Andrew Medlar: 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President Elect Candidate

In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts today consist of interviews with the candidates for 2014-15 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect: Tim Wadham and Andrew Medlar. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.

This afternoon’s interview is with Andrew Medlar:

1.      What do you consider the most important role of the ALSC President?

Medlar Photo 2(1)

Photo supplied by Andrew Medlar

The ALSC President must enthusiastically and wisely lead our organization along the track of our strategic plan toward the Big Hairy Audacious Goal of ensuring that libraries are recognized as vital to all children and the communities that support them. A key element of that is the responsibility to facilitate and support the brilliant work that our members are doing every day and to represent us to the rest of ALA and the wider world.

2.      What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?

I like to put ideas into action, and one thing that will enable me to do this effectively as President is my knowledge of, and experience with, how the structure of ALSC and ALA functions. I know what it’s like to serve on and chair ALSC committees and task forces, I’ve represented ALSC not only on Council (where I co-convene the Youth Council Caucus) but also other ALA bodies such as the Planning & Budget Assembly, and I served as ALSC Budget Committee chair twice during the beginning of the Great Recession. My current position on the ALSC Board’s Executive Committee gives me insight and participation on current issues, and my day job as Assistant Commissioner at Chicago Public Library continually sharpens my skills in advocating and building consensus in order to improve library service. However above all, I believe that my greatest strength is passion for our work as an association and as individual members.

3.      What area of library service to children is your favorite?

It’s impossible for me to pick just one because they really are all so connected. Since a single shift in the children’s room can involve programming, reference, collection development, advocacy, and picking up and putting away all of the Duplos, we have to be sure to recognize and actively appreciate how all of the many different aspects of the work our members do comes together to create a better future for kids. And, actually, I think THAT is my favorite part of library service to children: the variety, because no day is ever dull!

4.      Why should someone choose to join ALSC? What services do you feel ALSC provides that are valuable to new members? To long-term members?

If someone should buy real estate because of location, location, location, someone should join ALSC because of people, people, people. It’s so valuable the way we as members collaborate on advocacy, education, and access, and these aren’t just words in our strategic plan. As specific ALSC goal areas these are commitments that our organization has made to ourselves and from which all of us benefit. ALSC’s Mentoring Program is a great example of how ALSC can serve both new and long-term members in different ways even at the same time, and in all of our efforts we recognize and share different perspectives and common challenges, which is advantageous for everyone.

5.      What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? What are your ideas to recruit new members?

At Midwinter in Philadelphia I met a local group of fabulous new and soon-to-be ALSC members who had come to observe the Youth Council Caucus meeting, and their energy, ideas, initiative, and questions were so exciting! And while that kind of personal connection is wonderful, to reach more folks who don’t have such convenient or economical access to a national library event in their backyard, the continuing development of the ALSC Roadshow is a fantastic way to find and encourage new members where they’re at.

And we also need to do more of that electronically, as I’m a firm believer in continuing to strengthen the virtual work we’ve already begun. During my service on several virtual task forces and in many online ALSC community forums I’ve experienced first-hand how well they can work, and am also very aware of the ways in which they need continual development. And moving forward, the need for ALSC to liaise with even more non-library associations and groups concerned with youth issues will continue to grow in importance in our inter-related world and will bring even more members, and often less traditional ones, into our community.

6.      How has ALSC membership impacted your life?  How has your membership in ALSC impacted library service to children?

ALSC has given me education, fun, opportunity, and friends, which I consider a fantastic bargain! And I’m always conscious of the importance of sharing those benefits with my colleagues and kids. This can run the gamut from sharing the latest research on the role of play in learning from an ALSC white paper to sharing my real-life experience with others during a Mock Caldecott discussion to sharing a new fingerplay I read about on ALSC-L.

7.     Changes in the economy and advances in technology are dramatically impacting libraries. What are your thoughts on how ALSC can best continue to be a positive force for librarians, for libraries, and for children?

Looking for ways to be increasingly nimble is important for this premier membership organization in such a rapidly evolving profession as ours, and I believe that is doable, especially in the content of the work now going on ALA-wide to “re-imagine” ALA itself. Being able to respond to change (and to do it economically) is vital and the “Hot Topic” programs coming up at Annual in Las Vegas will go far in providing the very latest developments affecting our work. And ALSC’s impressive Everyday Advocacy efforts are a superb way for everyone providing and caring about library service to children to be a positive force as issues pop up and evolve. We can also do this by supporting, encouraging, and spreading the word about distinguished content for children, including for underrepresented communities, with our world famous and financially impactful media awards.

8.      What strengths would you bring to help ALSC attain the goals of the ALSC Strategic Plan?

Knowing how to work with both large and small groups and how to accomplish objectives within the context of ALA is a practical strength of mine, particularly as we strive to attain our strategic goals. I also bring a close familiarity with the Plan as I’ve been a member of the ALSC Board’s Executive Committee since the Plan’s first year and so have been involved in its implementation and ongoing evaluation. And I also look forward to sharing my belief in the importance of consensus building, knowledge-based decision making, and spirit of collaboration, not to mention the aforementioned passion for our work!

9.      What is your motivation in running for this position?

My motivation is all about moving forward, reaching out, and giving back. Keeping any organization relevant through changing times is a constant challenge and I’m determined (and convinced!) that ALSC will be around for a long, long time, so am very motivated to help move us all forward with such things as increased expertise and presence around apps and digital storytelling. I feel it’s important for us to reach out further, both inside and outside libraries, for greater inclusiveness with current and potential members and also for collaborations with a wider range of other youth-focused organizations to increase the recognition of, and access to, library services for all kids. And I continue to receive so much from my experiences here that I want to give back to ALSC, especially in this special role, to ensure that others get that same chance.

10.    What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?

I have literally been involved with library service to children since before I was born (as a librarian herself, my mom didn’t wait for her July due date to sign me up on the first day of that year’s summer reading program in June) and have done every job there is to do in a library, from shelving picture books to advocating with the First Lady, and as a true believer in ALSC’s work and our Desired Future, I ask for the honor of your vote to represent all of us as Vice President/President-Elect. And please follow me on Twitter @ammlib so we can continue the conversation! #AndrewIsForALSC

About Mary Voors

Mary R. Voors, the ALSC Blog Manager, is also the manager of the Children’s Services department of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana where she has the opportunity to work with one of the greatest groups of people in the world.
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