From the President: June 2014
Sara Kelly Johns, NYLA President
Don’t Stop Believin’ As I start writing this, my last newsletter column, I am just back from the play Rock of Ages--full of rock songs from the 80’s--and the finale (spoiler alert) is Journey’s 1981 song, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” As the cast belted it out, I turned to my husband and said, “That really is NYLA’s anthem! We DON’T stop believing!” He gave me one of those looks, but by this time, he knew just what I mean.
NYLA is the voice of New York’s library community. I have said and written that, over and over again since becoming NYLA’s President last September in Niagara Falls. (If you want a year to go by fast, become NYLA President!) When that voice sings in harmony as on Library Advocacy Day, it’s impressive and it makes an impact. Sometimes that voice is the murmur of discussion as library issues are debated from all sides to develop consensus on a next action.
The strength of NYLA is the diversity of our voices. We have librarians, library staff members and trustees from all library types, hailing from the largest city in the country or some very small villages. We have library users of all ages with the sounds of most of the world’s languages. We have people who want access to books in all formats, and students who need guidance for research and their next best book. With all that diversity, NYLA works together for progress and change. As NYLA president, I didn’t “have to” travel around the state, putting over 20,000 miles on my car going to conferences, libraries and meetings, but I “got to” do that. I learned so much! One change I have seen is the shift in how we engage with our communities. We have begun using a “turning outward” approach that emphasizes changing the orientation of our libraries and library staffs from internal (institutional) to external (community-facing). School, public, academic and special libraries are shifting our community engagement, changing processes and thinking to be proactive with community issues, putting community aspirations first. I see it in the makerspaces from Rebecca Buerkett’s elementary library in Tupper Lake to Sue Considine and her staff in the Fayetteville Free Library. Rich Harwood’s keynote address at the NYLA conference will focus New York even more on community engagement, getting us on the same “note.”
In NYLA Council meetings, we debated both difficult issues and “no-brainers.” We celebrated together as we came to harmonious consensus representing the directions NYLA needs to move to meet the needs of our members and the library community. We passed resolutions supporting sustainable libraries, Sari Feldman for ALA President and the ALA Declaration for the Right to Libraries. We worked with library assistants, the NY Black Librarians Caucus and Friends of Libraries for stronger representation in NYLA. We accepted the audit report and approved reports on NYLA’s membership and fiscal stability. We voted to fix the steps and to adopt conflict of interest, sexual harassment and whistleblower organizational policies—moving forward on both small and huge issues for the profession and the organization. And more.
The Legislative Committee set priorities this year including long-term goals as well as issues that would face the legislature this year. School children having access to school librarians in every grade level was added as a long-term goal for the first time since 2009 and full-funding for library aid was aggressively sought by the committee, the staff and the members. “New York’s Libraries are essential for success” was the message that was seen on posters, bookmarks, electronic billboards and drink coasters. By the end of the session, the governor’s $4 million in aid was restored - plus a million. A larger amount was tantalizingly close—but don’t stop believin’. There’s next year and we have momentum. Laws were signed for Library Construction Aid and for Maintenance of Effort waivers. Bills were introduced that would require school librarians in every school but the language (from 2007 bills) is only a start. Director for Government Relations and Advocacy, Mike Neppl, will be a regular visitor at the offices of Senator Farley and Assemblyman Thiele. He’ll have them singing our songs in the right key, I know.
The 2014 School Library Summit and the NYLA Strategic Planning review both took huge amounts of staff and members’ time and will guide the work of NYLA in the next few years. Academic librarians met to plan for stronger NYLA support for their members and libraries. Thank you Jeremy, Mike, Lois, Galina, Cara, Ashleigh, and Mary Anne. Thank you, Council members and committee chairs and members. Thank you, NYLA members and advocates. The NYLA community is strong and engaged. We all know that this is an exciting time to use and work in libraries and I know that the NYLA staff is made up of smart, savvy people committed to an organization of smart, savvy people who will not stop believin’.