In this monthly feature, we profile ALSC Board members. We hope to offer information about the people who work to guide the organization so that you can feel more comfortable in reaching out to them with your concerns, questions, or comments. To continue this series, we invite you to meet ALSC Board member, Jenna Nemec-Loise.
Why did you join ALSC? How long have you been a member? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions or roundtables?
I joined ALSC in late 2000 when I took my first library job at a private elementary school. Professionally, I was completely at sea. I’d been pursuing graduate work in medieval linguistics and teaching expository writing to undergrads, so imagine me now seeing Kindergartners twice a week! (No Old English or persuasive essays there, I assure you.) I knew I needed some guidance before I began library school in early 2001, and I knew I’d find it through ALSC membership.
In addition to ALSC, I’m a member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).
What strengths do you bring to the ALSC Board of Directors?
As Division Councilor, I excel at synthesizing Board discussions and member feedback into firm and focused messaging to all ALA stakeholders. Fearless at the Council microphone, I diligently articulate the purpose and value of strong and meaningful Youth Services librarianship because every library issue is a youth issue. I’m clear and thoughtful in my delivery so every division, chapter, round table, and member-at-large understands not just what we do in ALSC but why we do it: To create a better future for children through libraries.
During both Council and Board meetings, my greatest strength is listening to understand rather than to respond. This ability allows me to quietly let go of biases, preconceived notions, and the urge to say something right away. I can clear my mind and think, “I really want to hear this person’s reality, and I’m willing to take myself out of the equation in order to do that.” If my Board and Council colleagues feel heard and understood after an interaction with me, I’ve succeeded in those moments.
What have you learned while serving on the Board?
The challenges and complexities of organizational leadership are balanced by joy and purpose. During my Board tenure, we’ve had difficult conversations and made tough decisions, but we’ve done it together as a united voice for youth and our membership. Personally, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I realize and braver than I think. Professionally, I’ve learned that disagreement and respect can flourish together. When my term ends in New Orleans, I’ll leave the Board as a better version of myself—in every way that matters.
What do you wish ALSC members knew about ALSC or about the ALSC Board of directors?
I wish ALSC members knew how deeply the Board is guided by ALSC’s core values and a commitment to knowledge-based decision-making. Personal bias and ego have no place in any of our processes. We honestly and wholeheartedly keep our members at the center of everything we do by constantly asking ourselves these questions:
- What do we know about the needs, wants, and preferences of ALSC members that is relevant to this decision?
- What do we know about the current realities and evolving dynamics of ALSC that is relevant to this decision?
- What do we know about the capacity and strategic position of ALSC that is relevant to this decision?
- What are the ethical implications?
ALSC members should reach out to me if…
…they have any questions, concerns, or feedback about ALA Council and the role the ALSC Division Councilor plays in organizational governance.
Jenna Nemec-Loise is the ALSC Division Councilor 2015-2018 and is Head Librarian at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, IL. You can reach her at email@example.com.