The Young Librarians Task Force

by Xima Avalos and Eric Frierson

Hello!  We’re Xima and Eric from the American Library Association’s (ALA) Young Librarians Task Force.  In 2009,  ALA president Camila Alire tasked this group with exploring issues of young librarians’ retention and engagement with the Association.

What we did in 2009 – 2010

We started off by collecting feedback from young librarians – both members and non-members of the association – through a variety of venues: Twitter, Facebook, blog comments, and a survey we distributed online.  We also looked at what other organizations were doing to retain and engage young members and the activities our organization was undertaking targeted at young librarians.  Our full report is here, but a few highlights include:

  • young librarians’ experiences at ALA’s annual conference could be enhanced through a focus on the discussion group, not the panel presentation or program.
  • virtual participation could be enhanced by making “virtual-only” committees instead of committees that meet at conference with a couple of virtual members.
  • elections can be better organized to promote young librarian representation in elected position in ALA.

What we’re doing now and how you can help

At ALA Annual in 2010, we presented our findings.  Because some of our findings would require lots of coordination and buy-in from various sections in the association, and because the feasibility of some of what we felt needed to be done was unknown, our recommendation to continue the Task Force for one year was approved.

This year, we’re exploring how feasible our recommendations are, and we’re providing a blueprint for ALA to accomplish some of the goals we’ve laid out.  We’ve re-organized along a few themes and divided our work up amongst the task force:

  • Issues related to membership and young librarians, including the structure of membership dues and benefits
  • Issues related to ALA’s Annual Conference and Midwinter meetings, including changes to the usual panel and presentation-heavy schedule to a focus on discussion groups and participatory formats
  • Issues related to ALA’s involvement in ALA-accredited schools and the student chapters of the Association
  • Issues related to ALA’s relationships with its divisions and roundtables
  • Issues related to elections for ALA offices and council and increasing the number of young librarians represented in ALA’s decision-making bodies

We believe that the work we do this year will pave the way for changes in the Association that will benefit not only young librarians, but librarians of all ages.  We need your help!  Good ideas from other organizations, including IFLA and any other groups you are a part of, and examples of things organizations are doing to enhance the experience of young librarians will help use make meaningful change in the way ALA serves its young members.

So – why do you participate in IFLA or other organizations?  What does the organization provide to you that meets your expectations and needs perfectly?  Please post your comments to this blog entry!  We appreciate it!

In addition, we’d like to know what your favorite conference experiences have been!  Please let us know on our short, 2-question survey here.


Xima Avalos

Xima Avalos is the Media and Digital Assets Librarian at the California College of the Arts in LosAngeles, California.  She graduated from The University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science in 2005. Contact:

Eric FriersonEric Frierson is the Digital Services Manager at St. Edward’s University Library in Austin, Texas, USA.  He has held a variety of positions in libraries including positions in reference and instruction and instructional technology since his graduation from The University of Michigan School of Information in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He blogs at In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Contact:


2 thoughts on “The Young Librarians Task Force

  1. Hi, and thanks for the post Xima and Eric. I love hearing news and reports from abroad.

    For me personally, participation in professional associations provides one platform among many to think about librarianship outside the organizations, that factually run and manage libraries. I have worked in public libraries here in Finland, and they are always parts of the city/municipality organization and thus subordinate to them. Of course the concept of “a library” is and has to be much more than that…

    A library association, f.ex. the Finnish library association (FLA), IFLA or similar sort of an abstraction is a great tool to look at things with a wider, more indepedent horizon. In reality the online world of the internet and my personal, unformal network of colleagues is a much more important method to think about librarianship, than either our national association or IFLA; at this stage of my life anyway. Historically our association has played a huge role in f.ex. the political, longterm project to build proper public libraries in this country. Nowadays the association has no influence on politics and also not too much within the profession itself either. But i feel they have been gaining more momentum recently. I’m happy about that of course. And i must take initiative myself!

    Earlier, i haven’t really thought about the meaning of library associations themselves too much, but Pernille Drost from the Danish Union of librarians gave a very inspiring presentation at an IFLA 2010 satellite conference in Borås about the justification of library associations, and the importance of associations was discussed in the main IFLA 2010 event in Göteborg in many presentatios. especially in regard to areas of the world which don’t necessarily have such an established association for library professionals. And above in your post also mention the fundamental question, that what is the benefit to the members of an association… I admit that i’ve taken a national library association for granted, not thinking about it’s justification properly. Such an exciting question!

    What does the organization provide to you…

    I do not know, really. I should be able to formulate!

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