Why we need a librarian to be the library manager
Updated: 4 hours ago Published: 4 hours ago
Recently Mayor Dave Bronson nominated Sami Graham and Judy Eledge for the post of director of the Anchorage Public Library. Neither of them have a library background, but he named their educational experience as a qualification. He spoke of Eledge’s “background and experience in renewing and refocusing our children’s attention on reading”. This is not and should not be the main focus of the APL Director’s duties for several reasons.
I am a retired English teacher. I have also been a long-time member of Friends of the Library and the Alaska Library Association (AkLA). (Incidentally, I haven’t seen Ms. Graham or Ms. Eledge at any of the six AkLA conferences I have attended or any Friends of the Library events.) Anchorage Public Library. I know from my teaching and volunteering experience that teaching or running a school is very different from running a library system.
As stated on their website, APL’s mission is to “connect people with education, information and community. Our vision for Anchorage is an educated and connected community where our library is an essential hub of learning, inspiration, and community pride for people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. ”Local libraries naturally encourage children and their families through story events, summer reading programs, and others Youth activities related to reading. The library is best known to the public as a source for books, music, and films, and all of these items must be purchased, cataloged, and loaned to library users. However, libraries also provide other services, including reference assistance, media and reference work evaluation, providing databases and computer access, providing job and career information, providing space for community group meetings, and hosting or moderating events.
Anyone with the required Masters of Library Science and seven years of library experience has likely performed or arranged many of the above services. You will be qualified to manage staffing and budgeting in a library system like the Anchorage Public Library. In addition, APL is the largest library system in the state, making it a leader in many areas, including the management of a large portion of the state catalog. The director’s actions affect all libraries, not just our local ones.
All of these library services require a safe, welcoming space for all of our residents. One of APL’s values is to “provide excellent service that is confidential, unbiased and impartial”. The last point is why I suspect the mayor did not nominate a librarian. In the positions he has held so far, many of the nominees have held partisan views. These opinions have no place in a public library that serves all members of the community.
Thank you to all of our librarians, in the APL and in other libraries in our community. I applaud your public service and commitment to helping our residents, informed, connected and able to make our community a better place, supporting people from every neighborhood, age, background and culture. Libraries and access to information are part of the foundation of our democracy, and you deserve leaders who will help you serve the public rather than hinder your mission.
Lynn Lovegreen lives in the Anchorage area and writes youth literature.
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