Thursday, June 26, 2008

My First ALA Convention

Well, here it goes, the ramblings of a first timer! I have been preparing for this day since I decided to sign up for the convention. Which seminars would best inform my practice as a middle school librarian? How do I make sure to see all the vendors who can tell me about their library automation systems (yes, we are still using Winnebego Spectrum) and the publishers, and authors.... The LM Net listserv, ALA Wiki, and YALSA Wiki have provided me with resources I need to put together a great schedule of events. I'm sure I will miss quite a bit, but I have Kathy, and the others in the Anaheim en Mass group to help me.

This is what I will be doing all day Friday... since I am a Middle School Librarian this is right up my alley!
Got Tweens? Serving Younger Teens and Tweens the issues surrounding them, and how to reach them in your library. You'll meet authors who write for this audience, gain exposure to literature for them through booktalks, hear from a panel of experts in the field on programming for younger teens and tweens, and learn about professional resources to aid in providing library service to this group in your school and public library. (Authors participating: Bruce Hale, Jon Scieszka, Lisi Harrison, Amy Goldman Koss, Ingrid Law, and Lisa Yee).
I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, June 26: Spectrum Institute

Note: In case you don't know, Sunshine refers to me - Alma, the author of these posts. Now, on to the Institute....

Our first session was called "Tracing the origins of the Spectrum Scholarship," and featured four women who played a dramatic role in instituting the Spectrum Scholarship program within ALA.

Spectrum is now in its 11th year, but when it was first introduced to ALA by Elizabeth Martinez (currently the Director of the Salinas, CA Pub. Lib.) it was met by heavy resistance. She wrote the ALA policy of equity in the 1980's, under the presidency of E.J. Josey, but equity was not forefront in ALA's mind during those turbulent times.

In 1997, Elizabeth proposed having ALA use $1.5 million of their $12 million in unallocated funds to help recruit librarians of color. This created a storm of protest, controversies and council splits. However, at the end of the storm, ALA gave its approval to fund 50 scholars for a period of 5 years. Elizabeth spoke eloquently and passionately about those early times, and showed the current scholars how hard it was to fight a bureauracracy. My favorite quote was "organizational politics will bring us to our knees, but that's ok because it brings us closer to the earth, where we came from, and closer to prayer...remember librarianship is not just a career, it's a calling...we have a cause, not a career."

Following Elizabeth, we heard from Betty Turock, former ALA president and newly-retired Rutgers GSLIS professor. Betty was president of ALA when Elizabeth finally got the go-ahead to run Spectrum, and she invested much time, money and effort to getting the program off the ground - despite continued opposition. Since ALA refused to fund it past 5 years, she set about getting fundraising committees organized. Her quote of the day was "the life of a librarian is never dull - especially if one is inspired to lead."

Next we heard from Sandra Rios Balderrama, former REFORMA president and former ALA Diversity Officer during these early days. She currently has her own consulting firm. Sandra had to fight negativity and challenges from people putting their own ideas and perceptions into what they constituted "ethnic." The Spectrum program is a recruitment tool to librarianship as well as a scholarship and leadership program. It is a model for other programs to emulate. She reminded us that "our culture, our heritage and our identity is a strength, not a detriment."

Finally, Dr. Mengxiong Liu, Engineering librarian and part-time professor at San Jose State's GSLIS program, spoke. She served on the early Spectrum Steering Committee in 1997 and discussed the many ways the committee tried to use promotional materials to get out the word about the program. Time was of the essence, as in its first 3 years it was important to let people know about the program for it to succeed. She read words from past scholars who noted "becoming a Spectrum Scholar is not just financial assistance, it's receiving's a network of people and becomes part of the Spectrum family."

Gwendolyn Prellwitz, current Director of the Office for Diversity, ended the program by reminding us that the fight is not done. The Spectrum Program does not have a budget from ALA, despite ALA having an endowment of over $22 million. The scholars from the past few years have been funded from an IMLS grant written by the past Diversity Director Tracie Hall, but it expires in 2011.

The yearly ALA ProQuest Bash funds 10 scholars, but that only came about on her insistence that the funds be allocated. She has involved various organizations like the Medical Libraries and others to fund 2 or 3 scholars. However, at $5000 per scholar, and expenses like the Institute, more monies need to be forthcoming. She urged us all to do what we can to spread the word about Spectrum and to get others involved in keeping the dream alive.

Note: In the 11 years since the program was established, we have about 500 former scholars in the world of librarianship. That is just a drop in the bucket, and we have a long way to go. For more information on the Spectrum Scholarship program, go to the ALA Office for Diversity website.

Spectrum Institute: Tips to become Leaders

Our first session featured 4 panelists from various types of libraries discussing the topic "Generation next: Tips on making it and moving up from new leaders in the profession."

Important tips garnered from the question and answer forum were the following:
- Develop your strengths and what you do well = brag. Remember that quality bragging is a career progression and a career progression means success for you.
- Market yourself; be eager to learn. Get a mentor to help navigate the system; networking is important. Read the literature to stay current, and join committees.
- Develop a personal message. Unpack your title = be prepared to tell exactly what you do in a few short sentences. Develop your story and sell yourself in these sentences. Include your strengths and project your skills out to show how they have improved you.
- Have a professional portfolio at your fingertips that you can use at any moment. Include your current resume, references, letters of recommendation, certificates, degrees, awards, transcrips, professional memberships, and anything you write. It will show your knowledge, skills and accomplishments. The portfolio tells your story.

The Spectrum Institute Opening Session

I will be blogging on the various committees I am involved in, as well as the various activities I do while here in Anaheim.

As a member of the Spectrum Institute committee, I arrived today to spend Wed.-Fri. with the current class of ALA Spectrum Scholars at the yearly Leadership Institute I helped to plan. Last year was my first Institute as a member of the 2006 class, and this is my way of giving back to the scholarship program, to recruit diverse librarians into the field, that has done so much for me.

The Institute began with a welcome from Monique le Conge, (current CA PLA pres.), followed by greetings from Loriene Roy (current ALA pres.), Jim Rettig (incoming ALA pres.) and Keith Michael Fiels (ALA Exec. Director).

Some notes from these speakers are as follows:
Monique: "libraries and librarians have an important role to be leaders - to bring new services and innovative thinking to their communities."
Loriene: "I'm the prez from the rez...the Institute is a good stepping point towards involvement in ALA committees."
Jim: "The Institute develops comraderie and professionalism...ALA is like a big city full of neighborhoods. We find our neighborhood based on our intersts in the field. When asked to join committees, don't even think. Say yes first. There will be time for regrets later."
Keith: He had many careers from a school librarian to public and even 10 years as the MA State Librarian. "Being a librarian is one of the best kept secrets in the world..ALA is not 66,000 people, but the half dozen I meet regularly who share my interests."

Reminder: The program "Many Voices, Many Nations" readings, sponsored by the Office of Diversity, will be held Friday from 5:30-9 PM at the Marriot Marquis NE. Admission is $10, and one does not have to be registered for the conference. A reading by Sherman Alexis, author of "The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian" will be part of the evening, and the first 200 to attend will receive an autographed copy of his book. Light refreshments will be served.