I had the honor of interviewing incoming ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada. The interview is available to read at Public Libraries Online.
Working out of her home base as the Adult Services Assistant Manager at the Palos Verdes Library District in Southern California, Lessa has been deeply involved with ALA for many years. Given the huge responsibilities and time commitment, I asked what inspired her to run for ALA President.
The idea of becoming President stuck in my mind because when I was in Emerging Leaders, my group said I was going to be ALA president someday although I’m not sure I agreed then. When I was on the Executive Board and started doing work for the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness (SCOE) it was a labor of love, and a lot of work. I saw how much I cared about the Association, but it also showed me how much others cared about it too. I saw the difference that ALA made not only in personal lives, but in libraries and other Associations across the country. When I was finishing my executive board term, and SCOE was coming to an end, it was right when the pandemic hit. Calls for nominations for ALA president were being solicited. I wasn’t finished with this work and wanted to continue to completion to see those changes. I don’t want to just drop it into someone else’s lap. I want to take responsibility and help the management and cultural changes going on in ALA, and as a society as a whole. That’s how I got here today.
Later in our conversation, she shared her list of the most important issues facing libraries today.
I think our biggest issues include ensuring that ALA continues its mission to preserve and strengthen library services through technical assistance, professional development, and direct funding for libraries and library practitioners. What that looks like on a practical level is how we support library workers right now. We’ve gone through a lot of trauma, regardless of the type of library you’ve worked in. As library workers and as people, figuring out what that support and advocacy for library workers looks like is one of the biggest issues. ALA can utilize its 501c6 arm, the ALA-Allied Professional Association, to carry out this mission. As ALA, one of the biggest issues right now is also supporting those who are facing intellectual freedom challenges. We must work against those challenges with a concerted effort. ALA recently launched Unite Against Book Bans, and is rolling out tool kits. We’re seeing support from our Office for Intellectual Freedom helping those on the front lines. Finally, there’s lots of different ways that folks can use their skills, time, and dollars. I think it’s important to remind folks of the value of ALA membership and how it affects libraries across the nation.
Read the rest of the interview to learn about her Presidential plans, the value of an ALA membership, and what she believes are the biggest opportunities for libraries of all types.
Thank you to Public Libraries Online for posting the conversation.