Four Questions for ALA's Four Presidential Candidates: Our Interview with Joseph Janes

by Davis Erin Anderson, Community Engagement Manager, METRO


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

Our third interview in our series of talks with the four candidates continues with Joe Janes. Joe is an Associate Professor at the Information School at the University of Washington. Read more about Joe's candidacy on his campaign website.


Thank you for you for speaking with us! What questions have been the most frequently asked of you during your campaign? Which of the issues raised are most pressing for the future of ALA, in your opinion?

joe.jpegMy pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity! I’ve been struck by the fact that among all the questions I’ve been asked as a candidate over the last several months, very few are the same. Indeed, they’re almost all entirely different. That speaks to one of the most compelling aspects of our profession: its remarkable diversity, of institutions, of settings, of work, of people and their backgrounds. That’s a wonderful thing; it tells us that we’re everywhere, contributing to so many aspects of our communities and clienteles. It also means that while we are so diverse, there are central, core values and principles that bring us together: equalization of access, intellectual freedom, a mentality and ethic of service, a desire to represent and to improve the communities and institutions we work with and for.

It further means that issues and concerns can be both far-flung and specific, and very broad. How do we preserve equality of access in a world of simultaneous media consolidation and open access? What do we make of the new sciences and processes of data and discovery? How do we protect the privacy and freedom of our users in a world of increased surveillance? How do we create and maintain services when technological generations come faster and faster? And – what are the questions and issues yet to be revealed?


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

I have two primary aims in running. The first is to find and take advantage of as many opportunities as possible to tell our story: the value and importance of libraries, librarians, and librarianship, to the wider world. Let’s get the Caldecott, Newbery, King awards winners back on the Today show, let’s get ourselves on NPR and the Daily Show and wherever else we can get to make the case for our work and our impact. Broader, deeper, and greater popular understanding of, and support for, our work, will go a long way in easing everything we do.

The second is to help lead the conversation within the profession on where we go from here. In the face of the profound changes in so many aspects of the environments in which we work—technological, economic, social, legal, political—asking hard questions and testing out new ideas and innovations is going to be among the most important things we can do as a profession.


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?

Any ALA president is entrusted to be the president of the entire association, representing our professional voice to the wider world. I’ve spent my entire career helping people to understand themselves, our field, and their place within it, so I’ve always been quite aware of our breadth and scope. We all know there are lots of small groups in our big tent, important and valuable in many ways, though I’ve always been most taken by the things that bring us together, that define us. Those common threads help to form the story of who we are and what we do and how important, how critical, we are in so many ways. That story is inspiring and one of the most vital roles of the ALA president is to tell it loud and clear, far and wide.


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

Much of what I think and believe and want to accomplish is in my writings and presentations, many of which can be found on my campaign website.

What else do I offer? Breadth of vision, thoughtfulness, and a sense of humor about myself. I can tell a great story, inspire and move people, pose challenging questions and help people develop creative responses. I build consensus within groups and organizations, listen well, and have helped lots of people become what they’ve always wanted to be.

I am, fundamentally, an optimist; I believe the best days of libraries and librarianship are ahead of us, using new and old tools and resources to do our important work. In partnership with those who support us and whom we support, we can—if we act with purpose, vision and courage—thrive as the information environment evolves again and again and again.