ALSC Board Member Profile

Meet Your ALSC Board: Karen MacPherson

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, Karen MacPherson.

Headshot of Karen MacPherson
Photo courtesy of Karen MacPherson

Despite my silver hair, I’m a relative newcomer to the world of children’s librarians. In 2007, I earned my MLS from the University of Maryland, but I’ve been working in my job – as the children’s & teen services coordinator at the Takoma Park Maryland Library – since 2006  (I got the job with the proviso that I finish my MLS).

For 30 years prior to becoming a librarian, I was a newspaper reporter, mostly in Washington, D.C., and mostly covering politics. While working as a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service, however, I also began writing a column on children’s books and authors; the column was sent out weekly to Scripps’ 300 –plus client newspapers. The column, which I wrote for 23 years, built on my love of children’s & teen literature and eventually inspired me to change careers and become a children’s librarian. (Scripps Howard News Service went out of business in 2013, and I turned my column into a blog, Children’s Corner, in which I should write more often!)

It was as a columnist and reporter that I first learned about ALSC. I was fortunate to have editors who encouraged me to come up with story ideas outside of my political beat, and so when I wrote about literacy, reading, the popularity of the Harry Potter books, etc . I would often call/email the ALA Press Office and they would connect me with ALSC members. (It’s amazing to me now, that, as an ALSC Board member, I’m sometimes on the ALSC list to be called if a reporter needs quotes; it’s certainly interesting to be on the other side!).

In graduate school at Maryland, we were encouraged to join and become active in ALA, and of course I also wanted to join ALSC, given both my goal to become a children’s librarian and my good experiences with ALSC members as a reporter. So I’ve been an ALSC member since the early 2000’s, and I’m also a member of YALSA and EMIERT. Over my years, I’ve served on the ALSC Local Arrangements Committee for the 2007 and 2010 Annual conferences, which were held in Washington. D.C.. I’ve also been fortunate to serve on the 2012 Sibert Committee and 2016 Caldecott Committee, and I was elected to the ALSC Board of Directors in 2016.

ALSC Board members serve a three-year term, and I spent some of my first year learning, in a much more in-depth way, all about how ALSC works, including our amazing array of ALSC committee volunteers, and the incredibly talented and hard-working ALSC staff. Being on the board has given me both this behind-the-scenes look at ALSC, as well as a global policy perspective on everything ALSC does. In my first year, for example, we crafted a new Strategic Plan of which I am hugely proud. In particular, while we have a long way to go towards making ALSC more diverse, we now have a Strategic Plan – with specific steps — that will begin moving us towards that goal. I’ve also learned much from my fellow ALSC Board members: as just one example, I’ve become better-versed in deciphering budget documents thanks to ALSC Fiscal Officer Paula Holmes (who has even offered to do an interpretive dance of the numbers, if necessary!).

Strengths that I bring to the board include my belief in the power of listening, as well as my innate desire to help create consensus. I also bring my reporting skills. Writing and communication come naturally to me, and I gather as much information – and as many perspectives — as I can about an issue before making a final decision on it. In addition, I have a good grasp of politics and strategy, honed from many years of covering Congress, which helps inform my member-to-member interactions on the Board as well as policy decisions that we make. Finally, there is an energy and ardor that one often brings to a second career, and I think I bring my passion for children and libraries to the Board.

Over my years in ALSC, one of the most important things I’ve learned is how much camaraderie there is in this organization. We are a friendly bunch, and I find ALSC members very eager to share new program ideas, strategies for Storytime, etc. You’ve never lived until you’ve been in a conference room with hundreds of children’s librarians all trying out a new rhyme or song together! But the camaraderie isn’t only present at conferences. Serving on one of the many ALSC committees is a great way to connect with others who do what you do, and regularly reading the prize-winning ALSC Blog provides a rich source of program ideas and issue updates.

Perhaps my most important message to ALSC members is that we truly value you, your ideas and your energy. We welcome you – and need you — to get involved and play an active role in our organization! Fortunately, getting involved is easier than ever now that our volunteer form is online and more committees meet virtually. Volunteering with ALSC also is a wonderful way to feel connected to the greater world of children’s librarians and make friends around the country. One final thought: as an ALSC Board member, I see one of my key roles as helping connect members with our ALSC organization and with each other. So I’d love to hear from you – let me know how I can help you get active in ALSC!

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