Beginning last month, we began a feature in which 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 Fiscal Officer, Paula Holmes.
Why did you join ALSC? How long have you been a member? Do you belong to any other ALA divisions and roundtables?
I joined ALSC when the Institute came to Pittsburgh in 2006. I had previously been an ALA member in graduate school and renewed haphazardly afterwards. I had worked in the field after graduating from Pitt, but after my second child, my library career became a series of volunteer positions in school libraries, school boards and library boards. As part of my effort as an advocate to make libraries inclusive, not just for my children, but all children, I have volunteered in five different school libraries. I even created the library at a small alternative school.
Maybe for me the better question would be “Why did you stay a member?” In 2006, the ALSC program “Welcoming Special Needs Children @ Your Library” converged with my needs to remove barriers for children at the library. I am still closely involved with the colleagues that I met in 2006. From there I expanded my division membership involvement into United for Libraries and ASCLA (Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies).
What strengths do you bring to the ALSC Board of Directors?
I serve as Fiscal Officer and was the ALSC Budget Chair. I have served as a board member, Treasurer and President of multiple non-profits, including my current position on the Library Board of the Upper St. Clair Township Library. I have a strong work ethic, an ability to evaluate numbers, see trends, and a keen fashion sense. Prior to my library career and MLS from the University of Pittsburgh, I received a BA in Business Administration from Warren Wilson College, a small college in the mountains of North Carolina. I worked in the purchasing and accounting departments and had the privilege of being taken under the wing of the Chief Financial Officer. After college, I spent six years working retail as an assistant buyer and buyer for large department store chains. When you are buying for multiple stores in multiple styles and multiple sizes, planning inventories, projecting sales and projecting markdowns, all while making a cohesive fashion statement on the sales floor, you have to love visualizing, and that includes trends and numbers.
What have you learned while serving on the Board?
Some people are hesitant when it comes to numbers, for some it becomes a fear. I understand that kind of fear; I am not a fan of clowns and heights. Most librarians are comfortable ordering books, evaluating programs and circulation, but budgets, spreadsheets and financial reports stop them cold. When I was Budget Chair and I was to give my first report to the board, most of the audience started to leave the board meeting. One audience member told me “I hate numbers”. After that experience, I made it my goal that financial data is presented in engaging formats. My new role as Fiscal Officer is less budget reporting and more advisory, long-term fiscal strategic planning, and providing financial literacy training for the ALSC Board. Here my financial experience has benefited from my storytelling and inclusion experience. I have threatened to do my report in the form of an interpretive dance, but have yet to be called upon to do so.
The Board works hard to follow knowledge based decision-making processes with the goal at the end to come to consensus. I am learning “to work well with others”. When the ALSC Board concludes a vote, we all support that decision. There is no, “well we voted on this, but I really didn’t want to.” We stand together – united. I should state our Board acknowledges that as a group we have knowledge gaps especially in regard to the lack of diversity in the composition of the board. Correcting that knowledge gap is a priority for ALSC and the Board.
What do you wish ALSC members knew about ALSC or about ALSC Board of Directors?
At Annual in Chicago, the Emerging Leaders presented a report, The Path to Youth Library Leadership. The report highlighted that Children’s Librarians wanted financial skills. I want our members to know that the budget committee is a great place to get your feet wet with a support system. You don’t have to install accounting software or sign checks to be the ALSC Fiscal Officer. We have an outstanding Executive Director, Aimee Strittmatter, who works closely with both the Fiscal Officer and the Budget Chair. I am lucky that the previous Fiscal Officer mentored me as Budget Chair and is still there for me as Fiscal Officer. I am trying to follow her example and provide the Budget Chair and next Fiscal Officer with the same support. I have a business background, but with any endeavor there is a learning curve. The most difficult thing I found was that ALA uses a huge amount of acronyms and non-profit and for-profit accounting terms are sometimes different. The ALSC Budget Manual has an excellent glossary and is an overall great resource and can be found on the ALSC Budget Committee Page
Many of ALSC members may not know that Membership Dues cover only a portion of ALSC’s budget. The Newbery, Caldecott, and Wilder Banquet is not a fundraiser and that is why you don’t get a tax receipt for attending. We do accept donations through our Friends of ALSC fund. Your gift to Friends of ALSC is tax-deductible. Funds have been used for projects such as the Student Gift Memberships, Babies Need Words Every Day, and National Institute Scholarships and Networking Events.
ALSC members should reach out to me if…
They want to get to together to learn more about ALSC, its finances, or being a non-traditional librarian. I was the grant evaluator for ALSC’s Curiosity Creates Program. I did speed coffee (better than speed dating) with the recipients one morning at ALA Mid-Winter in Boston. I found out that the first recipient wanted to stay to hear the second recipient, and soon a table for two became a coffee klatch. Those connections were a personal highlight of the project. I always try to have coffee, tea, or drinks with members when I am at conference or when I am traveling. I love exchanging ideas and it makes me a better Fiscal Officer. If we can’t meet in person, I am happy to email, Skype, or chat.
Photo Courtesy of Paula Holmes
Paula Holmes is the ALSC Fiscal Officer 2016-2019 and serves on the Upper St. Clair Township (PA) Library Board. You can reach her at Qsprite13@gmail.com