A More Academically Minded ALA President

We now have a new ALA president, Loriene Roy, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. I think she has a tough act to follow. Leslie Burger was certainly high profile, and clearly did a great job of taking ALA in a new direction. In the post-Gorman era, she re-established member confidence, generated enthusiasm for ALA programming, and invigorated the association with a new spirit for leveraging technology. How will Roy keep Burger’s momentum going? So I was interested to hear what Roy had to say in a podcast interview with Scott Jaschik over at Inside Higher Ed. Since this is a higher education newsletter I’m thinking the conversation is going to focus on academic librarianship. Though that was not entirely the case it certainly didn’t take away from the value of the interview.

Roy is an LIS faculty member, so much of the interview focused on library schools and where they are headed. Doing a little research over at the ALA site I learned that supporting library and information science education through practice is one of Roy’s platform issues. Does this signal a return to Gorman’s big issue – transforming library education (have we seen signs of change despite all the discussion)? Not necessarily. I can’t say that Roy seeks to reform library science education, but perhaps her focus will primarily be making the LIS experience more practice based.

Once the interview conversation gets past the “L” word discussion, Roy is asked how library education is changing for those who want to serve as academic librarians. You should go and listen for yourself – you may not agree with me – but I didn’t get the impression Roy is well versed in academic librarianship preparation. I would have expected Roy, as an LIS faculty member, to emphasize the importance of having LIS schools offer at least a course in academic librarianship (more than a few do not), and to stress the need for faculty with the appropriate background to properly advise prospective academic librarians. I know this was a short conversation, but it would have been great to hear some ideas for promoting academic librarianship as a career. There could certainly be more internship efforts, and what about creating connections between aspiring academic librarianship students and practitioners in the field. Instead Roy’s response, while making some good points, offers little that is concrete about how academic librarianship education has changed or needs to change.

I realize the ALA president should be library sector neutral. But my experience – and again tell me if you think I’m off the mark – suggests that the ALA presidency seems to address the public library sector more than others. I’m not suggesting ALA needs to become more academic librarian-centric; that’s what ACRL is for. But it would be nice to hear more about academic librarianship from our ALA leaders from time to time, and to know they are following the academic library issues. Perhaps Roy will be that leader. Take 10 minutes and listen to the interview. Hear what Roy has to say about library science education and the profession.

2 thoughts on “A More Academically Minded ALA President”

  1. Hi, Steven,
    Thanks for providing a summary of the Inside Higher Education podcast. Right, this conversation was rather brief, and the interviewers were interested in focusing on trends in LIS education. I addressed general trends–iSchools, need for continuing education, different formats for delivery, attention on support staff preparation, greater number of younger students entering LIS programs. We didn’t cover much detail on LIS program curricula. I’m not sure if I’m more academically minded. True, I’m situated in an academic environment and find my office on a campus, next to the largest library on campus. I’m fortunate to use the University Library resources daily, especially the databases and indexes. My teaching area crosses types of libraries. This past spring I taught our basic reference class. I teach our public libraries class each fall. I also teach advanced reference courses (humanities; social sciences) and the library instruction and information literacy course. About half of my students are interested in careers in public librarianship; the other half is interested in academic librarianship.

    This is just day 34 of my year as ALA President. I expect that I’ll have more media interviews that address topics of relevance to academic librarianship. Feel free to send me ideas about what you think interviewers might want to know about academic libraries/librarians.


    Loriene Roy

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