Roberta Stevens, project manager of the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival throughout its nine-year history, garnered 55.7 percent of the American Library Association (ALA) vote this spring to be elected president of the association that represents 67,000 members nationally and internationally. Kenton Oliver, executive director of the Stark County, Ohio District Library and the other candidate for president, received 44.3 percent of the votes.
When she is inaugurated in 2010, Stevens will become the sixth Library of Congress official to preside over ALA in the past 133 years. The other five ALA presidents from the Library were Carol A. Nemeyer, former associate librarian for national programs (1982–1983); Lucile M. Morsche, former deputy chief assistant librarian (1957–1958); Herman H.B. Meyer, former director of the Legislative Reference Service (1924-1925); and former Librarians of Congress L. Quincy Mumford (1954-1955) and Herbert Putnam (1898 and 1903-1904).
Stevens will serve as president-elect beginning in July. She will be inaugurated as president on June 29, 2010, at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. As president-elect, president, and past president (2011-2012), she will continue as a member of ALA’s Executive Board.
Stevens, who is managing the 2009 festival, intends to take leave from the Library during her year as president to focus on fulfilling her campaign promises.
“I want to work with ALA’s staff and members on a nationwide library advocacy campaign that rallies authors to speak on behalf of libraries everywhere,” she said. “I have been struck by the passion and eloquence of many of our authors. They are our natural allies and would be terrific spokespeople for libraries, reading and literacy.
“The single greatest need of libraries is financial. Library usage is increasing at the very time the economic downturn resulted in less public and private funding being available for their support,” she said, adding that more people than ever are relying on their local libraries to check out books and use free Internet access and materials in their search for jobs.
Developing planned giving programs for smaller libraries and increasing ALA’s international memberships by highlighting the wealth of online training and communication/networking opportunities are two additional areas of concern for her. She also plans to draw on her Capitol Hill experience to work collaboratively with ALA and its members for legislation to support libraries at the local, state and national levels.
Although Stevens used web 2.0 technology and “social networks” (a web site, blog, YouTube videos, podcasts and her own Facebook page) to reach out to ALA voters, she said she thinks she won the election by having a platform with ideas that addressed issues important to members. Another factor in winning, she believes, was her announcement that she would make a full-time commitment to work on behalf of libraries. She is especially concerned with expanding member opportunities within ALA and encouraging new and younger members to get involved.
Before joining the Library of Congress in 1985, Stevens was a school library/media specialist, head of media services at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and director of technical services at the Fairfax County Public Library. She began at the Library of Congress as the Customer Services Officer in the Cataloging Distribution Service, worked in administrative positions in the former Cultural Affairs and National Services divisions, and was the Library’s Bicentennial Program Manager.
On May 7, the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education honored Stevens with its 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award. She is the first recipient of their master’s degree in library science to receive the award. On May 20, she received the Ainsworth Rand Spofford Presidential Award from the District of Columbia Library Association. Spofford, the sixth Librarian of Congress (1864 to 1897), championed passage of the Copyright Act of 1870, which expanded the collection from 60,000 to over 1 million items. He is remembered for obtaining congressional support to fund construction of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The award recognizes contributions to the development or improvement of library and information services.