In this regular 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 2019-22 ALSC Board Member, Maggie Jacobs.
I am a somewhat maverick member of the ALSC board in that I am not a librarian. I am a lawyer who had a career awakening in my 30s about my true vocation as an educator. And more specifically, an awakening to a deep sense of disillusionment and anger about the educational inequities in our country that belie the Horatio Alger story of yore that anyone who is hard working can climb their way up to the top. The idea of this country as an individualistic meritocracy is simply not true in today’s world and probably never was.
And so I joined the many mission-driven educators of this country who work to change this dynamic through arming students with the various intellectual and emotional tools needed to achieve their goals regardless of the families they were born into. I realized that there was a whole world of education outside of the formal school system that could not only reinforce school learning but go way beyond it in building the habits of mind, skills and character traits that research increasingly signals as essential to academic and life success: communication skills, ability to collaborate, empathy, creativity, problem solving and many more critical skills and behaviors that quality out-of-school activities are quite suited to building.
I was therefore overjoyed eventually to land in a large public library system where the possibilities for touching the lives of under-served children and their families were truly endless. Whether it was teaching parents about brain building serve and return interactions with their babies or creating engaging, inquiry-based STEM activities for school-aged kids, or providing opportunities for children and teens to build fluency with cutting-edge digital tools, the Library’s centrality in offering essential enrichment activities to a broad group of youth cannot be overstated. Our strategy is to find the strategic interventions, given the Library’s unique and valuable assets, which can help a child go from a life trajectory full of challenges to a trajectory of opportunity. And the essential through-line of it all is our ability to inspire a lifelong love of reading, which research has distinguished as one of the few traits linked to performance, regardless of socio-economic status.
The key to this at The New York Public Library is an education department full of talented and committed educators and librarians working arm and arm with branch staff to create innovative and impactful programming. Through this approach, I got to know the truly compassionate, dynamic, and giving nature of librarians as the primary mechanisms for our impact. So when I was given the opportunity to serve on the ALSC board after over six years of membership, I jumped at the chance to help contribute to the field.
This is a time of profound evolution for libraries and librarians, and one full of existential uncertainty for many of us in the field. I am thankful to have found an organization that aims to thoughtfully analyze the future of children’s librarianship and how to nurture and develop it. There is so much at stake.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: Administrative and Management Skills