Julius Jefferson on Convening the Conversation

Julius C. Jefferson Jr., section head of the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service, is the American Library Association (ALA) president-elect for 2020–21.

Julius Jefferson head shotJulius C. Jefferson Jr., section head of the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service, is the American Library Association (ALA) president-elect for 2020–21. Jefferson, a 15-year member of ALA and a member of the ALA Council since 2011, recently completed a three-year term on the ALA executive Board (2015–18). Jefferson is an active member and leader of a number of ALA associations, round tables, and affiliates.

Library Journal caught up with Jefferson to talk about where ALA stands how he envisions its mission going forward.

LJ : What is your highest priority for your term as ALA president?

Julius Jefferson: I will focus on Advocacy, Membership and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

What do you feel are the next steps for ALA’s Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE)? How do you feel about the elimination of council?

I thank the members of SCOE for giving their time and energy to such an important task force. ALA has been here before. [The organization] has evaluated the governance structure and considered how [it] could be more effective. A representative form of governance can be very cumbersome, yet allows for engagement and many voices to be heard. The next step for SCOE is to continue providing opportunities for members to provide input. I look forward to robust dialog about the future of ALA.

Where do you stand on whether to keep the Midwinter conference?

It has been well publicized that the ALA Conference Committee has been exploring new possibilities for Midwinter. I believe that Midwinter is an important stream of revenue for ALA and will be reengineered to serve the needs of our current members and vendors.

How should ALA Council move forward on EDI, after stating at the Town Hall at Annual that it would take a closer look at internal practices?

At our annual meeting, Council had an EDI workshop with DeEtta Jones, founder and principal of the consulting firm DeEtta Jones and Associates, who facilitated a discussion among councilors on equity, diversity, and inclusion through a social justice lens. This workshop was a good first step. Unfortunately, discriminatory policies and racist ideas are a part of the fabric of our nation, as Professor Ibram X. Kendi wrote in his 2016 book Stamped From the Beginning [Bold Type Books]. I propose having formal workshops on EDI at ALA conferences that are open to all members. We must continue the dialog and begin to recognize our common humanity.

How can ALA best present itself as a relevant organization to today’s new librarians?

Although I recognize that we can do more, I believe ALA is relevant to new librarians and will continue to advocate for libraries, librarianship, and library workers. I will focus on highlighting initiatives such as professional development and leadership, and the value of being connected to mentorship opportunities, as key strengths that are vital to new library professionals.

What is your stance on current issues around ebook pricing and lending terms?

I am in complete support of ALA’s position to oppose the new ebook lending model proposed by Macmillan. When access to information is limited or denied, then democracy suffers. This is a time when libraries and library workers must speak with one voice about the imperative to provide access to information for all. I urge everyone to sign the ALA petition at eBooksForAll.org insisting that Macmillan reverse the proposed embargo.

What is your vision for libraries in 2020?

My vision is to build a modern library association that will support a modern profession, one that will sustain and advocate for libraries through 2050 by focusing on advocacy, ALA membership, and EDI.

The goal for 2020 is to fully realize and focus on the mission of ALA: “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” My hope is that libraries will be the center of civic engagement, using information and dialog to improve our communities.

What haven't people been asking you about your upcoming term that you'd like to tell them?

People have not asked me if I will get any sleep during my term and the answer is: there is no rest for the weary and I will persevere no matter how tired I am, until this modern profession is reflected in a modern library association. I will be a big fan of power naps.

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Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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