By ROBIN HATZIYANNIS
The library is the heart of the community. We need to tell our story," said Sarah Long, president-elect of the American Library Association (ALA), to more than 100 federal librarians gathered at the Library of Congress in late October.
Citing research findings of a surge in positive feelings for libraries yet lower levels of praise for librarians, Ms. Long said, "It is a puzzle with a few missing pieces." She began by noting that, in her recent meetings with ALA constituents, she sensed a "disconnect" between library schools and librarians "in the trenches," a problem that could be remedied with better communication between library school educators and library practitioners about new approaches to the discipline.
"Does this [disconnection] resonate with you?" she asked the audience. Many nodded, and also broached such topics as salaries and undergraduate library science programs. Ms. Long urged the listeners to encourage professional exchanges among their peers.
Many in the field also continue to struggle with the relevance of the term "librarian" while at the same time they are adapting to new technologies and demands from customers. Ms. Long's review of hiring trends also shows that information managers and research associates who do "library-type work" are in demand and offered higher salaries than traditional librarians. "A great pool of people in our field no longer call themselves librarians. But the good news is that there is a higher number of people in library schools than in past years."
"There is also a growing urgency for community in our country," said Ms. Long. As the baby boomers turn 50, their desire for a sense of community has become a priority. "Even in the smallest suburbs near my home near Chicago, there has been an increased interest in building a sense of community, from increased local journalism to building town centers."
"I am thrilled with the ideas here; they are so like my very own," she said. Preparing to announce her presidential theme, she summarized how she intends to make connections between libraries and their communities. "It begins with the reservoir of good feelings for libraries and builds on the new sense of community. The library can be the center of that community both physically and virtually," said Ms. Long.
Ms. Long began her career as a school librarian and has spent more than 20 years in public library service. For the past nine years, she has been the director of the North Suburban Library System, an organization of 680 academic, public, school and special libraries in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago. She has also served as the director for the Multnomah County Library in Portland, Ore.; the Dauphin County Library in Harrisburg, Pa.; and the Fairfield County District Library of Lancaster, Ohio.
Since 1978, Ms. Long has been active in ALA, serving on award, election and telecommunications committees. She is also a former Public Library Association president and chair of many of its conference, legislative and affiliates efforts. Among her honors and awards, she counts four John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards and has been listed in Who's Who in America since 1986.
Deputy Librarian of Congress Donald L. Scott welcomed guests to Ms. Long's presentation, titled "Future Librarianship," which was sponsored by the Federal Librarian's Round Table (FLRT), the Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC), the District of Columbia Library Association (DCLA), the Library of Congress Professional Association (LCPA) and the Armed Forces Libraries Round Table (AFLRT). "As the Library approaches its bicentennial, I invite you to join in this national celebration for all libraries," said Mr. Scott. Remarking on both the depth and scope of the responsibilities librarians and the Library of Congress share, he reminded the audience that "we must ensure that whatever vehicle transferred the written word, we must keep it, and add it to the newest vehicles."
FLRT President Andrea Gruhl introduced Ms. Long and thanked the Planning Committee of Sarah Striner, Betty Landesman, Joan Taylor, Shirley Loo, and Doria Grimes. She also thanked Anna Bohlin of FLICC for her assistance. Ms. Gruhl then asked the heads of the co-sponsoring organizations and recognized LCPA President Sarah Striner, FLICC Executive Director Susan M. Tarr, DCLA President Mary Augusta Thomas and AFLRT President Katie Gillen, who was unable to attend.
Ms. Hatziyannis is with FLICC/FEDLINK.