Get to Know ALA – Interview with Andrew K. Pace, ALA Executive Board Member

Andrew K. Pace, Executive Director, Technical Research, OCLC
ALA Executive Board (member)

Describe how long you have been on the committee and what initially interested you in joining.

I was elected to the ALA Executive Board by ALA Council in 2016. It was my second term on Council and my 22nd year as an ALA member. While it’s not a starting point for ALA involvement, it is the culmination of many years of service in ALA Governance—starting with my at-large position on the LITA Board, then as LITA President, and then later ALA Councilor. I’m a governance junky. I also spent a few years on the Committee on Organization, as Chair of the American Libraries Advisory Committee, and handfuls of other assignments too numerous to count (or sometimes recall).

What recommendations would you have for a new ALA member who is unsure about how to get involved?

Find your niche and play to your strengths. ALA is a big organization. If you can find a home in a Division or Round Table, that’s a great place to start and build your network. Visit their websites, blogs, and pages on ALA Connect. Read their publications. These are smaller networks of people who are connected to broad and bigger networks and it’s a great way to start. I started my involvement in ALA when one of my colleagues in NC was a committee chair and was looking for committee volunteers. Six years later I was President-elect of LITA! And look for ways to leverage and build on the skills that you have. It’s hard to start from scratch (e.g., I’m an IT librarian, but I want to learn everything about Government Documents cataloging!), so look for groups that will benefit from your skills while at the same time enhancing them. And don’t forget that volunteers are in short supply. If you talk to a division, round table, or general ALA leader about your interest, chances are they will find a spot for you. Finally, don’t be afraid to move on. Honor your commitments, but professional development time is at a premium, so make sure you’re getting something out of the experience. If you aren’t, try something else.

How do you balance committee work with your current library position?

It’s hard, but here’s some advice. Keep your management and colleagues informed of your desires and commitments and get their support if possible. Most of my ALA engagement has not stretched beyond the free time I’m willing to devote, but I knew, for example, that being on Executive Board would be a bigger commitment. I would not run without the support of my manager and the leadership team. They were very generous and supportive. Don’t be a martyr by giving every non-work waking moment to your ALA professional commitments. You’re in a career, not a job, and that career should include professional development and engagement with your professional association. And look for overlaps in your every-day work (see “play to your strengths” above). There’s no shame in using what you do every day for the benefit of ALA (assuming there’s no conflict of interest). For example, I was on a committee once that was looking for a way to vet new project and program ideas. I had just gone through Pragmatic Marketing certification and was able to use the principles I’d learned to help the committee create a framework for capacity planning. So don’t think of Work and ALA as an either-or zero sum game. Work and professional development should be a both-and scenario.

What would you suggest for a new ALA member who is unsure about why they should get involved with a committee?

What have you got to lose? If you’re passionate about the profession, then ALA is the place to spend some of your time and effort. Don’t think of ALA as some big entity in and of itself. We are ALA. [shameless plug for blog post included]. Even if you’re frustrated with ALA—too big, not inclusive enough, to bureaucratic—get involved. You let more air in by opening a window from the inside than by throwing rocks at the windows from the outside. And there is hardly a better way to build your professional network than in the ALA. My deepest professional connections, most engaging work, and closest friendships have been formed by the connections I’ve made through ALA. I love virtual social networks and engagement as much as anyone, but they are no substitute for the personal and professional connections I’ve made at ALA meetings.

How do you stay up to date on what’s going on with the wider profession?

When you find someone who can, introduce that person to me! Seriously, though, I read a lot online, I use current awareness services for select scholarly journals, I read as many ALA publications as I can, especially American Libraries, Public Libraries, and C&RL. And I have great colleagues who act as filters and send me things they know I would be interested in. I loathe listservs (will librarians and academics be the last people on earth to use them?!), but I subscribe to a few that might include interesting reading; I rarely participate. Social media can be a good pathfinder, but it can also be a rabbit hole, so I try to be guided by discussions there without participating directly with any frequency. Finally, I visit libraries and go to conferences. Someone wise once said “nothing happens in the office,” so I try to get out and about as much as I can. My job has afforded me many travel opportunities to libraries all over the world and I’ve tried to take advantage of that.

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