Updated: 38 minutes ago Posted: 38 minutes ago
Recently, Mayor Dave Bronson appointed Sami Graham and Judy Eledge as director of the Anchorage Public Library. Neither have a library background, but he cited their educational experience as qualifications. He spoke of “Eledge’s background and experience to help refresh and refocus our children’s attention on reading.” This is not the primary purpose of the PLA Director’s duties, and it should not be, for several reasons.
I am a retired English teacher. I am also a long-time member of the Friends of the Library and the Alaska Library Association (AkLA). (By the way, I have never seen Ms. Graham or Ms. Eledge at any of the six AkLA conferences I’ve attended, or at any Friends of the Library event.) I also volunteer in the library’s teens program. public of Anchorage. From my experience as a teacher and as a volunteer, I know that teaching or running a school is very different from running a library system.
As their website states, the mission of the PLA is to “Connect people to education, information and community.” Our vision for Anchorage is an educated and connected community where our library is a vital center of learning, inspiration and community pride for people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures. Local libraries encourage children and their families to read, of course, through storytime events, summer reading programs, and other youth activities. The audience is most familiar with the library as a source of books, music, and movies, and all of these should be acquired, cataloged, and retrieved from library users. But libraries also provide other services, including reference support, evaluation of media and reference sources, provision of databases and access to computers, provision of job information. and careers, providing spaces for community group meetings and organizing or moderating events.
Anyone with the requisite master’s degree in library science and seven years of library experience has likely performed or organized many of the above services. They have the qualifications to manage staff and budget in a library system like the Anchorage Public Library. In addition, APL is the largest library system in the state, making it a leader in many areas, including managing a large portion of the state catalog. The director’s actions affect all libraries, not just our local libraries.
All of these library services require a safe and welcoming space for all of our residents. One of APL’s values is to provide “excellent service that is confidential, non-judgmental and non-partisan”. This last item is why I suspect the mayor has not appointed a librarian. In the posts he has appointed so far, many candidates have had partisan views. These opinions have no place in a public library that serves all members of the community.
Thank you to all of our librarians, the APL and other libraries in our community. I applaud your public service and your commitment to helping our residents stay informed, connected and able to make our community a better place that supports people of all neighborhoods, ages, backgrounds and cultures. Libraries and access to information are part of the foundation of our democracy, and you deserve leaders who will help you serve the public, without hampering your mission.
Lynn lovegreen lives in the Anchorage area and writes fiction for young adults.
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