Blogger Kirby McCurtis

Our Association

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.

Kirby McCurtis
ALSC President


  1. Aly Feldman-Piltch

    Thank you for this post Kirby! I personally find connecting virtually so hard-there’s something about being at conference and physically walking into a meeting room that is easier for me than doing virtual conferences.

    I would love to see more meetups and more regional/area get togethers-whether in person or virtual. While this may be sort of duplicitous of state organizations, it would be nice to be able to connect with people outside of just conferences at ALSC events!

  2. Jennifer Knight

    Thanks Kirby for your blog post and leadership in these continuously-evolving, challenging times. Geez, ALA Midwinter seem like a hundred million years ago–when we met with loads of people, sat in big conference rooms with hundreds of people, and navigated through crowded exhibit halls–it seems impossible that it was only a year ago.

    I agree with the previous comment about regional meetups-it’s actually something I’ve thought about a lot as a rural librarian–and I also think that it’s something that all members have the capacity to initiate in a grass-roots capacity. I think tapping into existing state organizations is a great idea-even better would be a way to somehow develop reciprocal memberships that would make it easier to be involved locally & nationally.

    One thing I’ve been wondering recently is how ALSC can be more welcoming to paraprofessionals, many of whom are doing the same work and who sometimes need the support. Having the ability to join ALSC is a luxury that many front line staff may not be able to afford. Current scholarship efforts are, great, but, is there a way to create something more permanent? How can the organization expand access (beyond the pandemic) and be more welcoming throughout the organization to non-MLIS professionals?

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