I’d like to begin this month’s President’s report by talking about an issue of importance to YALSA and to our members – the search for a new ALA Executive Director. You may be aware that Keith Fiels, ALA’s Executive Director, retired in July and that an interim director is filling the role until the position can be permanently filled. In November the ALA Council voted to make the MLIS a preferred degree for the ALA Executive Director position. Prior to the vote, the YALSA Board communicated our support for this decision to ALA Council and the ALA Executive Board in this Board document. Our rationale for this decision can be found in this Board document, approved at Midwinter 2017. Currently, a petition is circulating among the ALA membership, and if the minimum number of required signatures is met, the issue of whether or not an MLIS for the ALA Executive Director position would be preferred or required would be put on the spring 2018 ballot for a membership wide vote.
The YALSA Board strongly favors retaining the ALA Council decision that the MLIS be preferred, but not required. As we know, the library profession is overwhelmingly white and female; however, ALA has made a commitment to diversity by adding an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion goal to its strategic plan – a decision we applaud. Yet, by requiring an MLIS, we believe ALA would be narrowing the pool of potential candidates to mainly white, female candidates – a contradiction to ALA’s stated commitment to diversity. Also, industry best practice indicates that the CEO position of a nonprofit professional organization requires expertise in nonprofit and association leadership, in addition to passion for the organization’s mission and a strong commitment to libraries and library values.
Proponents of requiring an MLIS for the ALA Executive Director position feel that the issue is a matter of professionalism: that not requiring an MLIS de-professionalizes librarianship; however, ALA is not a library. It is an association. YALSA’s Board is a strong proponent of maintaining professional standards for librarians and for other occupations. Professional standards for the leader of a non-profit association like ALA are degrees such as a Master’s in nonprofit management, or certification, such as the American Society of Association Executive’s “Certified Association Executive” designation. It is critical that the person running an association like ALA has the relevant credentials and experience to do an excellent job. YALSA is only as strong as ALA, so it is in our best interest to ensure that individuals who are highly qualified and from diverse backgrounds are eligible to apply for the ALA Executive Director Position.
The previous ALA Executive Director announced his retirement in the fall of 2016. Earlier in 2017 a search was conducted for a replacement that led to a failed search, caused in part by the fact that at the time the job description stated that an MLIS was required. During this current political climate, when institutions like libraries are under attack, ALA needs a strong leader. We cannot afford to be without a leader any longer, nor can we afford to put up unnecessary barriers to highly qualified and diverse individuals to applying for this job. I hope you will stand with YALSA’s Board and ALA Council and agree that an MLIS degree for the ALA Executive Director should be preferred but not required.
In addition to working with the YALSA Board on this important issue, here are some highlights of my other activities in November.
- Attended the YALSA Symposium in Louisville
- Delivered a presentation about the YALSA Futures Report at the YALSA/COSLA National Forum on Transforming Teen Services through Continuing Education
- Presented the keynote address at the NY City School Librarian’s Conference
- Prepared for the November Board chat where we discussed the 2017 YALSA member survey results
- Wrote President’s column for the winter issue of YALS focused on youth activism through community engagement
- Led YALSA Executive Committee meeting where we discussed YALSA finances and ALA relations
Stats and Data
- Funds raised in Oct. = $1,346.52
- Member stats for Oct. = 4,793 (down 3.4% over this time last year)
- Double your impact! Between now and Jan. 15, 2018 any donation to YALSA up to $1,000 will be matched dollar for dollar by ALA! Find out more here.
- The YALSA Board approved a new version of YALSA’s Competencies. Make sure to sign up for the free webinars
- Check out the YALSA Blog and The Hub for great ideas and the latest on YA services and resources!
- Check out the Current Projects page to stay updated on what’s going on!
- To Diane Colson for her 2 ½ years of thoughtful and passionate service as a YALSA Board member! We wish you the best in your new job!
- To everyone who has donated to the YALSA Leadership Endowment Challenge and who gave on Giving Tuesday!
- To all our members for all that you do to support teens and teen library services in your communities.
Sandra Hughes-Hassell, YALSA President 2017-2018
Follow me on twitter @Bridge2Lit