ALSC Board

Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn: 2015-16 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 2015-16 ALSC Vice President/President-Elect: Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn and Tali Balas. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers.

This morning’s interview is with Elizabeth “Betsy” Orsburn:

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

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Photo by Christine Caputo

As president I would serve as the presiding officer for our organization’s governance. Yet I would consider my most important role to be the ALSC communicator-in-chief, keeping our association united around our goals and objectives and eager to face what the future brings. Our association is organized for the purpose of “creating a better future for children through libraries,” so that through free and equal access to library services, children can & will develop a love of reading and learning and become responsible citizens in our communities. It is through the united strength of our dedicated children’s librarians & educators that ALSC makes a difference both locally and nationally. Representing the ALSC membership within ALA and on the national stage would be another important aspect of the communicator’s role. To accomplish this, I pledge to listen to our members’ suggestions and concerns and encourage all means of two-way communication as a crucial part of my becoming the members’ true representative.

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

Organization and communication are my top two professional strengths; and through years of management experience, I have honed them into skills. I believe both would be excellent assets for the office of ALSC president. In addition, I have the time, energy, experience and enthusiasm to accept the challenge of standing for election to Vice-President/President-Elect.

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

Training/ Professional Development would have to be my favorite, and I was fortunate enough to serve as a Continuing Educator/Inservice Trainer for children’s librarians at the Free Library of Philadelphia and in the state of Pennsylvania. Although I spent most of my library career working on city-wide library programming for children, teens, families, caregivers and educators, participating on the 2014 Newbery Committee brought back to me the JOY of reading and evaluating children’s books. Several grant-funded programs allowed us to experiment & evaluate youth programming using the latest technologies. It’s hard to pick just one favorite area of library service from my many experiences; really the only task I didn’t enjoy was cataloging.

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?

Nowhere else can you find such a welcoming cooperative community of dedicated professionals united around our common goal of providing excellent library service & reading materials for children, than ALSC. Especially for new members, ALSC offers graduate scholarship money and travel scholarships to attend annual conference. Our association gives grants and fellowships to recognize our members, support outstanding programming, and aid in continuing education; there is also special funding to support library programming and collections. ALSC is a treasure-trove of educational opportunities with formal and informal mentoring, sharing in-person through programs, conferences, and institutes, virtually through online courses, ALSC blog, and Connect, and through CHILDREN AND LIBRARIES and other print materials. The opportunities to participate in ALSC process and award committees provide seasoned members with unparalleled professional and personal development; it’s better leadership training for librarians than any MBA program. As an ALA member with many years of experience under my belt, ALSC is still “my professional family” that provides education, comradery, supports and challenges that keep me actively involved. And I am proud that ALSC is a voice on the national level advocating for free, equal library services for all children.

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

Communication in all forms within ALSC is as important as our outreach for new members, and I pledge to keep this communication two-way and interactive. Because growing ALSC membership is such a critical priority for our association, I would commit to becoming an ex-offico member of the ALSC Membership Committee while serving as Vice-President/President-Elect. This hard-working standing committee has always executed excellent recruitment activities that promote the advantages of belonging to our association, as well as the many services and programs available to all members. I have enjoyed participating in ALSC 101 at past annual conferences, when I served on the ALSC Board, and I wholeheartedly support the ALSC Roadshow and continuing the funding for our ALSC volunteers to present, staff booths or coordinate social events at state and local conferences. Another support provided by ALSC through the Education Committee is the opportunity to be matched with an experienced librarian that has volunteered to share their knowledge and mentor newer members.

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

ALSC keeps me up-to-date and knowledgeable about the latest innovations and information in our profession. This organization has enriched my personal and professional life with friends, mentors, and educational programs, as well as numerous opportunities to develop my professional skills. I was privileged to present on conference program panels, to serve on the ALSC Board of Directors, and to serve on two Newbery Award Committees. All of which helped to build my knowledge, confidence and professional reputation.

My membership in ALSC has always made me a better and more informed children’s librarian and administrator of children’s library services and programming. The professional development materials including annual conference programs, institute sessions, and training materials such as Every Child Ready to Read, were and are so outstanding, I brought the information and sometimes even the official trainers to the Free Library of Philadelphia for our children’s librarians and other interested staff. And today I promote ALSC online materials and membership to my grad students at Drexel.

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??

Challenges to the national economy have only re-enforced my commitment to ALSC and its strong national advocacy, which provides information and support for state and local resources for children in both public and school libraries. ALSC must continue this vital leadership role of advocacy for children and increased funding for libraries no matter what is happening in our nation’s economy. Another positive force from ALSC is the Everyday Advocacy project that empowers librarians to speak out. So whether on the local or national level, the association must ensure that it has a “place at the table” whenever decisions are made that affect children’s rights to libraries that are staffed with professional librarians.

Staying ahead of the curve with technology is essential for providing excellent library service to children, and ALSC serves as the fountainhead of knowledge in the field of library technology & its effects on children. By demonstrating, evaluating and educating our members on the best tech devices, systems, programs, applications, and materials currently available, our budget-starved libraries can wisely spend their limited funds on the best products & materials for children. Dealing with new media and technology is when I rely on our association’s newer members to help me & the other more experienced librarians to become more tech-savvy.

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?

One of ALSC’s strong commitments to diversity can currently be seen in our joint support with Reforma for the DIA: Diversity in Action program. As ALSC President, I would certainly want to continue the exciting efforts that culminated at ALA Mid-Winter 2015 with the Day of Diversity and the Diversity Matters sessions. These conversations included finding practical strategies for increasing diversity awareness in the publishing and library worlds, ways to increase diversity in print and digital materials available for children, how to attract diverse children and families into libraries, and ways to build partnerships to create and share resources that support multicultural programming. From these rich conversations, our association will be able to formulate a plan of action and what our next steps will be. I believe that ALSC will institutionalize our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and if elected, I pledge to make this a priority. In addition, I have a strong commitment to support diversity among our membership.

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

I want to pay forward the numerous benefits that ALSC has provided for me. My membership in ALSC has enhanced my professional career and increased my enjoyment of children’s librarianship and literature so much. I look at standing for this election as my way of giving back to the organization that has given so much to me.

I wholly support the ALSC strategic plan and its blueprint for our organization, but we also need re-evaluate the plan and increase our commitments to diversity and emerging technologies. This is not a criticism of our strategic plan, which was formulated in 2010-11 when I was a Board member. Our strategic plan calls for a re-examination in 5 years (in 2017), and I would like to be part of this re-assessment.

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

Here are three miscellaneous facts:

  • When not reading children’s books, I enjoy non-fiction, biographies and historical fiction. I guess the college history major in me still comes through.
  • I have come full circle since retiring from The Free Library of Philadelphia, by returning to my alma mater Drexel University to become an adjunct professor and teach Children’s Literature. Taking an earlier version of this same Children’s Literature course at Drexel was what convinced me to become a Children’s Librarian.
  • My orientation trainings as a new Children’s Librarian were led by Carolyn W. Field and Helen Mullen, both of whom served as ALSC presidents.

Thank you, Betsy!

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