Looks as if we have a little revolution on our hands, and it’s centered on the issue of access—or the lack thereof—to training opportunities for potential library leaders.
It started late last week when Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County Training Specialist Lori Reed posted an article on her personal Library Trainer blog to explain why she would not renew her ALA membership next year: to protest the exclusion of library Support Staff from the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders program.
Lori writes of the excitement she felt when she first read that the program is “designed to enable more than 100 new librarians to get on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership,” then felt the wind being taken out of her sails when she realized that she, as someone without an MLS degree, could not apply to participate in this wonderful opportunity being offered by an organization which she supports through membership fees.
“So ALA will happily take the money from library support staff…for membership but does not allow those same members to apply for leadership opportunities within ALA as this one…No thank you.”
A few responses—including mine, meant to encourage her to work within ALA to change the situation rather than leave and give up hope for opening the doors to more opportunity for non-librarians within ALA—trickled in over the weekend. And then the number of responses doubled and included thoughtful pieces in support of Lori’s dissatisfaction from two treasured associates whom I have known since we first met through Infopeople: Pat Wagner and Sarah Houghton-Jan.
Pat suggests that “a goodly number of libraries in small communities are run by people without masters’ degrees” and says she has been involved in “a number of library leadership programs that were open to everyone, and the quality of participants remained very high.”
Sarah takes this a step further with a posting on her Librarian In Black site today in addition to what she wrote in her “Library Trainer” posting, assures her readers that “I agree with Lori wholeheartedly,” and calls for ALA to “pay them (members of library Support Staff) the respect they deserve.”
Lori, encouraged by the responses, produced a follow-up post this evening as I was editing this article. Perhaps the rest of us who so passionately support training opportunities for the widest possible audience can support her and our colleagues by trying to gain the attention of those who are already involved in the program and might be willing to expand the definition of—and playing field for—prospective library leaders today.