ALCTS Q & A - Preview

I have just completed another "virtual Q & A" with ALA candidates, this time with the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS). Here's a preview ahead of the publication of the full set in an upcoming ALCTS Newsletter.

Find the interview with all candidates at:


Please discuss how your ALA goals and philosophy relate to ALCTS. How might ALCTS help facilitate achievement of those goals?

ALCTS, like other ALA units (including Chapters, Round Tables, and Affiliates), may be the primary ALA “home” for its members; ALCTS is the hub for expertise in its areas of concern as well as the resource on which its members depend for networking, professional development, and programs and publications that allow them to move the field forward. ALCTS members have been at the forefront of discussions about the future of libraries as they have provided leadership in areas such as collection development, access to content, and the description, discovery, and preservation of materials in an increasingly complex information environment. That expertise is crucial not only to the profession, but also to some of the goals I have noted above [in an earlier answer; stay tuned for the full version]. I can take two examples from my own life to illustrate the possibilities.

Over the past 5 years, I have been involved in the development of Chicago Collections, a unique consortium of libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and others in the cultural heritage and educational community across Chicago. Our first major project was the EXPLORE Chicago Collections digital portal (, which provides unprecedented access to the collections and services of member organizations. EXPLORE is the hub around which public programs, reference and instructional services, and professional development opportunities for members have been build, and EXPLORE could not exist without the expertise of collection specialists and metadata specialists such as those found in ALCTS. I don’t have your expertise in these areas, but I imagine you appreciate even more than I do what it took to establish a single set of subject headings allowing for description and access to content from across 20+ organizations, including academic libraries, public libraries, special libraries, as well as art, historical, and natural history museums. EXPLORE is the foundation for meaningful collaboration across member institutions and across the City of Chicago, and it demonstrates the importance of ALCTS-type expertise for the future of libraries. It also demonstrates the ways in which ALCTS-type expertise is an essential complement to expertise we associate with other divisions, including LITA, ACRL, and PLA, and with the local focus we associate with chapters. To do the work that is ahead of us, this sort of collaboration is essential.

Another example of what ALCTS members can bring to the table is expertise that promotes the empowerment of marginalized communities. We have seen this in several “public engagement” projects that bring expertise in the organization, description, and preservation of information to individuals and community groups, but another local example of this for me has been the Read/Write Library, which is currently housed in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. A recent profile ( of this community library and the role it plays in the lives of its users noted the role of “radical catalogers” who helped to make sense of this grassroots collection and the way in which it could become the foundation for services emphasizing community empowerment. The ability to organize, describe, and provide access to content created by diverse communities is essential today, and that is where ALCTS members excel.

These are just two examples of the ways in which the expertise traditionally housed in ALCTS can be mobilized across the Association at a time when questions of how access to, and preservation of, information (in all formats) is the starting point for a suite of services designed to demonstrate the role that libraries play in the lives of individuals and communities today.