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Conversations with our Future Librarians

As a part of my campaign for the ALA presidency, I decided to go ahead and put into place some of my ideas about increasing the inclusiveness of ALA.  I have been conducting virtual town halls with students in graduate library programs.  What a wonderful opportunity to see the future of our profession!

In our conversations, these prospective librarians have been both excited by the possibilities that the digital environment offers for rethinking library services and understandably apprehensive about finding a job when they graduate.  ALA has a responsibility in both of those areas.

Libraries are contending with a number of complex issues on the e-resource front. The graduate students were concerned about copyright, rights management, and access to information.  In my opinion, ALA must be a strong partner at the table in negotiations with publishers, authors, and intermediaries.  We must carry to the table our own business plan that affirms the rights of our users to have equitable access to information while still recognizing the publishers’ rights management and business concerns.  ALA must be active and assertive in these discussions.

Beyond the very complicated e-book issue, ALA must support a comprehensive and holistic picture of libraries in the virtual world.  Members in our various divisions and units are tackling major issues of cataloging, organization, digitization, preservation, curation, instruction, and virtual services, but ALA must do a better job of recognizing and connecting those conversations and solutions.  Surely graduate school should not be the last place where library professionals have a glimpse of the whole field of librarianship.

ALA also bears responsibility to ensure that dynamic library positions are available for our new graduates.  The national conversation that we are starting about transforming libraries will provide space in the library ecosystem for those who balance flexible thinking and technology skills with core library principles and values.  ALA must engage in measuring and communicating the value of all types of libraries in terms that the public will understand.  ALA’s imperative is to build a strong public will for libraries as core to our communities.

Perhaps the best professional support that ALA can offer to graduate library students is to reach out and connect them to ALA’s community.  Opportunities to build expertise, relationships, and leadership skills must be made available in both face-to-face and virtual spaces.  ALA must foster continuing, interactive conversations with all of our members.  Virtual town halls are a good place to start.