ATG Interviews the ALA Presidential Candidates: Joe Janes

by | Mar 9, 2015 | 0 comments

Here is the second in our series of interviews with the candidates for ALA President*. This time we talk to Joe Janes, Associate Professor and Chair, MLIS Program, University of Washington Information School.

 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.

ATG Interviews Joe Janes, Candidate for ALA President

Joe Janes

Joe Janes is an Associate Professor and Chair, MLIS Program, University of Washington Information School

LK: On what areas do you intend to focus if you are elected ALA President?

JJ: I have two primary aims in running.  First, I want to take every opportunity I can to tell our story to the widest possible audience.  Why not get the ALA president on the Daily Show, or a regular gig on NPR or a Reddit AMA?  Why not get the Caldecott and Newbery and King awards back on morning television where they belong?  We have a great story to tell about the work we do and how we do it, how all of our institutions are critical infrastructure in all the communities and clienteles we work with, and I’m a pretty good storyteller, so I’d love to chance to spread that good news:  how we add value and make every human activity better.

Secondly, I’ve also spent my career helping people to join our professional ranks, and in the process, to pose tough questions and problems and encourage creative and innovative answers.  I’d like to do the same without our professional community, to help us all think about what comes next, to strike the right balance of tradition and innovation to move us forward to be even better at what we do and how we do it.  (You can see more of my ideas at my web site: )

LK: What are some specific academic library concerns that need more attention from ALA?

JJ: An issue that’s been on my mind quite a bit of late is data, both as a means of discovery and as an object for curation, preservation and description.  Increasingly, research and scholarly endeavors of all sorts are going to create and use and draw on larger and larger data sets, and those have got to be housed and managed somewhere by people who have, say, experience with managing and taking care of information objects.  (Who might that be, one wonders?)

At the same time, I’d note, this and other trends (open access, for example) will foster and enable new modes of communication, beyond the strictures of what we now think of as the “scholarly article” or “conference paper,” which means as new generations of scholars grow up with those tools, they will create new artifacts, think of new ways of answering their research questions, and, ultimately, ask questions they might never have before.  That probably implies new areas, methods, and outcomes of inquiry, which is an exciting prospect and will yet again transform the work of libraries and librarians.  This is just one more example of an area we’ll all have to think about, and work on, together.

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? 

JJ: The way it always has:  as a venue for creation, learning and cooperation, embedded in an environment that provides access to high-quality information resources, expert assistance, guidance and advice, and the tools to help people find and use what they need to do what they want to do.  That can take place in hushed reading rooms and in busy collaborative spaces and cafes and everywhere else people gather with access to our materials and services.

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?

JJ: The sooner the better.  More and more of what we think of as high-quality “traditional” media is in fewer and greedier hands, and that closing fist impinges on our ability to do what we want to do on behalf of our clientele every day.  Simultaneously, the opportunities for the use of freer and more open tools–the opening hand of open source and open access publication, institutional repositories, even blogging and video creation–provides researchers, and libraries, with new ways of reaching more and broader audiences.

As a profession, we are all deciding how to balance these, how many eggs to put in which basket, as I say.  We all need to work as hard as we can toward facilitating and fostering the free and open creation of and access to knowledge and information for the greater good.

LK: Why should Against the Grain readers vote for you as ALA’s next president?

JJ: I love this profession; I tell my students at orientation, and anybody who’s considering it, that librarianship is the best, most important, most fulfilling thing you can do with your life.  We are one of that handful of professions which has the human record in our care, the record of everything that has gone before, and what we do keeps that record available for generations to come.  That is noble and vital work, now more than ever before, and I envy my students who will get to work with tools and ideas my generation can only dream of.  I want to leave my profession better than I found it, and if I’m lucky enough to become president, I’ll work as hard as I can to do just that, and I’d appreciate your support.  Thanks!

*See also: 


KellamLynda M. Kellam is the Data Services & Government Information Librarian at the Jackson Library, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Lynda is also an Adjunct Lecturer in the Political Science Department and contributor to Against the Grain.



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