For quite some time we have been hearing about the need for our 50,000 strong member driven professional association to evolve, and what this means for us as members and our profession as a whole. The Forward Together work was again discussed at Midwinter 2021, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for our next steps.
The American Library Association is all of us, and we know there are many different paths to entry and engagement here, with the belief in the power and necessity of libraries being our common thread. I’m sure some of you have heard my grandfather’s story before–he had to quit school in 3rd grade in order to work the land with his family of sharecroppers in Louisiana. Only as an adult did he enroll in literacy classes at the local public library to build his reading and writing skills. When I was going through his papers, upon the passing of my grandmother, I found the certificate of adult education from the library and it brought me to my knees. I wish I could have met the librarians and library staff he worked with, and although I never have been able to, I am forever tied to them by this profession.
What I see as one of the most powerful things a professional association can offer is CONNECTION; a chance to build relationships and forge networks across state and county (and sometimes even country) lines. We, as members of ALSC, find ourselves drawn to the work of serving children and families. This year we have not been able to come together in person like we typically do, but it is important to me that you don’t forget how ALSC can be a cornerstone for connection, especially when you are isolated. Online conferences and meetings are not my favorite– I much prefer in person because I’m a hugger and bit of an empath–but I do think virtual formats can really make an impact on people’s lives and start to address equity and access issues. As we continue to distance ourselves in order to be safe I am looking for opportunities for our members to engage and have critical, timely conversations about key issues influencing our profession.
During Midwinter, in breakout rooms and the comments section, I saw people jumping in and supporting and encouraging each other, offering ideas, mentorship and feedback. How else would you like to connect? How can we bring other people who may not yet recognize the strength that comes with joining into the fold? Would you like more regular meetups? Leave your ideas in the comments, and I look forward to figuring out ways for us to meet other people who share our enthusiasm for youth services. The best way forward is together.