ALA Annual Conference 2023

Growth Abounds at #alaac23

Have you heard of GELS? It’s an acronym from the Connecticut State Library that represents their initiative Growing Equitable Library Services. This session was presented by Kymberlee Powe, their Children’s/YA Consultant, one of the programs co-creators.

What does growing equitable library services mean?

We often hear the phrase “Libraries are for everyone,” but we don’t always think about how big that term really is. Everyone means everyone, including groups that we may not know much about or who we may be personally uncomfortable with. We need to consciously think about how services for everyone actually exist in our libraries. The very idea of equity is about everyone getting what they need to succeed, which may look very different for different individuals or groups.

This workshop series is all about helping libraries become strength-based, trauma-informed, antiracist, social- and emotionally-conscious community institutions. Content was purposefully selected with the ultimate goal of growing equitable library services, regardless of your title or position. To enact meaningful changes in our libraries, we must move beyond our traditional silos. Topics ranged from collections to racial equity, from trauma-informed services to family homelessness and libraries. It doesn’t stop there: future topics such as cultural humility and social and emotional learning are in development.

How can you get started at your library?

Interested in creating something similar for your library? Remember that you can’t be all things to all people, but you can take steps to do more. The presenter recommended the following steps:

  1. Focus on your capacity and priorities. Think about what you can reasonably do. Then, use that information to identify your authentic priorities.
  2. Co-design with your community. You don’t have to have all the answers or do all the work. Do it with the community, not for the community.
  3. Create partnerships. Use tools like asset mapping to identify potential connections and starting points.
  4. Aim for quality over quantity and lean into growth. It’s more important to do something well than to have many different options. Keep in mind that this work is hard, so build a growth mindset and keep your focus on that.
  5. Take steps to avoid burnout. Among the most important strategies is developing partnerships that help you share the load, and being willing to ask for help when you need it.

What’s next?

Not quite ready to launch something for your library yet? That’s okay, too. You can still take charge of your individual professional development and lead from where you are to build those small steps toward success.


Today’s guest contributor is Jaime Eastman (she/her/hers). Jaime is a senior Public Services Librarian and Family Place Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano (Texas) Public Library locations. She’s currently serving as a member of the ALSC Board of Directors. This will be her second Annual Conference. She is looking forward to many things, including finalizing the strategic plan with the rest of the Board, seeing great educational sessions sponsored by ALSC, and connecting with members both in person and through the blog. Jaime is currently working on at least two ambitious cross stitch projects, dreaming of future travel plans, and reading far too many books at once. As a child, she wanted to grow up to be an author. Writing for the blog and publishing with Children and Libraries feel like a good start, and she regrets nothing about her adult decision to be a librarian doing storytimes who didn’t have to grow up too much.


Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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