Monthly, we will profile current 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. This month, we invite you to meet the ALSC Board President for 2022-2023, Amy Koester.
How did you first get involved with ALSC?
While I joined ALSC while still in library school, I didn’t start to get involved until I was in my first professional role as a branch children’s librarian at a public library system in Missouri. I got started by connecting with other ALSC members online, going to ALSC events and sessions when I was able to attend a conference, and through an appointment to a virtual committee. I found that pacing to get involved really worked for me–I was able to contribute virtually throughout the year, and I could forge connections and friendships more informally with people doing similar public library work to me.
How has participation in ALSC affected your career?
ALSC has truly shaped my experience as a librarian and helped make possible the steps I’ve taken so far in my career. My range of committee and elected positions–from virtual committee member to award committee member, to committee chair then Board member, then priority group consultant to current president–have allowed me to develop a wide range of skills in the past dozen years I’ve been a member. I’ve gained knowledge and experience around topics as varied as grant applications, media evaluation, advocacy campaigns, project and people management, strategic planning, budgeting, and more–all skills it would have taken me so much longer to build were I only getting exposure to them through my job. In so many ways, ALSC has filled my toolbox with practical and relevant experiences that I have been able to apply directly to my library work, including building qualifications that enabled me to take on progressively responsible roles.
What is your favorite Youth Media Award-winning book?
My absolute favorite YMA-winning book remains my favorite from when I was a child: A Wrinkle in Time. I have an enamel pin of the original book cover on my lanyard at work, and I still have my childhood copy whose provenance I can almost certainly trace back to a Scholastic book fair in elementary school.
What is something you have done as a member of ALSC that you’re particularly proud of?
I am really proud of the work that I was part of while serving on the 2014 Newbery Award Committee. It was a LOT of work–to the point that I don’t know that I’d ever be able to put in that level of time again–but I continue to be really proud of the fact that I was able to contribute to the great media awards tradition of ALSC. I love that the Youth Media Awards mean that year after year, kids get to fall in love with books that change their lives and open the world of possibilities to them. That’s what we do through our media awards–make sure that kids everywhere have the chance to connect with amazing books that speak the truths of their world and nurture their dreams.
What advice would you give to an ALSC member interested in exploring more leadership or governance roles?
I have three pieces of advice for anyone interested in exploring leadership and/or governance roles within ALSC.
First, observe: process committee and ALSC Board meetings are all open, and observers are welcome. Observing the processes is an invaluable way to get familiar with how the organization works, which in turn prepares you to be able to serve.
Second, ask questions. Professional associations are learning organizations in so many ways, and all of our members–who are all volunteers!–are learning as we go. That means we’re all asking questions all the time, sharing the knowledge that we’ve built so that all of us can benefit. If you’re wondering something, just ask; there are so many ALSC members eager to pay forward the support they have received to build up the next wave of member leaders!
Finally, volunteer. There are so many ways to be involved in the work of ALSC–whether that’s a formal appointment to a committee, a more informal working group, or just pitching in when you see calls for volunteers for things like conference sessions and ALSC communications. If I may use the metaphor of a story I think many of us are familiar with, going on a bear hunt: you’ve got to go through it! The best way to get into leadership or governance is to go through the opportunities in front of you. They build your skills and preparation to serve as a member leader, and they also help you to see the pathways available to meet your goals.
Amy Koester, ALSC President for 2022-2023, is the Learning Experiences Manager at Skokie (IL) Public Library.
Interested in standing for election to the ALSC Board? Find out more on the ALSC election information page.