librarianship" and take it up a notch. Imagine librarians who catalog their community (school, university, or civic) leaders, conduct in-depth conversations to identify shared aspirations and concerns, then pick and deliver high impact projects that move whole communities forward.

Second, we must unleash our power in the marketplace. This means we should define digital publishing agreements that enhance our purchasing power, increase access, and honor creators. This is a time of experimentation: we need larger scale, statewide or regional infrastructure, library-run repositories that make common cause with our scholars, students, authors, musicians, and artists. We need to embrace the disruption of digital publishing by stepping into the heart of the revolution. We must move from gatekeeper to gardener, along the lines of the Digital Public Library of America, the Douglas County Libraries model, Califa, the statewide experiments of Massachusetts, Arizona, and Colorado.  With the explosion of independent and self-publishing, we have an unprecedented opportunity to give voice to those who have been ignored or marginalized for so long.

Finally, we must showcase our leadership as 21st century literacy champions. This starts with early childhood literacy. Children with an abundance of books in their homes are healthier as children, and live longer as adults. They stay in school and stay out of jail. They make more money and enjoy a better quality of life. information-literate adults are armed with the skills and knowledge they need to live, learn, work, and govern in communities that can compete and flourish in an information society. Our message must penetrate the culture of our media and public policymakers. It must communicate how we make our society healthier, and increase the freedom, productivity and creativity of our constituents.

A vote for me is a vote toward this new reality of librarians as bold, deeply engaged and informed community leaders--valued partners in the work of discovery and creation.

And do vote! I am honored to be among the candidates for your president. Speak up about the kind of leadership you want ALA to demonstrate. ALA needs your thoughtful participation. Together, we can position the library of tomorrow to make a real difference in the future of our many interrelated communities.

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