“How Would You Represent ALA-APA As President In 2010-2011 And Beyond?”

Elections will be held in the spring! The candidates for ALA President are Kenton Oliver, executive director of Stark County District Library, Canton, Ohio; and Roberta Stevens, outreach projects and partnerships officer at the Library of Congress and project manager for the National Book Festival. As the victor will also serve as ALA-APA President, the candidates were asked, “How would you would represent ALA-APA as President in 2010-2011 and beyond?” Here are their responses.

Kent Oliver

It is my pleasure to take part in Library Worklife’s annual ALA-APA Presidential column. Throughout my library work career I have been involved with issues concerning salaries, human resources and advancement. I have seen the topic of salary advancement from many different perspectives. These varied viewpoints will help members understand why I will be the best choice for your next President.

My library career began as a page (shelver) at the Topeka (KS) Public Library fresh out of junior high for a measly hourly wage. From this point on I have worked in one type of library or another for my entire work life. Following my experience as a page, I worked in an academic library as a student assistant then returned to TPL as a driver in the bookmobile department. Other jobs included clerk level positions at the Kansas State Library in the Library Development Division and Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (DBPH). Returning to TPL I became a reference librarian prior to receiving my MLS. Continuing in this role after receiving my degree I assumed such titles as the Young Adult Librarian, Business Librarian and Assistant Community Information Coordinator.

The purpose of sharing this work history is to explain my insight into issues that drive ALA-APA. While it was all great training to become a supervisor and obtain directorship positions, my work also provided wonderful perspective into library salaries from literally the bottom up. As a director and manager I have developed pay grades, job descriptions, dealt with personnel budgets, tracked benefit costs and negotiated bargaining agreements with our union (SEIU). I still reflect on my shocking realization as a new professional that the degree wasn’t going to immediately expand my economic horizons. The lesson is and was that librarians must have an incredible passion for their profession to hang in there with the financial duress that accompanies many of our skilled and professional positions. It is remarkable that so many of our colleagues come to us as a second profession to share that passion. It certainly isn’t for the money. This needs to change.

I was present at the beginning of ALA-APA from 2001 – 2003. At the time I was on the ALA Executive Board and served on a formative committee for ALA-APA. In 2003, when ALA-APA became a reality, the organization was promoted to ALA Council, membership and the Executive Board under two major premises: advocacy for improved salaries and certified training development. My perception, and I believe a predominant one, is that ALA understood that there was a need for an organizational vehicle to allow for library lobbying within IRS guidelines. The lobbying focus was to be on the improvement of librarian salaries and related personnel issues. If developed appropriately, there might be later initiatives expanding beyond that immediate advocacy need.

A secondary opportunity was moving toward a post MLS/MLIS library certification program. Similar certification efforts had been made previously through such entities as the Public Library Association (PLA), Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) and The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA).

It is worth noting that from the outset ALA-APA was supported by a loan from ALA to begin its operations and employ a staff member. At the Executive Board level and in the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC) there were extensive discussions surrounding the seed loan required to launch ALA-APA. The long term financial viability of the organization was discussed and debated. Financial models and projections were developed for creating and operating ALA-APA services. This included the impact sustaining support might have on the ALA operating budget.

In the last five years ALA-APA has made a heroic effort to become vibrant and effectual. Jenifer Grady may be credited with this as well as former ALA presidents such as Mitch Freedman and Nancy Kranich. Unfortunately, there remains confusion among the ranks of ALA and Council as to what this organization is. As I understand it, finances continue to be of concern with fewer donations this last year than the year before.

Library Worklife, which replaced the Library Personnel News, covers topics such as pay equity, employment benefits, terminations and career advancement. The Librarian Salary Survey is important but does not sell well considering the number of libraries participating in the survey and that it represents the nation’s public and academic libraries; of more than 12,000 libraries; 4,000 are asked to participate, 1,000 participate and about 400 surveys are sold each year. The Certified Public Library Administrator Program (CPLA) may be picking up momentum, but appears to be struggling somewhat with seven graduates reported to the Executive Board at the 2008 Conference.

So, the question is, how will I represent ALA-APA as President? Generally, I will emphasize and promote the strengths of ALA-APA and at the same time encourage us to ask questions about any perceived weaknesses so that it will ultimately succeed.


As President-Elect Camila Alire pointed out in last year’s column, there is a real disconnect between our membership and an awareness of ALA-APA. I would seek to have ALA-APA backtrack with a publicity campaign for internal members as well as potential customers outside the realm of ALA, addressing what the focus of ALA-APA’s is and why is it important to every member.

I will piggy back on President Alire’s promise of promoting an awareness of ALA-APA governance structure within ALA. This structure is complicated and “unnatural” to other than the most engaged ALA leaders. Confusion is still found on Council when hats are changed from ALA to ALA-APA sessions.

Next, as others I have done, I will actively promote ALA-APA when and where needed. I will support Library Worklife, National Library Workers Day (How can this become regarded as another Banned Books Week by the profession?) and the Librarian Salary Survey.

I will encourage the continued review of competencies in the CPLA program. Further, I will provide focus on the development of the Library Support Staff Certification Program. This focus on support staffs can serve several important purposes; it potentially adds to worker job effectiveness and enjoyment as well as develops a new pool of ALA-APA members.

Finally, I will establish an ad hoc panel to review the success of certification/lobbying/advocacy activities of the ALA-APA, asking the hard questions: are there substantial outcomes we can measure against ALA-APA’s inception and related programs? Is the CPLA in conflict with State certification programs or is it complimentary, and does it offer greater opportunity for collaborations? How do certification programs relate to school of library and information science programs? Where does the cost of sustaining ALA-APA during challenging times fall in our priorities and meet our association’s goals?

In my mind the issues and concerns facing ALA-APA are really part of a larger continuum faced by libraries that I will address during my Presidency. Communities and governing bodies support libraries based on the essential needs libraries meet in our society. Better compensation and training of our library workforce improves the quality and development of our services. This is true regardless of the type of library. The advocacy required to ensure that governing bodies and communities support libraries will only come from a profession of knowledgeable and passionate workers.

My name is Kenton Oliver and I ask for your vote in this ALA Presidential election.


Roberta Stevens

While it has been a long climb getting here, ALA-APA is poised to take off. Now that we are successfully graduating candidates from the Certified Public Library Administrators Program and are fast-tracking the Library Support Staff Certification Program, we need to support ALA-APA and keep it moving forward. I am dedicated to doing so with ALA and ALA-APA’s staff and members.

ALA as a 501 c(3) organization can do many things for libraries and librarianship, but it cannot issue professional certifications to individuals. Nor can ALA lobby for library salaries, a deep concern for almost everyone in the profession. Few are as well-educated as the individuals who work in libraries, though the monetary recompense seems far out of kilter with the degrees required or requested in job postings. In addition to being able to fulfill these roles that are important to us, ALA-APA as a 501 c(6) permits a venue for discussion on political candidates, something that was strongly desired by members during the recent election. For all of these reasons (and others), I feel strongly that ALA-APA is vital to the future of library employees and that it must continue.

I commend Jenifer Grady. It is not easy starting a program with limited financial and staffing support. As President, I will work to boost that support and, in particular, one of the key reasons for ALA-APA’s existence: the advancement of libraries and library workers, especially the efforts to increase library salaries for traditionally underpaid library workers.

For the past 8 years, I have been the Project Manager for the National Book Festival, which annually features 70 authors and illustrators and hosts 120,000 attendees. Its media reach is astonishing: there were 1.2 billion media impressions for the 2008 festival. The authors are high-profile individuals who are popular and command respect from their peers. Among the more than 440 who have appeared at the festival since 2001 are Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, John Irving, Salman Rushdie, Geraldine Brooks, Patricia MacLachlan, R. L. Stine, Neil Gaiman, Rosemary Wells, Walter Dean Myers, Louis Sachar, Sharon Draper, Jerry Pinkney, Judith Ortiz Cofer and Bryan Collier. They are natural allies for libraries and library employees. I will tap these talented individuals to become our advocates with the public and private sectors for increasing the salaries of library staff and for raising the profile and status of the profession. They are a diverse group and can powerfully reinforce the message that we value diversity and that working in libraries is a “cool” career choice.

Money may be the mother’s milk of politics, but we know for sure it’s the mother’s milk of libraries. We need it to keep our collections from growing stale and our services vibrant and responsive to our users. On an elemental level, we need it to keep the doors open, the lights lit and the heating on as well as get our salaries paid and our salary increases approved. These are perilous times economically (personally I cry a river every time I open my latest 401(k) statement), and strong voices with lawmakers are essential. I have worked here at the Library of Congress for nearly 24 years, right across the street from the U.S. Capitol. As President, I pledge to you that I will use my experience on Capitol Hill and as a former member of ALA’s Committee on Legislation and enlist others to work together in pursuing the passage of legislation to provide funding for libraries, whether they are in elementary and high schools, colleges and universities, or serving their local populations. I will advocate for libraries with national, state and local political leaders and work with ALA and its members relentlessly to ensure every potential piece of legislation that could provide support for libraries includes provisions for that support.

Jim Rettig has initiated a host of online opportunities that allow members the opportunity to become engaged with the organization. It’s a relatively easy way to take advantage of the many training, discussion and networking opportunities that ALA offers. I will continue his efforts and expand them for staff who function in the wide variety of roles in our libraries.

Finally, I pledge that as president I will donate any honorarium received as President to ALA-APA and the Spectrum Scholarship fund. In addition, I will use the honorarium to provide conference scholarships for members who have never had a chance to share in the excitement, learning opportunities and personal contacts that make Annual Conferences such a valuable experience.

I ask for your vote for ALA and ALA-APA President.