The ACRL President’s Program – Not An Initiative

Editor’s Note: This entry is part of an occasional series of posts from the ACRL Board of Directors.  In this post, Vice-President/ President-Elect Steven J. Bell discusses the ACRL President’s Program series at ALA Annual.

Since transitioning into my role as ACRL vice-president/president-elect I’ve received some interesting questions from colleagues. The “So when do you actually start doing something” question was easy to answer: “Months ago.” Another common question reveals a misunderstanding about the role of ACRL president. I’ve been asked multiple times about my big initiative as president.  Let’s clear this one up. The ACRL president no longer initiates a big new venture for the association or champions a self-selected cause. The ACRL president doesn’t even choose a theme for his or her term. That is an anachronism from days of old when presidents were encouraged to take on some sort of individualized project that would define his or her presidency (which, by the way, is still the case for the ALA president). For example, when Larry Hardesty was ACRL President a major initiative was the Excellence in Academic Libraries award. It was an innovative project that turned into a great, sustainable program.

Today’s ACRL president needs to be focused on the ACRL strategic plan (PDF) and leading the Board of Directors in implementing the plan, fulfilling its goals and engaging the committees and membership in doing so — that is the highest priority for my term. Have no doubt that there are some interesting projects I’d like to explore, but starting some completely new endeavor that may not synch with the Plan for Excellence — and which may leave a program with no leadership when my time with ACRL’s Board is over — that’s unacceptable — and that’s not even considering the potential economic implications of embarking on a new program. The Value of Academic Libraries report laid the groundwork for a whole range of new possibilities, and there is much work to do to help ACRL members communicate about value to their communities.

A strategic plan-focused president still has plenty of opportunities for new possibilities, a challenging program or a creative way to engage members. For one thing, ACRL presidents continue to have at their disposal a forum in C&RL News for sharing new ideas and inviting guest columnists to focus on a theme related to the topic of a President’s Program. I’m eagerly looking forward to ACRL president Joyce Ogburn’s 2012 President’s Program. As a believer in the power of design, I’m a fan of IDEO, one of the world’s premier design firms. The keynote speaker for the program is Duane Bray, an IDEO partner who heads up their Global Digital Business. Bray will offer some great inspiration to encourage innovation at our libraries, and I am looking forward to hearing his presentation. This program is being jointly planned by ACRL and ALCTS. If you are planning to head to Anaheim for ALA Annual, I hope to see you at the 2012 ACRL President’s Program.

Work to begin the planning for a President’s Program for ALA 2013 is already underway. Yes, there is plenty of time between now and June 2013 but a successful program benefits from sufficient advance planning. For now I can tell you that it will be a joint President’s Program with LLAMA, and the focus will be on leadership. I’ll be sharing more details with you in future posts.