Four Questions for ALA's Four Presidential Candidates: Our Interview with Julie Todaro

by Davis Erin Anderson, Community Engagement Manager, METRO


Election season for the American Library Association is underway! ALA members are invited to cast their votes for one of the four 2015 Presidential Candidates through May 1, 2015.

Julie Todaro is next up in our series of interview with the candidates. She has been an academic library manager for over twenty five years at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas and has served as ACC’s Dean of Library Services since 2001. For more about Julie, check out her website.


Thank you for you for speaking with us! What questions have been the most frequently asked of you during your campaign?

Todaro.jpgThere are a number of issues raised – no matter the question set – and they are underlying all of the answers I provide. And while I am sure different candidates interpret issues differently I find the three most frequently asked are:

  • What will you do to solve (insert issue here) in the short time you are ALA president? The emphasis here is on “short time,” that is you have two years what can you really do in that short period of time? And I think that the question is right on target because we really only have two years and maybe even a little less. So, for my initiative I deliberately chose a single focus of leadership and more specifically leading with the value of “us” and our expertise and credentials. In addition to a single focus, which means more can be accomplished,  I am not starting from scratch. That is, I am building on content the profession already has on the value of libraries. This provides a foundation of relevant information we can expand upon as librarians and library workers. Because of these reasons, I think my topic is critical and very doable in the short period of time.
  • Are ALA and the profession diverse enough? And of course the answer is no, neither ALA or the profession are diverse enough. I have focused on this issue in a number of other question sets and the answers are linked from my website (look for the BCALA posting under “About Julie” and “Blog Postings”). In addition, I have a number of very specific ideas in Culture Keepers VI: Preserving the Past, Sustaining the Future. This was written as a 2007 companion piece to "Achieving Racial and Ethnic Diversity among Academic and Research Librarians: An ACRL White Paper" and it suggests a plan for addressing the lack-of-diversity issues in the association and articulates the need for increasing our commitment to diversity. These ideas are broad enough for the organization as a whole, even though the response was initially only for ACRL.

I am also going to include an issue that has been pointed out to me by a number of people, even though it isn’t typically part of the question sets I am getting as a candidate. This issue is hard to explain but many say that the breadth of candidates and questions, etc., indicate a strong need for the association to re-evaluate itself in such areas as inclusiveness, timeliness, engagement in the profession and the association, and support for new professionals in general. I’m still thinking about the appropriate answer for that one, although I have touched on a number of related issues on my blog posts for HiringLibrarians.com and INALJ.com.


Which of the issues raised are most pressing for the future of ALA, in your opinion?

I think a combination of the second and third one from above. That is, I know the organization must continue to expand its focus its diversity - and we are talking about the broadest definition of diversity – and we must increase recruitment efforts as well as work to bolster an environment that looks inviting to diverse professionals. ALA’s Task Force is a perfect conduit for that.


If elected, what do you plan to do to work toward solutions to the issues you've just noted?

Obviously a plan is needed and an entity this large needs some time to assess and also time to assess then change. But, in general, we need to benchmark successful associations an identify practices within our own association areas that are the most successful, research what new professionals want from associations, research what new professionals want and need in general, and conduct an internal organizational culture audit.

Although not all of these things can be accomplished by one president, the research on what new professionals want dovetails with my initiative of leadership through identifying and promoting the value of the librarian. So I would start by including those two research products within my initiative.


As you may know, METRO's membership is highly diverse, with representation from libraries, archives, and museums in the public, academic, and specialized realms. As president, how do you plan to balance the needs of ALA's multivariate membership?

Working across all types and sizes of libraries is one of my areas of expertise. I would love to see a forum where all types of library representatives come together to discuss roles and responsibilities, competition, similarities, differences, economies of scale, etc. That, along with the same discussion about the expertise of library employees, would be fascinating. This would help us identify partnerships and relationships, consortia, networks, etc., and identify best practices and scenarios of success for multi-type organizations.


And now for the age old question: why should METRO members vote for you as ALA's next president?

My strengths include knowledge of and experience with multi-type environments, as well as assisting organizations in determining what opportunities and challenges exist within these unique but critical areas. I am especially interested in the support for libraries that many networks offer, especially in these times of limited dollars available for partnerships and practices. In addition, I have extensive experience leading peers and organizations – such as networks and consortia – where individuals have disparate values and goals as well as disparate roles and responsibilities.

I know I can be an effective president and I am asking for your vote. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the issues!