Because Libraries Make Leaders

As the 2017-2018 American Library Association president, Jim Neal is bringing a new focus to the Libraries Transform campaign: the important role libraries and library workers play as leaders in their communities. In the Q&A below, Neal discusses how his “Libraries Lead” presidential initiative will contribute to the vital work of Libraries Transform in the coming year.

Q: Why do you think the Libraries Transform campaign resonates with people?

JN: Libraries Transform refreshes public understanding of the role of libraries and focuses attention on the extraordinary resources, services, programs and facilities that help people to learn, grow, enjoy, share and reshape their lives. Libraries Transform acknowledges that libraries serve the public interest and advance social justice. Transformation for me is about rethinking what we are, what are doing, and how we do it.

Q: Why was it important to make “Libraries Lead” your presidential focus?

JN: My initiative emphasizes the Leader in the Library, the extraordinary teams of library workers who provide influence, innovation and solutions in their organizations, in their communities, in their profession, in the nation and the world.  We have countless programs of leadership development available to library workers. Now is a strategic point to step back and evaluate and coordinate more effectively these efforts. Now is the right time to emphasize how important it is for libraries to be at the table when a community is debating issues and thinking about its future. How critical it is for libraries to be leading the fight for core values like equity of access, intellectual freedom, social responsibility and diversity and inclusion. 

Q: In what ways do you see “Libraries Lead” shaping the campaign?

JN: Libraries also make leaders. Library workers who have opportunities to grow and develop their professional voices. Students who learn about the world and develop new skills, understanding and confidence. Researchers who discover new resources and perspectives and challenge the dominant ideas and biases. Community members who explore new careers, new roles, new opportunities. Libraries can emphasize their transforming impact on leadership for both those who work in our libraries and those who depend on our libraries.

I look forward to seeing the Libraries Transform campaign continue to build on our compelling and consistent message to communicate and celebrate the value and impact of libraries and library workers in lives and in communities.