In the coming days, ATG is posting a series of interviews with each of the candidates for ALA President*. All of the interviews are being conducted by Lynda M. Kellam, Data Services & Government Information Librarian and Adjunct Lecturer in Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
In order to be as fair as possible, Lynda poses the same questions to each candidate hoping to learn where they stand on the issues most important to academic libraries.
ATG Interviews James (Jamie) LaRue, Candidate for ALA President
James (Jamie) LaRue is the former Director of the Douglas County Library in Colorado. Since January of 2014, Mr. LaRue has been an independent writer, speaker, and consultant and CEO of LaRue & Associates.)
LK: On what areas do you intend to focus if you are elected ALA President?
JLaR: My platform consists of three “planks:”
- We need to move from gatekeeper to gardener. The digital publishing revolution has resulted in an explosion of intellectual content, particularly among midlist, independent, and self-publishers. Yet for academic and public libraries alike, ebooks have mostly been a disaster: we gave up ownership, discounts, and integration with our catalogs. As ALA President, I would work to focus our professional attention on these emerging streams of content, whose creators are far more interested in working with us, and whom I believe represent the future of content creation. My work at Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries, where we built our own digital content platform, has taught me that we can no longer afford to be passive victims of the marketplace. In the academic world, monopolistic silos have sharply restricted the availability of intellectual content and scholarly access. We can and we must change the market.
- We need to move from embedded librarians to community leaders. By “community” I mean “our authorizing environment.” For academic librarians, it’s the whole university; for school librarians, that would be the school district; for public librarians, it’s the town or county. I’ve written about this elsewhere (see http://jaslarue.blogspot.com/2014/10/from-community-reference-to-library-as.html): the idea is that we must leave the library, identify and interview community leaders about the larger issues and aspirations of their constituents, help facilitate a discussion about larger community agendas, and finally pick a project in which we can make a high impact contribution to that agenda. Finally, we need to tell everyone about it: demonstrating our value not just as passive responders to individual questions someone brings to us, but as community leaders actively seeking to add value.
- We must move from book deserts to book abundance. In this study (http://jaslarue.blogspot.com/2013/01/500-books-in-home.html), we learned that getting 500 books in the home of a child between the ages of 0-5 is as powerful as having two parents with Master’s degrees. Reading readiness leads to reading proficiency, and reading proficiency is linked to freedom from jail, healthier childhoods and longer lives, greater educational achievement, and greater earning capacity. We have it within our capacity to eliminate half of the social ills of our society. We know it. Some teachers know it. But the rest of our community decision-makers do not. As ALA President, I would use every available communication channel to carry this vital message to our larger society.
LK: What are some specific academic library concerns that need more attention from ALA?
JLaR: While ALA (through its Digital Content Working Group) succeeded in getting the Big Six publishers (in the public library world) to sell eBooks to libraries, the truth is, the real action is coming from small, independent, and self-publishing. As ALA President, I would train the spotlight on what I believe to be the emerging marketplace, that requires more investment in the creation and linking of our own platforms, and the development of true partnerships with these new players.
LK: Some academic librarians and patrons applaud the move to create spaces that encourage group work and interaction, while others prefer a quieter library. How should the library of the twenty-first century brand itself?
My thinking about this is informed by the book “The Fourth Turning,” by William Strauss and Neil Howe (Broadway,1997). There is a rhythm to social moments and societal change in the United States. Public institutions must respond to changing generational sensibilities if they are to remain relevant. The Millennials (and the generation after them) have been very collaborative. Moreover, educational theory has moved from student as passive recipient of learning, to someone actively engaged in his or her learning. Of course, the choice isn’t between hushed book repository and bustling learning commons. Academic libraries can and should be both: a place where self-directed learning can take place, and where there is active and frequent interaction with other learners.
LK: At ALA midwinter, several sessions tackled the emerging roles of academic libraries in engaging with open access publishing. What are you thoughts on this trend?
JLaR: The current system – wherein scholars give away their research, then libraries have to buy it back at outrageous prices – is unsustainable and threatens the academy itself. Most universities have the technical expertise to house their own platforms. The greatest impediment to Open Access is faculty perception: What matters is peer review, not the status of an unaffordable imprint. I have written before on the idea of library as publisher; I believe that direction is essential to our survival.
LK: Why should Against the Grain readers vote for you as ALA’s next president?
JLaR: What’s most important is that they DO vote. Have a say in the future of our association! What I believe I bring to the position is deep and broad expertise in media, business, and outreach beyond the library echo chamber. As a public library director (I was the head of the Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries for 24 years, our ebook platform exerted strong and positive pressure on the market — and was featured in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and Governing Magazine. We need leadership that does more than talk to our members. We are at a tipping point. We can be players in the transformation of publishing and our communities; or we can be victims. My history is one of innovation, leadership, and influence. A vote for me is a vote for the belief that together, librarians can change the world.
- ATG Interviews the ALA Presidential Candidates: Joe Janes
- ATG Interviews the ALA Presidential Candidates: Julie Todaro…
Lynda is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the Political Science Department and contributor to Against the Grain.