Over her career in librarianship, Susan Dove Lempke has been a children’s librarian, department manager, library director, and respected mentor to many. She is currently the Executive Director of the Niles Maine District Library in Niles, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Susan joined ALSC in the 1980s when she was first employed at the Chicago Public Library. She let her membership lapse when she took a break from libraries to raise her two sons, during which time she became a frequent contributor to the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. She also wrote for Horn Book and continues to contribute from time to time.
When she returned to librarianship in the early 90s, she resumed her membership in the organization and began to participate in ALSC committees, both “process” and “award” ones. She has been fortunate to work for libraries that have supported her membership in ALA, including her current library, which pays for ALA and one division. ALSC is not the only one she belongs to, but it was the focus of our conversation. I asked her about her committee experience, and got a lot more wisdom than we have room to print.
As for process committees- the non-award ones- she had a great experience on the Oral History committee and had the honor of transcribing the interview of children’s literature giant Zena Sutherland. Budget Committee was eye-opening, an opportunity to learn about all the acronyms tossed around in meetings and articles. One particularly interesting revelation during her service was that selling medals to affix to books and selling the rights to affix medals to books makes up a large part of the organization’s income stream.
Susan’s next commitment is to the 2021 Newbery Award, but she has put in her time with many other awards. Hey Al, illustrated by Richard Egielski, won the Caldecott the year she served on that medal- a controversial choice to some, but Susan remains faithful to the idea that each year is a unique experience and that passionate members and chair shape the discussion.
Spending a year on the Geisel Award meant a year engrossed in early literacy- very instructive, especially for someone who, despite being a director, still makes time to select Early Readers for her library. A two-year commitment on the Carnegie Medal committee served as an introduction to video production. The Sibert Medal was an opportunity to note the evolution of nonfiction for young people: the genre is coming alive and appealing to children more and more. I asked Susan about her best ALA Conference experience, and it was award related- she said that the Monday morning Youth Media Awards announcement can’t be beat.
To conclude our interview, I asked Susan for what parting advice she might give to someone trying to get involved in ALA and ALSC. The advice is this: don’t be afraid to volunteer early on. Participate virtually if you can’t make it in person. Each assignment is an opportunity to learn, make connections, and find mentorship. Be prepared to pay your dues and not necessarily make it onto a prestigious committee at first.
Deidre Winterhalter is Assistant Manager of Youth Services at the St. Charles Public Library District in St. Charles, Illinois.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, VII. Professionalism and Professional Development.