New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

A Trifecta in Saratoga Springs

Lisa C. Wemett, President, Friends of Libraries Section

While Jeremy Johannesen and NYLA Conference Chair Ellen Rubin continued to state to all listeners that the 2014 Annual Conference in Saratoga Springs was “the best NYLA conference ever” and I was truly agreeing with them, ultimately I personally will state it was indeed “the best conference ever” because I hit the trifecta there.

No, not at the famed racetrack; the ponies were not running in the off season.  Here’s how it played out:

On Thursday morning at the NYLA Annual Membership meeting, the culmination of a year’s planning started with Rebekkah Smith Aldrich making the motion for the Empire Friends Roundtable to become a Section of NYLA.  I immediately seconded the motion.  The vote was the last step after garnering 300 signatures last fall to petition the NYLA membership to make this change in its structure.  The vote was unanimous and the new leadership of FLS, the Friends of Libraries Section, rose to their feet holding signs with our new logo (developed by Second Vice President Terry Mulee) and new name over their heads.  It was a moving celebration and affirmation for a group started over 20 years ago.

Then Thursday afternoon, I was escorted to the membership meeting of the Youth Services Section.  President Chrissie Morrison shared a proclamation crafted by the YSS Executive Board to honor me for my years of service to YSS.  The Board decided to name one of the YSS Spring Conference Scholarships for me!  I was very touched by this tribute.  The scholarship is given annually to an experienced librarian to assist them with the expenses incurred while attending YSS’s annual conference.  So many staff members are strongly committed to the field of youth librarianship and continue to provide their all to every facet of programming, services, and collection development year after year.  I am so pleased to have my name associated with this award for continuing education and to honor their work.

As a conference programmer for EFR, “Friends Day” was my opportunity to coordinate some outstanding topics for our members throughout the day.  We enjoyed a networking luncheon at Jacob and Anthony’s where we recognized Randall Enos for his record of six years as EFR President, with his last term of office being three years in a row as Mr. President!  As two of my panel discussions edged toward sundown, I was looking forward to the NYLA Awards Banquet that evening.  Sitting down front near the podium with many friends from across the state that I only get to see once a year, I was enjoying the accolades being placed on my colleagues for various NYLA awards.  Then NYLA President Sara Kelly Johns started in on an introduction for NYLA’s newest award that effectively replaces the former “lifetime achievement” award.  Slowly it sank in that Sara was talking about me and my many years in NYLA, from YSS Secretary to my new role as President of FLS.  I received the first “Above and Beyond Award” from NYLA, another very humbling experience.  It is gratifying and yet a challenge to me: to keep up the good work!

So there’s that trifecta: the first President of FLS, a scholarship, and an award engraved with my name on the cover of a crystal book.  By Saturday morning, I was beginning to have trust issues!  Some of my closest friends were scheming and plotting, nearly under my nose, and I fell into their well-laid traps!  They were gleeful that they had put one over on me and a few of them did it twice!  I was stunned and a “deer in the headlights.”  Speechless two days in a row!  Not my usual prepared self for time at the microphone.  (I was running that script in the back of my mind, “Why was it again that you didn’t join that Toastmasters group?”)  Therefore, I just want to share a snippet of what I would like to have said about these two awards if I’d had my wits about me:

I cannot stress enough the importance of volunteerism in your career.  You are a professional at your paid job.  You need to have that same work ethic in a parallel volunteer life where you can make a difference to your colleagues and to libraries you have never been in, just by doing your best.  My organizational skills are admired, but nothing gives me greater pleasure and a sense of achievement than to see a project I have tackled with a team come to a successful outcome.  The YSS Spring Conferences I worked on (1988, 2009, 2011, and 2013) and the 2013 Arbuthnot Lecture were some of those times.

Developing publications, writing long-range plans for the Section, seeing a slate of accomplished youth specialists up for election from the efforts of your nominating committee, and training generalists statewide to provide strong young adult services in their libraries were all equally satisfying.  We celebrate, we hug, we “high five,” and sometimes we get to stand in a ballroom with shiny new signs to celebrate a year-long process with our fellow NYLA-ites applauding us wildly!

Many people have asked me what this Section change will mean for us.  Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, former Councilor at Large on NYLA Council, represented several NYLA roundtables for Council.  Because she was a champion of EFR and instrumental in keeping the dialogue going on having the roundtable become a section, I asked that she make the motion at the NYLA membership meeting to that effect.

Rebekkah personally directed members to the EFR booth to sign our petition for Sectionhood at the 2013 conference.  She encouraged LAMS and other NYLA Sections to state that their boards supported this change in organizational structure for NYLA.  What I told her later, as FLS now will have its own seat and a vote on NYLA’s board of directors, is that she effectively pulled out the chair for us to sit down at that table.  Friends of Libraries will have a voice of their own that our colleagues will respect.  The Council will become more attuned to how Friends can help the library community at large and will consider Friends as they make decisions for the organization.  “How can the Friends help us address these NYLA projects and issues?”

Nothing (and everything) has prepared me for the welcome the Empire Friends has received in this change of status.  We have come into our own, with many members commenting on how great this change is.  I have no doubt that we will live up to their expectations, with increased visibility and advocacy efforts.  I know our Friends of Library groups will work with me to that end, going “above and beyond.”  I know I have to: that shiny crystal book with my name on it is going to remind me every day that I need to continue this important volunteer work.