ANMIG Interviews ALCTS President Jennifer Bowen

Hi readers! To kick off our programming for the year, the ALCTS New Members Interest Group (ANMIG) team would like to present our interview with ALCTS President Jennifer B. Bowen, Associate Dean at the River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester.

Please provide an overview of ALCTS, its mission and organization.

ALCTS’ mission is “To shape and respond nimbly to all matters related to the selection, identification, acquisition, organization, management, retrieval, and preservation of recorded knowledge through education, publication, and collaboration.”

ALCTS has a robust internal organizational structure, with five sections:

  1. Acquisitions Section (AS)
  2. Cataloging and Metadata Management Section (CaMMS)
  3. Continuing Resources Section (CRS)
  4. Collection Management Section (CMS)
  5. Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS)

Each section has its own Executive Committee plus a variety of section-level committees and interest groups.

In addition, ALCTS has over a dozen division-level committees, plus award juries and interest groups. The entire organization is governed by the ALCTS Board and the ALCTS Executive Committee, which is a subset of the Board comprising the incoming, current, and past ALCTS presidents, the ALCTS Councilor, and ALCTS staff leaders. This slide, originally compiled by ANMIG, shows a snapshot of the entire ALCTS organizational structure. 

What is your experience and history with ALCTS?

I started participating in ALCTS sort of by accident, as an offshoot of serving as the Music Library Association’s representative to CC:DA (CAMMS’ Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access). My intent at first was to simply advocate for the needs of music libraries in cataloging standards, but then I discovered an entire community of catalogers and other technical services practitioners and leaders as well.

By that time I was hooked on attending ALA conferences to learn from this amazing group of people. I have served in a variety of roles within ALCTS, including as section chair of the former Cataloging and Classification Section (CCS), ALCTS Director-at-Large, and as chair of the ALCTS Leadership Development Committee, prior to being elected to my current position.

How would you compare ALCTS with other ALA divisions?

At various times I have also been a member of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), and Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA). ACRL is one of ALA’s largest divisions and is similar to ALCTS in that it has a robust organizational structure with many sections — including its own Technical Services Interest Group! LITA, LLAMA, and ALCTS (and RUSA, the Reference and User Services Association, too) are all approximately the same size and have common interests in that each is focused on a type of activity across all library types, rather than focusing on one type of library like ACRL and the Public Library Association. ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA are currently working toward a possible merger to form a new division which would be entitled Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures. The proposed new division would support library practitioners and leaders throughout their careers. Members of ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA will have an opportunity to vote for or against forming the new division this spring.

How can new ALA members become involved in ALCTS?

If you are interested in serving on a committee, I strongly encourage both new (and continuing!) ALCTS members to complete the ALCTS volunteer form so that the ALCTS President Elect and Section Chairs Elect will know of your interest. The more committees that you select as of interest to you, the more likely that you will be placed on one. You’ll need to fill out a separate form for each section — it’s a bit tedious, but worth it! This year I was able to place everyone who volunteered for a division-level committee on either a committee or award jury!

If you’re not ready to commit to being appointed to a group, another option is for you to get involved with an Interest Group, which you can learn about on the How to Get Involved website. You might want to start by joining a group’s email discussion list to get a sense of the group’s members and concerns.

How can ALCTS help with professional development?

ALCTS contributes to its members’ professional development in several ways:

  1. By providing frequent online and in-person continuing education activities. Check out the Conferences and Continuing Education section of the ALCTS website to see the schedule of events. Some programming, such as e-Forums, is provided at no charge; others have a registration fee (which helps to support the work of ALCTS), but recordings of webinars are available for free after six months.
  2. By providing opportunities to develop team-building and leadership skills through serving on any of ALCTS or ALCTS’ section committees, working groups, etc.
  3. Through its Mentoring Program, which pairs ALCTS members at any stage of their careers and in any related work area. The commitment when participating in this program is one year.
  4. Informally, by providing opportunities for members to meet, network, share expertise, support, etc. ALCTS is truly a community — or more accurately, a community of communities!

What resources does ALCTS have for students pursuing their master’s degree in library and information science?

All of the opportunities described above are available to students pursuing their degree with membership in ALCTS, which is only $15 per year for students! Students might especially benefit from joining the ALCTS Mentoring Program, or from participating in one or more ALCTS Fundamentals Web Courses, which can supplement and add a practical approach to topics covered in coursework toward a master’s degree. Students and faculty that wish to use a webinar in a class can also arrange to attend any ALCTS webinar for free — contact for more info! ALCTS also offers several grants to early career professionals and professionals from under-represented groups, which can offset the cost of attending ALA conferences or participating in ALCTS’ online courses.

Does ALCTS offer any virtual events?

Yes! The majority of ALCTS’ continuing education offerings are now virtual, with the exception of programs and forums offered in conjunction with ALA’s Annual Conference and Midwinter Meeting. The majority of ALCTS committees and other groups now also support virtual members. And we are in the process of planning an all-virtual conference with LITA and LLAMA, “The Exchange,” which will take place in April 2020. A cross-division working group is currently developing the program for this event. Watch for forthcoming communications that will announce the exact dates and invite registration!

What potential opportunities do you see for the division with the merging of ALCTS, LITA, and LLAMA?

I believe that the potential merger of the three divisions to form Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures is the appropriate next step to ensure that ALA continues to have a division that focuses on library professionals and their professional development, across all types of libraries.

I see Core as a place where aspiring and current library professionals will be able to find support to develop skills throughout their careers, whether those are skills needed to be a practitioner, or to move into managerial and other leadership roles. The new division that we envision (see the draft Core Project Plan) will have an internal structure that allows members from the current three divisions to “find their homes” within a variety of sections or networks (a more lightweight approach than our current sections), while also making it easier to work across silos within our current ALA division structure.

Core will enable division staff at ALA to support division members within a more sustainable structure, enabling additional services to be directed toward members than in our current structure. While it is uncomfortable to think about the potential end to ALCTS, a new division will position us as a more vibrant organization and as a potential model for other ALA divisions.

Do you have any advice for early career technical services professionals?

Perhaps not original advice…but reaching out to colleagues at both your own institution and other institutions will serve you well throughout your career. My colleagues have helped me to gain a broader perspective than what I could see from my own corner of the world. Through professional work within ALCTS and other professional organizations I have developed a network of colleagues and friends whom I can count on when I need them. Developing such a network was not my original intent — I don’t think I understood how important it was early in my career. However, I now understand the value of what I originally considered a side benefit of my professional activities — that professional colleagues (in ALCTS and throughout ALA) can become lifelong friends!

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