Friday, May 01, 2015

JP Porcaro for ALA President

My fellow librarians,

Have you voted in the ALA Elections yet? Well, you officially have until 11:59pm tonight (CDT, of course, because the ALA has its headquarters in Chicago) if you haven't. Be sure to vote- you pay more than enough for the privilege of belonging to our esteemed professional organization, so it would be a shame if you didn't exercise your right to vote as an official dues-paying ALA Member. Despite making it easy to do so online, only 20% of the ALA Membership actually vote, so for the love of Ranganathan, take some time out of your Friday, read up on the candidates in your section, and make your voice heard!

Also, there's something special going on this election season. If you're not aware of this fact already, there are four candidates running for ALA President, one of whom is the first Millennial ever to run for the office: his name is JP Porcaro, and even if you don't know him you probably know of him. One of ALA's Emerging Leaders in 2010 and named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2012, JP was also one of the founding members of the ALA Think Tank, a Facebook community with over 12,000 members which has been described as "social media's largest space for librarians." He is the Librarian for Acquisitions and Technological Discovery at the New Jersey City University Guarini Library.

I met JP when I was feeling particularly disillusioned about my career and my involvement with ALA as a whole. Although my employer at the time didn't actively discourage participation in ALA, like many large academic library systems they were always more inwardly-focused or more concerned with what was going on in our immediate peer group instead, so they didn't exactly encourage me to get more involved either.

Also, there was a certain amount of cynicism among our administrators about the value of ALA- in retrospect, I think this was more a function of where these librarians were in their own careers and not an objective assessment on their part of the potential energy and enthusiasm their entry-level librarians could find by meeting and interacting with other like-minded librarians in a conference setting...  but that's a screed for another day.

So let's just say that I was feeling somewhat adrift when I attended the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston back in 2010. That's when I stumbled upon JP while he was doing publicity for 8 Bit Library at the LITA Happy Hour. 8 Bit Library was the brainchild of JP and Justin Hoenke, and I found myself pulled in immediately to help explore the intersection of gaming and librarians. JP and I went to PAX East that Spring as members of the press, and that's when I started to get to know him as a person and not just the legend which always seems to precede him.

JP is always working overtime to bring his unique energy into whatever it is he is doing at the moment. I've heard him speak recently at the Connecticut Library Association Conference about emotional contagion as a key component of leadership, and I think he's absolutely spot-on in that respect. Here I was, a jaded young librarian with a tendency towards introversion when left to my own devices, suddenly finding myself wanting to dive back into my profession headfirst.

My relationship with ALA changed fundamentally as a result of meeting JP. Instead of being about libraries, ALA became about librarians (i.e., about people and not things), about making connections and sharing enthusiasm. While I became more active along my own professional track, I also went out of my way and out of my comfort zone to become more active with the organization as a whole, volunteering whenever possible- such as this last Midwinter in Chicago, when I co-hosted Library Camp for Monday conference-goers to decompress and reflect.

(And yes, I also did some stumping for JP's campaign).

I'm voting for JP not because of the hype, but because he made me a better librarian. I believe that he can make the ALA a better organization as well- one that is more inclusive, more passionate and engaged with the issues that really matter to our profession, and (dare I say it?) more fun. I encourage you to make the same choice, but even if you don't, I encourage you to vote nevertheless. Help us get the organization we actually want, and not the one that is handed to us by default through apathy and inaction. And thanks for listening!

Me and JP at the 2015 Connecticut Library Association Conference 

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