Libraries Transform: An Interview with ALA President Sari Feldman

Please tell the YALSA members about your program Libraries Transform.

I have the great good fortune to be able to introduce Libraries Transform, but this is intended to be a three to five year public awareness program. Libraries Transform is an American Libraries Association program, it is not a President’s initiative. It is ALA’s new program for America’s libraries. It is a public awareness program that is intended to increase awareness of and support for the transforming library; to shift perceptions from the library as obsolete and nice, to have to essential; and to energize library professionals, build external advocates, and influence local, state, and national decision makers.

Most of our YALSA members do not work in management and have limited decision making authority within their library.  What are some ways that you envision this type of library staff person could participate in the campaign?

Well, certainly I think of YALSA members as some of the most facile in using social media and I think that is a tremendous opportunity to be both the messaging from the campaign through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, whatever tools people are using, the campaign’s graphic look really lends itself to social media, but also to communicate that libraries are less about what they have for people and more about what we do for people. So YALSA members are especially positioned to demonstrate to our communities and decision makers how libraries are changing the way young people learn.

Other than the 10 ways to get involved that are listed on the Libraries Transform web site, how else might library staff participate or be empowered to speak up for libraries?

Certainly, I think any opportunity to talk about the ways libraries are transforming is good. It is so important to not only be talking to ourselves, not to only be talking to other librarians or to library supporters, friends of libraries, etc. But, I think YALSA members also have an opportunity to not only have the messaging resonating with young adults, but to take this message into schools, because I know a big part of the YALSA membership is involved with the school community as well as the public community. So with the schools especially, we have an opportunity to not only communicate with young people but to expand that to communicate with teachers, administrators, and parents, who may be less aware of the changing library environment and the changing impact. One of the things about the campaign which is so important is that it is about all libraries, because we believe we are more alike than we are different. That libraries are creating individual opportunity and community progress. So whether that community is a college or university or public community or school community, it is about changing that community, being at the center of that community life. So there are so many ways that just communication and talking to audiences, talking to friends and family, that YALSA members can really be amplifying this message on behalf of Libraries Transform.

How do you see Libraries Transform relating to YALSA report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: a Call to Action”?

So certainly I see it inparticular about the changing way that YALSA members are talking about their work and certainly that one comes to mind immediately is about connected learning and concepts related to that, and the importance of learning that is more active. That has been a big part of the messaging of Libraries Transform, that although we are less about what we have for people, we still have things, we are not saying that we are not going to have collections in the future, but we are more about what we do for and with people. So certainly in the YALSA view, how young people learn, is that they learn collaboratively. The YALSA view is that learning is more flexible, learning is more self-directed, learning is more creative, with more of an opportunity to create content, not just use content. I think that just in the nature of viewing library work in that larger learning environment, whether it is a school or a public environment, is very close to the messaging of the campaign.

How do you think Libraries Transform and the YALSA report can inform each other to improve the future of libraries?

I hope that as YALSA members are building out a plan, a more tactical plan, either for their libraries or for YALSA as an association itself, that the messaging from Libraries Transform can be built into that. We can be thinking about not only how we tactically do the work but how we communicated the work to make supporters into active advocates, to be sure that funders are increasingly aware of the role that libraries are playing, and to be sure that policy makers and decision makers are conscious of the role that  libraries are playing in the learning of young people. I think that we can see in the results of the education bill that the lobbying effort was really strongly aligned with messages about the ways that libraries are embedded in the school environment. We need to elevate that messaging into all environments where we touch young people around learning. And I think that there is so much alignment but where it can be most valuable, is as we align when talking about public awareness and advocacy.

What are the key outcomes you and ALA are hoping to achieve with this campaign and how will ALA measure those?

So at this point, ALA is bringing on a staff member to lead this project. He will be introduced to the library community at MidWinter. But, I mentioned the broad objectives, which are listed on the website librariestransform.org , but ALA is really hoping that we will see ultimately increased funding for libraries, and much more engagement with policy makers and community stakeholders.

Is there anything else about the program that you would like to share with the YALSA community?

The Libraries Transform campaign will only be as successful as the activity level of the members of ALA. I see that social media will be one of the strongest opportunities to get the message out about the campaign. It really calls on the YALSA members to use the tools that they have to ensure that the message is heard. Once again, much of our work is focused internally, focused on learning new skills to advance our programmatic opportunities, bringing new technology into our field, designing programs and curriculum that better serve our audiences, in this case young adults, but it is very important that we tell this story more broadly and we tell this story to the less aware or less informed about the work of libraries, and how impactful around creating this learning environment that ultimately results in individual opportunity and community progress. I don’t know if your members know, but I started my professional career as a young adult librarian, so I have tremendous affection and loyalty to the work of YALSA members and I know that it is such an incredible opportunity to really ensure that a person stays engaged in learning, that kind of connected learning, active participation, the creative aspects that have been brought into learning as we think of it in the library environment, it is just so exciting to me. We need to make sure that we tell the story of transformation and that people understand the value of community investment in libraries, whether school libraries, public libraries, or college and university libraries.

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