In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts yesterday and today consist of interviews with the candidates for ALSC 2017-18 Vice President/President-Elect, Jamie Naidoo and Lisa Von Drasek. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.
Today’s interview is with Jamie Naidoo:
1. What do you consider the most important role of the ALSC President?
To be an effective leader, you must be a good listener. One of the most important roles of the ALSC President it to listen to the concerns of the ALSC membership and discern how to meet those needs to move our organization forward in the best way possible to provide excellence in library service for all children. This includes listening to all perspectives and voices – both loud and soft – to understand what the membership would like us to achieve and then working with the various channels in ALSC, ALA, and affiliate organizations to reach our goals.
2. What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?
I have a passion for connecting the right people together to create synergistic relationships that lead to exciting changes in libraries. Because I have worked as an elementary school librarian and a public children’s librarian as well as a library school professor, I have had the opportunity to meet many different types of library professionals and educators at all levels. I understand the importance of dynamic collaborations that bring together diverse skills sets to advance our profession. This includes crucial input from voices that are traditionally silenced in the conversation or missing from the table.
I also grasp that importance for transparency between ALSC leadership and its members. For the association to be successful we must effectively and clearly communicate. The ALSC Board needs to have the pulse of the membership as well as its input on strategic planning and decision-making.
Another skill that I bring to the office is exceptional organization skills along with a can-do attitude. I believe these are equally important in a leadership position. Being organized helps to speed along a process, and the can-do attitude is necessary when roadblocks or setbacks threaten to delay progress.
3. What area of library service to children is your favorite?
Outreach! Going out into communities to meet with caregivers and children is critically important. Many underserved populations will never set foot in a library unless they understand the library is a place for all families – including them! Wonderful collections and services are useless if they aren’t being utilized and outreach is the perfect way to promote what the library has to offer while also helping librarians learn more about the diverse communities within a particular service area. Programs like Día provide the perfect conduit for children’s librarians to do outreach.
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?
Librarians serving children have multiple options for professional service. While each of these associations has their benefits, ALSC is the only one that is dedicated to all aspects of children’s librarianship across types of libraries. Whether a librarian is just starting their career or a seasoned professional, ALSC provides both online and in-person professional development and training opportunities relevant to their needs. As an association, we stay abreast of new trends and social changes and discern how we can best empower our members to meet them. At a time when millions of young people (immigrants, refugees, trans youth, etc.) are threatened, ALSC is an organization that advocates for the well being of all youth and provides training opportunities on how librarians can best meet their diverse needs. The mentorship program is another example of a win-win service that we provide to members at various stages in their career. Networking opportunities are an equally important service that we provide our members. While many of these take place in face-to-face environments at ALA Midwinter and Annual, online networking is also available through ALSC Community Forums and events such as the recent virtual ALSC institute. Among all these services is one important common thread – a support system of like-minded library professionals who geek-out over children’s books, puppets, digital apps, glue dots, and the ALA Youth Media Awards. In times when you need someone who can truly understand your nuanced needs as a children’s librarians, ALSC is there!
5. What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? What are your ideas to recruit new members?
All ALSC members are not financially able to attend face-to-face meetings and conferences. Dynamic and engaging opportunities for participation “at a distance” are crucial. I would like for ALSC to continue to find ways for our membership to participate virtually in professional development opportunities, committee work, and leadership activities. We also need to work hard to create a professional association that is welcoming to all of its members. A recent survey from the Diversity within ALSC Taskforce indicated that specific members of our association do not always feel welcomed in our activities, meetings, etc. While we talk the talk of wanting to diversify our profession and association, we are not always “walking the walk.” I firmly believe that we should look at the various ALA Ethnic Affiliates/Caucuses and Roundtables (such as EMIERT and the GLBTRT) to learn how to make ALSC more inclusive to all members, including those from traditionally underrepresented diverse backgrounds.
Everyone needs an opportunity to contribute to and participate in the association’s activities. Providing members with transparent information on how to participate is one of the first steps, and providing follow-up once someone has completed a volunteer form is critical. ALSC should be more inclusive and diverse when selecting members to participate in committee work and leadership opportunities. We need representation from all members including new voices and underrepresented perspectives.
I really like the current free membership for MLIS students. I support continuing this program which will help us recruit new members, but I would also like to see more opportunities for targeted free memberships to underrepresented populations.
6. How has ALSC membership impacted your life? How has your membership in ALSC impacted library service to children?
ALSC has really helped me grow professionally. I have served on a variety of committees including process, grant, and awards committees. Each assignment afforded me an opportunity to learn more about the organization and a specific area within children’s librarianship. I also had the opportunity to network with new like-minded people with similar passions. As a member of the ALSC Board of Directors, I had the privilege of learning more about the bigger picture of the association and how everything is intended to work together for the common good of the members. This was particularly important after serving on specific committees and wondering why we logistically carried out our work in a specific manner.
Through my ALSC work, I have impacted children by serving on committees that selected libraries to receive funding for Día mini-grants, which in turn provided opportunities for both children and librarians working with children to develop their cultural competency skills through cultural programming. I wrote the ALSC whitepaper The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. This paper provided suggestions and strategies for how librarians serving children can use diverse print and digital materials to provide children with opportunities to see their culture reflected or to learn about cultures outside their own. It also highlighted the numerous programs and opportunities available through ALA Affiliates to deepen understanding about serving the information needs of particular cultural groups. Collectively, both of these activities have given me the chance to help influence library service to underserved populations while promoting cultural competence.
7. 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?
I was excited the see the ALSC Media Mentorship white paper as well as the results of the Carnegie taskforce that will develop an award for children’s librarians serving as exemplary media mentors. In a world that is constantly changing, it is important to understand the evolving role of the children’s librarian in providing collections that equally represent quality print materials as well as digital media. It is crucial to see that we aren’t in an either/or society where it is books vs. technology. Children’s librarians have always been early adopters of technology, learning how to integrate the latest tool within current practice to promote all types of literacy. The newest technology holds great potential for connecting diverse learners, promoting social justice and inclusivity, and forging the way for dynamic interactive storytimes and other library programs. I would like to see ALSC continue on our trajectory of promoting media mentorship as another facet of children’s librarianship. It is important for our members to have viable strategies and models for promoting and using digital media in ways that are purposeful and meaningful to today’s digital natives. ALSC members can be leaders in providing training opportunities to learn how to do this as well as how to curate the digital content into a meaningful format for our patrons’ informational and recreational needs.
8. ALSC has a commitment to conversations on diversity and inclusion and the essential roles that children’s librarians have in ensuring rich and diverse collections and programming. How will you work to enhance this commitment?
Children from diverse cultural backgrounds deserve access to well-stocked libraries staffed by culturally competent librarians. From selecting high-quality, culturally authentic materials to planning dynamic, inclusive programs that promote cultural understanding, children’s librarians can be engaged in activities that support the revised ALSC Competencies’ emphases on diversity. While ALSC has made strides in providing resources that identify diverse materials and describe culturally responsive practice, a significant need exists for information that leads to putting the competencies into action. We must transition from simply talking about diversity to creating solutions that confront social injustices and build solidarity. If elected, I propose working with ALA Ethnic Affiliates and Roundtables (such as EMIERT and the GLBTRT) to provide diversity resources and training opportunities to empower librarians to address the literacy needs of all children and to learn how to have difficult conversations related to diversity and inclusion. I would like to see the Diversity within ALSC Taskforce and Education Committee working with representatives from the ALA Task force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and the various diversity-related Affiliates and Roundtables to develop training that will help our members move beyond Diversity 101 conversations to prevent the perpetuation of microaggressions towards specific cultural groups within our association, profession, and libraries. Additionally, I will strive to strengthen ALSC’s recruitment, retention, and active participation of children’s librarians that reflect our nation’s diversity. This can be achieved through creative collaborations with ALSC committees such as membership and the committees in the ALA Ethnic Affiliates and Roundtables devoted to working with children (such as the Children’s and Young Adult Services Committee of REFORMA, as well as reaching out to Spectrum Scholars and LIS educators teaching in the areas of youth services and diversity.
9. In your opinion, what is the most pressing challenge to our profession right now? How would you confront it?
We live in an increasingly diverse society, and yet we have become increasingly hostile towards particular groups of people. It is important that we provide safe havens for all children and their families from all cultural backgrounds. It can be challenging for children’s librarians to know exactly what they can and should do to help their patrons. Strategies that work in one community may not be effective in another. Anti-other sentiment can foster incivility and hostile environments that threaten the values and principles of librarianship as well as the lives of people within our communities. Children’s librarians need information on how to be advocates for all families as well as social justice activists within the community. Training on how to confront intolerance and foster cultural competence is critical now more than ever. While ALSC has provided the Unity and Justice booklists and the ALSC Supporting Libraries in the Post-Election Environment tool to help librarians serving patrons in times of unrest, additional professional development resources and online training and tools need to be made available. This can be accomplished through partnerships with larger committees/taskforces within ALA (such as the ALA Task force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) as well as the ALA Ethnic Affiliates and Roundtables.
10. What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?
I firmly believe that what I do has to matter and make a difference. I am passionate about promoting social justice, inclusivity, and diversity within our profession to create library environments where all really means all! I hope to channel this to move ALSC forward as we become more inclusive and representative of our culturally pluralistic society. Here is my faculty page for more information: http://jcnaidoo.people.ua.edu/.
The ALA Website states that the 2017 elections will open on March 13 and close on April 5; eligible members will be sent their voting credentials via email between March 13-15, 2017. To be eligible to vote, individuals must be members in good standing of ALA as well as applicable divisions and round tables as of January 31, 2017.