In an effort to help ALSC members make an informed decision before they vote, the blog posts today consist of interviews with the candidates for ALSC 2021-22 Vice President/President-Elect, Amy Koester and Renee Grassi. Each candidate was given ten questions and submitted written answers. This afternoon’s interview is with Renee Grassi.
- What do you consider the most important of the ALSC President?
Advocacy. There are a variety of ways an ALSC President can advocate for their membership—stay on top of trends, research and learn about effective and inclusive service to children; make themselves readily available to listen to the needs and issues of ALSC membership; build a network and support members through committee appointments; ultimately, be a strong, confident voice committed to communicating transparently with the membership.
2. What skills & strengths would you bring to the office?
I have spent my professional career seeking out opportunities to partner with communities to help make libraries more equitable for all. I am naturally collaborative by nature and am a lifelong learner not just in my work, but also personally. I am always looking for opportunities to expand outlook on the world and do better. Equity work is messy, complex, imperfect, and urgently important. It requires both tenacity and humility to consider whose voices are being elevated and whose voices are missing. It also requires the drive to make positive impactful change. If given the opportunity, I would bring all these skills to the office, along with my unquenchable enthusiasm for meeting and getting to know other people.
3. What areas of personal/professional strength or weakness do you feel could be enhanced or improved through this ALSC leadership position?
To build stronger, more effective teams, we need increased diversity of perspectives, thoughts, personalities, ideas, and strengths. We cannot all be great at everything. Instead, we should align ourselves with others who complement our weaknesses and bring their own strengths. Assuming this leadership position would provide me with opportunities to work with so many other incredible library leaders throughout the organization. And if elected, assuming the role of ALSC President would be an invaluable experience to continue to build my own experience and capacity working with diverse teams of professionals to achieve common objectives and goals.
4. Why should someone choose to join ALSC? What services do you feel ALSC provides that are valuable to new members? To long-term members?
How much space do I have for this question? 😊 ALSC is the premier organization that supports us as professionals committed to youth and families working in libraries. ALSC helps us do our jobs more effectively by providing training and skill building opportunities through blogs, articles, webinars, workshops, and online courses. ALSC brings us together for virtual and (one day) in-person opportunities to connect, learn from our peers, and build community at conferences, mentoring programs, committee work and more. ALSC membership also helps continue the important work of ALSC committees and ALSC staff. It also helps support positive impact and influence on the profession at the capitol and in communities. Ultimately, ALSC is a volunteer-run organization that evolves and thrives on the talents and efforts of its members. No one person makes the organization run—it takes all of us. And everyone has something valuable to share and contribute. There is truly something for everyone, whether you are new to the profession and still in library school or are newly retired seeking to volunteer for an organization that makes real impact in libraries. Membership in ALSC helps you take your career where you want to go. If you are reading this and you are not currently a member of ALSC, I would like to make a sincere offer right now to connect with you and tell you all about it!
5. What are your ideas for reaching and involving members? How would you assist the Board in suggestions for recruiting new members?
ALSC is an organization that represents, serves, and exists because of its members. One of its strengths is that if it incorporates more voices, more ideas, and more talents, the stronger it is. So, reaching and involving members is paramount to its success and longevity. I have had the distinct honor and privilege of presenting and training library professionals nationally and internationally. If we want to reach and involve more members, we need to build stronger connections with state, regional and grassroots library groups and connect with library professionals at the local level. We need to reach out to library schools across the country, connect with their library school programs, and promote the value of ALSC membership to library school students. We also need to have a critical and analytical eye to evaluate who are we reaching, who are we not, and why. If we do not know what the barriers to membership and participation are, we cannot effectively address recruitment. If elected, I would assist the Board in suggestions for recruitment, and help analyze the barriers to membership and help address those issues head-on.
6. These have been challenging times; from coping with the impacts of a global pandemic, racial unrest, and the current political climate. What are your thoughts on how ALSC can best continue to be a positive force for librarians, for libraries, and for children?
Youth and families matter. Youth work matters. Youth library workers matter. Our current environment is pushing us to do more with less and pushing us to the brink. For me, it is times like these that require me to realign with purpose—why I became a librarian, why I serve youth, and why I work in libraries. What relationships am I caring for in my professional circles? Have I made someone laugh today? For me, libraries are about connection and building community. The current moment is asking us to get back to basics. And for me, it’s about refocusing on the way libraries impact on people’s lives for the better. This is what recharges my batteries and inspires me to keep going. This moment is calling us as professionals and as a profession to recenter and refocus on serving youth and families. Never to the detriment of serving others over caring for ourselves. If we can focus on doing that, we are rebuilding and moving forward.
7. ALSC is committed to equity, diversity, inclusion, and the essential role that children’s librarians have in ensuring rich and diverse collections and programming. How would you work with the Board to enhance this commitment?
Commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion—and accessibility to those of all abilities—is an aspirational commitment that must be made and remade daily. It needs to be applied to every decision, and we need to model and hold ourselves accountable to it as an organization in the work that we do. If elected, I would look forward to working with the ALSC Board to model and uphold these ideals. I would also push us to elevate intersectionality because the communities we serve are intersectional. We need to be able to build our individual capacities as professionals to consider our fellow humans for the multitudes of identities they have and represent. If elected, I would also bring a passionate commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in libraries that is focused on adopting a growth mindset as an organization. We will never be finished with this work—we need to be resilient and persistent to further develop ALSC as an organizational culture for all.
8. How would you work to help the Board incorporate ALSC Core Values throughout the time of your tenure?
It’s not lost on me that collaboration is listed first in ALSC’s Core Values. To have ALSC effectively live out the rest of the ALSC Core Values on that list, we need to work together. We cannot go it alone. So much of the work and impact I have helped do in libraries to serve youth and families has been in cooperation with others—other librarians, other departments in my libraries, other organizations. We know that there will be difficult conversations, hard decisions, and challenging topics ahead. But if we can keep open lines of communication to understanding each other and working together, our collaborative spirit will help see us through.
9. What is your motivation in running for this position?
ALSC has given so much to me both personally and professionally. When I first launched Sensory Storytime at Deerfield Public Library back in 2010, there were few libraries doing programs like that at the time. Thankfully, a five-part ALSC blog post series by Tricia Bohanon Twarogowski published the year before gave me a place to start learning. After about a year, ALSC took a chance on me as a guest blogger—and later, a full-fledged blogger—writing about accessible programs for kids and families. As a former teacher, I love sharing what I’ve learned with others and ALSC gave me a chance to do that. This, in turn, changed the trajectory of my career and its impact in library communities. For this, and so much more, I want to give back to the organization that believe in me as a new librarian and helped me help others.
10. What else would you like the voting ALSC membership to know about you before they vote?
Over the course of my career, I have learned that leadership does not mean perfection or unyielding strength. The type of leader I strive to be is accountable, honest, and committed to building trust with others. All of that requires vulnerability and empathy. In fact, one of my favorite professional books of all time is Dr. Michael Stephens’ The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive and Purposeful Change. Highly recommended. No matter who you cast your vote for and no matter who wins the election, know that I will be working alongside my fellow ALSC members to keep striving for positive and purposeful change to support youth and families more effectively and inclusively in libraries. Learn more about me and my experience in libraries at reneegrassi.com.
To read this morning’s interview with Amy Koester, click here.
Ballot emailing for the 2021 ALA election will begin on March 8, 2021. The election will close April 7, 2021. To be eligible to vote, individuals must be members in good standing as of January 31, 2021.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: Professionalism and Professional Development; Administrative and Management Skills.