YALSA Election: An Interview with ALA President-Elect Candidate James LaRue

Get ready to vote! The YALSA election runs from March 24 through May 1, and to help you be an informed voter, we’re sharing interviews with each of the 2015 YALSA Governance and 2017 Selection Committee candidates as well as the ALA President-Elect Candidates.

Today we’ll hear from a candidate for ALA President-Elect. The ALA President serves a one year term. The role of the ALA President is to be the Association’s chief spokesperson and to work closely with the ALA’s Executive Director in identifying and promoting library issues nationwide and internationally. A full description of ALA Presidential duties and responsibilities can be found here.

Full biographical information on all of the candidates can be found on the sample ballot.

Today we have an interview with James LaRue.

Name and current position:
James LaRue, CEO of LaRue & Associates, Castle Rock, Colorado

How do you envision your leadership as ALA President being supportive of YALSA and the work it does for teens?
My platform (see next question) very much applies to teens. I envision an engaged, even activist profession, plugged into community needs, embracing of the maker movement, and serving as proud and relentless advocates for literacy. Few investments pay off like paying attention to the next generations.

Share with YALSAblog readers the areas you intend to focus on as ALA President and why these issues are important.
My platform has three planks
1. A new push for librarians as leaders. I envision a process in which librarians identify key community leaders, leave the building to interview those leaders in their own locations, strive to understand the concerns and aspirations of those leaders’ constituent, then choose library-led projects that make a difference. In this way, librarians build relationships, catalog their communities, and help set the agenda for meaningful change. It’s not about us anymore; it’s not even about transforming lives. It’s about building great communities by becoming leaders ourselves. And teens are often an area of keen interest to a community.
2. A push for librarians to move from gatekeepers (serving only as final links in the distribution chain of content) to gardeners (coaches, partners, co-creators and publishers) of new content. There is a more democratic explosion of patron generated work around us – books, music, movies. The library should be at the heart of this revolution. Think YOUmedia at Chicago Public as just one example.
3. An all-out promotion of the importance of early literacy. A host of studies have conclusively demonstrated the power of “book abundance.” Research shows that getting 500 books in the home of a child between the ages of 0-5 is as good as having two parents with Master’s degrees. Librarians and teachers know this; but many others in our society do not. This is of interest not only to public and school librarians, but to academic and research libraries as well. Reading for pleasure leads not only to emotionally intelligent teens and adults, but likely results in the pursuit of further education. We need to get this information out of the library echo chamber and into our larger society.

Talk about a recent time when you supported library services for teens in your current or a previous position.
As director of the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, we established an “Aloha Teen Tower” – a distinct section of a new library whose collections, technology, and even furniture and furnishings, were determined by our teen advisory board’s recommendations. As a sponsor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) we paid to edit, then electronically publish, our teen award winners (using local judges). In one of my favorite programs, we hired teen library assistants — not pages! — to work at a higher level with other teens. I’m very pleased to report that this has been a wonderful librarian recruitment program – several of those students have now returned to us as librarians.

Why should YALSA members choose you to be ALA president?
I believe we are at a tipping point in our profession, requiring a vision of far more engaged and active librarians. I have the leadership skills and experience, the vision and communication ability to both inspire our colleagues, and the drive to promote their good work to a larger environment. In addition to my work as a librarian, I have worked with a host of media (newspaper columnist, radio and TV show host), many non-profits (including the Douglas County Youth Initiative, and the National Children’s Health Study, both of which I chaired), and other groups around the county, state, and nation, to ensure that librarians have a seat at the table for important discussions, and that we made valuable – and acknowledged – contributions.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.
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