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JoAnne M. Kempf (staff)'s picture

Executive Director Search - documents and discussion

Hello Councilors,

As a follow-up to Jim Neal's earlier message, attached are the following documents:

  • CD#14 - Resolution on the Education Requirements for Future ALA Executive Directors
  • CD#14.1 - Pros and Cons of Education Requirements for Future ALA Executive Directors
  • Transcript of Council's discussion and action on Resolution on the Education Requirements for Future ALA Executive Directors

These are being sent as reference and to assist in the current discussion on whether or not to amend ALA Policy A.4.1.1. The current language  is as follows:

A.4.1.1 Executive Director

The Executive Director shall be authorized to carry out the provisions of the budget including hiring and firing of staff without submitting matters previously authorized or individual appointments to the Executive Board except in the form of reports of action. Any action by the Executive Director shall be subject to review by the Executive Board upon request of any member of the Executive Board. An ALA-accredited Master’s Degree or a CAEP-accredited Master’s Degree with a specialty in school library media is a required qualification for the ALA Executive Director.

The Board is proposing the following amendment:

A.4.1.1 Executive Director

The Executive Director shall be authorized to carry out the provisions of the budget including hiring and firing of staff without submitting matters previously authorized or individual appointments to the Executive Board except in the form of reports of action. Any action by the Executive Director shall be subject to review by the Executive Board upon request of any member of the Executive Board. An ALA-accredited Master’s Degree or a CAEP-accredited Master’s Degree with a specialty in school library media is a preferred but not required qualification for the ALA Executive Director.

Here is the timeline for this discussion and vote:

  • November 2 -12 – Discussion via ALA Connect
  • November 13 – 20 – Voting via Connect poll (this will not be an anonymous poll; people’s names will be associated with their votes as they are in an open Council meeting)
  • November 21 – results posted

We are asking that you conduct your discussion here on ALA Connect to keep everything contained in one place.

Thank you,

JoAnne Kempf

Director, Office of ALA Governance




Chris Corrigan's picture

ASCLA  voted not to formally direct me in this matter, so I am free to vote according to my judgement—which has not changed since the last time Council debated this issue.

I found it regrettable that on the same day we voted to incorporate Equity Diversity and Inclusion into ALA’s Strategic Plan, we also voted to affirm a policy that is ultimately exclusive. Master’s degrees cost money and take time. There may be a well-qualified individual for this important position who has earned degrees and/or gained experience in managing large organizations, but does not have an ALA accredited masters.

I continue to find the notion that a master’s degree baptizes an individual in our values ill-considered. Teens who use the library as safe havens, volunteers who help patrons with resumes, parents who take their kids to story time, students who use the library to study, people who believe in the principles of intellectual freedom etc. all share our values regardless of their degree status.

Should one of the above examples (or others I have not thought of) be/become leaders of organizations that match the complexity and diversity of our association, I would want them considered.

More practically, in many countries, there are no master’s degrees for professions. Students graduate from their undergraduate programs career-ready. By insisting on the qualification for ALA accredited institution, we are potentially dismissing a wide pool of international talent who could help lead us going forward.

For all of these reasons, I am going to vote in favor of changing the language from “required” to “preferred.”

Annie Epperson's picture

I appreciate the thoughtful comments already posted on this topic here and elsewhere.  While I value the MLS as a certification that I have invested the time and resources necessary to be a librarian, I also value the skills of other professions and experiences.  If we want the search to identify a thoughtful and skilled executive director (whom ALA will direct to execute the will of leadership and Council), I think it will be beneficial to change the requirement of the MLS to "preferred."  The individuals tasked with the actual search and selection will still be allowed to place a high emphasis on the MLS, if present, in a potentially much larger pool of applicants.

Like others commenting today, this is a change of position for me.  When we discussed and voted in Chicago I was hopeful that an expression of the importance of the MLS and accreditation would help to elevate the profession.  However, now, when thinking of the Association's best interest, I find there will likely be more effective means to meet that desire and still ensure a positive longer-term outcome for ALA.

I will vote in favor of changing the language from “required” to “preferred.”

Stephanie Chase's picture

As we discuss this matter, I think it is essential that we as Council consider the statement that has been made by the Boards of 10 of the 11 divisions to support changing the language from "required" to "preferred." Our divisions, and their Boards, represent practitioners in the field and are charged with supporting the divisional infrastructure and governance of ALA. The joint statement they shared with President Neal is a powerful one that we would be highly remiss to ignore.

I have pasted that statement in below, and would like to reiterate the Public Library Association's strong support of and advocacy for this change. 

Stephanie Chase
Public Library Association Division Councilor


Dear Jim,

We are writing on behalf of the presidents, boards, and division councilors of ACRL, ALCTS, ALSC, ASCLA, LITA, LLAMA, PLA, RUSA, United for Libraries, and YALSA. Our divisions come together in strong support of changing the current ALA accredited Master's Degree or a CAEP accredited Master's Degree with a specialty in School Library Media degree requirement for future ALA executive directors to recommended or preferred.

We also urge the ALA board to recommend an electronic vote by Council on this policy, and for the vote to be held well ahead of the February Midwinter Meeting.

We commend the ALA Board and the search committee on your work and pledge our help and support. We look forward to working with you and the new ALA executive director to build an even stronger association for libraries and the communities they serve.

Cheryl A. Middleton, ACRL
Mary Beth Thomson, President, ALCTS
Nina Lindsay, President, ALSC
Jeanette Smithee, President, ASCLA
Andromeda Yelton, President, LITA
Pixey Mosley, President, LLAMA
Pam Sandlian Smith, President, PLA
Chris LeBeau, President, RUSA
Steve Laird, President, UNITED
Sandra Hughes-Hassell, President, YALSA

Dale McNeill's picture

Just as I did at the last vote on Council, I will vote in favor of the proposed amendment. As the Texas Councilor, I will note that we, the Board of the Texas Library Association, recently went through a process to determine qualifications for the Executive Director of our state association and decided on preferred, rather than required.

That said, I am somewhat concerned about the apparent urgency. Many jobs in libraries take longer to fill. Though the margin was small, Council did vote on the required language. I would have been more supportive of a second round of recruitment with the required language, with the amendment brought to Council at Midwinter.





Dale McNeill

Texas Chapter Councilor

James Neal's picture

Dale, it is not so much a matter of urgency. The goal was to launch the recruitment and the interview process in January right after the holidays. This would enable the executive board to meet with finalist candidates at April board meeting andpossibly introduce the new executive director atannual in New Orleans. This would be the case regardless of how Council votes on the educational requirements matter. It might be appropriate to continue the Council debate and postpone thevote to midwinter. Jim. 
Sent from my iPhone

On Nov 2

James Neal's picture

Dale, if we delay the vote to midwinter in February, the search committee would probably launchthe recruitment in early March. Given the process and the complexities of schedules, thiswould extend the search into the summer. It mightbe more desirable to vote now and get on withthe search. Jim. 
Sent from my iPhone


Matthew Ciszek's picture

Going into Annual Conference last summer I was a strong supporter of retaining the MLS requirement for the ALA Executive Director, but as I did some investigation of the credentials of state library association executive directors, including large states like my own, I found that there are many people in these positions doing excellent work as advocates of libraries without the degree. I feel that there are a few executive directors of large state library associations that would make perfect candidates for this position, except they lack the degree, and I would hate to shut them out of this opportunity to serve at the national level. I'd rather have someone who has advocated for years for libraries as the the executive director of a large state library association as the ALA Executive Director than someone with a MLS and less experience in association directing. I ultimately voted to remove the MLS requirement and switch to MLS preferred last summer, and will do so again when this comes up for a vote later this month.

Matthew P. Ciszek
ALA Councilor-at-Large

Matthew P. Ciszek

Head Librarian
Lartz Memorial Library
Penn State Shenango
177 Vine Ave.
Sharon, PA 16146


Dorcas Hand's picture

Well said - 

Dorcas Hand, Member at Large
Retired School Librarian Houston TX

Dorcas Hand
School Library Advocate
ALA Council Member-at-Large

Christine Hage's picture

I agree completely with your comments.


Melora Norman's picture

Mr. Corrigan's comments are very clarifying; they help answer my question regarding why it is that the American Bar Association has a longtime lawyer with a law degree leading the helm, the American Medical Association has a longtime physician and MD as their executive director, yet a fair number of people are advocating that we not make the analogous requirement for our ALA executive director.

If, as Mr. Corrigan states, it is unnecessary to have a master's from an ALA-accredited program in order to be uniquely qualified to represent libraries, then that makes a very powerful statement regarding the relevance of the degree, which is apparently not as central to librarianship as a law degree is to lawyers or a medical degree for doctors.

Thank you very much for this clarification. I anticipate that this will inform the activities and priorities of the Association henceforth.

Melora Ranney Norman

Sandra Barstow's picture

I agree with those who have commented on the qualifications needed for serving in a high-level administrative position and I'd like to add my insight from my personal experience.  I earned my MLS quite a few years ago.  When trying to obtain a professional level position, I found that many job openings also required or preferred at least a master's degree in a subject area, so I went back to school and earned my MBA.  In the ensuing years of my career, I've found that my growing ability to represent our library is a matter of on-the-job experience rather than anything I learned in library school, or in business school, for that matter.  I don't mean to downplay the credential, but I think it's more relevant for an early-career librarian than to someone seeking an executive level position.

Christine Hage's picture

Melora, the MLS might make someone uniquely qualified to represent libraries, but not to run a major association.

Our association has experienced fairly significant (almost 20%?) drop in membership in the last 10 years or so. We have an aging membership.  We have a overly complicated organizational structure.  I believe that a professional association manager might have handled these challenges better.

Our elected association president typically is a librarian and the Ex Bd and Council members generally are librarians.  We have plenty of capable MLS folks to represent the association.  

I'm not saying an MLS couldn't run ALA, but I don't see that as a necessary requirement.  At my library my director of IT is not a librarian.  My financial officer is not a librarian. I want people with special skill sets doing those jobs, just as I prefer someone with special skills to manage ALA.

Melora Norman's picture

Thank you, Christine, for your candor; most of the other posts I read assert a "why not" sort of argument. Yours reveals the implicit critique of the degree as a potential mis-qualification for an association leadership position.

According to an Oxford UP blog post, the decline in ALA membership correlates to a decline in the number of librarians: the 20 years prior to 2009 reportedly saw a 31% decline. The complicated structure of the Association is to some extent driven by a very representative, participatory, and democratic yet arguably unwieldy organizational dynamic that I think is beyond the control of the association's ED. So, I do not find those arguments really compelling.

A recent letter from the ALISE Board of Directors to USA Today defending the viability of the profession asserted that " . . a professional librarian position in the U.S. and many other countries requires a Master’s degree." In the past, the MLS/MLIS was promoted as the vital qualification needed by ambitious, aspiring library professionals and library leaders of all kinds.

If that is changing--or if the definition of "librarian" does not include the best-qualified library leaders of all kinds--then it is time for the profession to re-evaluate both our accreditation process and our self-definition as a profession.

Melora Ranney Norman

Sara Dallas's picture

I fully support the recommendations made by the Search Committee, the Executive Board and the presidents, boards, and division councilors of ACRL, ALCTS, ALSC, ASCLA, LITA, LLAMA, PLA, RUSA, United for Libraries, and YALSA.

Discussion is important to fully understand the process.  I have full confidence in these ALA leaders and their recommendation to broaded the potential pool of candidates for the ALA Executive Director. 

I am aware that there are new Councilors and concerned ALA members who wished to be as informed as possible and I respect their efforts.  Having said that, let us not micro manage this issue and continue to move forward.

Nicolas Buron's picture

What an exciting way to start my fourth term on ALA Council.  As such, I did not vote for this recently in Council, but I can now.

I am a little disheartened that we could not find a well qualified candidate with an MLS in the last round as I have personally encountered so many highly qualified library administrators over the years.  

We are the American Library Association, not the American Librarian Association.  More and more, people with varied backgrounds are participating in our library world and making libraries stronger.  It doesn't take an MLS litmus test to find the best person to lead our association, but I prefer (not mandate) that they would have one.  


Nick Buron



JP Porcaro's picture

Asking this, with full faith in the search committee:

1) Why, if the search committee didn't find a good set of folks, couldn't they just go out and find more without bringing the Exec Board and Council back into the mix? It feels like, to me, the committee is asking to be micro-managed by the Exec Board & Council? Is there a bylaw or something I'm missing out on that required them to restart this whole thing? Seems to me if they didn't like the folks they interviewed, they could just go out and find some more to interview??

2) Why re-vote on something? I voted AGAINST the MLS requirement - I'm just wondering, again, if there is some bylaw I'm missing out on that requires a re-vote?

It feels like there's something going on that I'm not privy to, here. Or, there could be simple answers to these questions that I just don't know.

jp porcaro, njcu librarian & nmrt councilor.

Erica Findley's picture

I have asked this question elsewhere and not received a direct response. This question is for Jim Neal and the ALA Executive Board. Search Committee Members may also be able to assist with the information I am seeking.

It would be helpful to me if we knew more about why this recommendation to change the requirement for an MLS to preferred is being made/endorsed by the Executive Board.

I voted against the requirement for the MLS and I'd like to have a more informed discussion that can go beyond rehashing the one that has already been had in Council meetings.

How will this change improve the search? How did the EB reach the conclusion to recommend this change in the requirements?

Thanks in advance for your insights,


Erica Findley, MLS

James Neal's picture

Erica, the search committee and the executive board felt that a preferred Master’s Degree educational requirement would enable us to recruit individuals with the MLS as well as individuals who work in libraries, library organizations and associations who have strong experiencebut have other educational backgrounds. Thesearch firm and the search committee were contacted by such individuals but they were not able to be considered.  Individuals withother educational backgrounds were recommended to the search committee, but they could not berecruited as candidates. So it was not just theidea of being able to consider other candidates,but the experience during the first round of thesearch that there were potentially strong candidates who we could not contact. Jim. Sent from my iPhone

On Nov 3, 201

Erica Findley's picture

Thank you, Jim, for these insights and the Friday night reply.I can see now how this would improve the search. I stand by my vote to make the MLS preferred and not required.
On Nov 3, 2017 7:25 PM, "ALA Connect" connect@ala.org> wrote:

Click With Caution -

Click With Caution

Erica Findley, MLS

Ann Symons's picture

At our last GLBTRT Board conference call we discussed "preferred" or "required".  Representing GLBTRT as the RT Councilor, I voted for the preferred option at Annual and will do so in the upcoming vote.  

Danielle Jones's picture

As Oregon Chapter Councilor, still standing by the vote for "preferred MLS."

Lauren Comito's picture

I don't think that the Executive Director of ALA needs to have an MLS, for the following reasons, and will be standing by my vote at annual.

1- If ALA was a library, I would have a huge problem with removing the MLS requirement and making it preferred. But ALA isn't a library, and many of the staff (and council/exec/president) are degreed librarians. 
2- ALA is a large organization with a lot of structural issues that could use fixing, and maybe we could use an outsider persective. A person who likes committees just a wee bit less than we do. 
3- Library work has value. Librarians with an MLS have value, but when we start to say that we can do EVERYTHING, we begin to dilute that value. Would we hire an MLS holder to run the finances at our library? No, we'd hire an accountant. The same with IT, or maintentance, or legal counsel. We are smart people who can do many many things, and yeah an MLS holder could totally be qualified to do this job, but it's not library work, and being a librarian just isn't vital. 

Christine Hage's picture

Exactly my thoughts. 
Christine Lind Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library500 Olde Towne Road
Rochester, MI 48307-2043

Raising a reader is: Talking * Singing * Reading * writing *  Playing 
On No

Diane Chen's picture

Dear Colleagues,

The AASL Executive Committee met via phone and issued the statement that "The AASL Executive Committee appreciates the efforts of the search committee and empowers our division councilor to cast her vote after weighing all Council discussion on the topic. 

While the AASL Executive Committee will not be part of a joint statement, we do support Council action on this matter through electronic means."

What does that mean? AASL respects the process of council and believes councilors should make effective decisions based on the council discussions. I appreciate that they didn’t want to tie my hands for this vote. Respecting this, I want to make sure that all voices are heard and valued.

I recognize that the vote last year at Midwinter was very close because many members of ALA and council wanted the Executive Director to have the MLS. Rather than closing discussion, I want to encourage all council members to share their viewpoints.

Please allow me to attempt to exemplify our foundational principles that underlie our new standards that are being released at the AASL National Conference this year:

  • Collaborate (GROW - learn with and from others by contributing to discussions and making meaning together).
  • Include (CREATE – Deepen their understanding as they identify with the stories, thinking and experiences of others).
  • Inquire (THINK - Ask questions rooted in prior knowledge and curiosity)
  • Explore (SHARE – Work in local and global communities to identify, investigate, and solve authentic problems)
  • Engage (SHARE – Practice civil discourse and cultural awareness by participating in local and global communities)
  • Curate (GROW – Reflect on and revise their information sets in an iterative process)

Council consists of about 170 members if I can recall correctly, including 100 councilors at large, a council representative from every state, provincial, and territorial chapter, every division, round table councilors depending upon their size plus one for all the smaller divisions, and the executive board members. Since Aaron has pointed out that our bylaws indicate for any vote to pass, we must have at least 50% of all Council members casting a vote (Bylaws II.5.b II.5.c) and at least 75% of votes cast must approve (Bylaws II.5.b II.5.c), I believe it is essential that we hear from more of the councilors in this discussion forum.

I have a personal opinion from having served on the Executive Director Search committee and I appreciate the AASL division for giving me the opportunity to vote based upon our council process. It shows deep appreciation for Council.


Diane R. Chen, AASL Division Councilor

Diane R. Chen

School Librarian, Stratford STEM Magnet School, Nashville, TN

Martin Garnar's picture

Hi all.  When this question came up at Annual, the Intellectual Freedom Round Table board voted to endorse keeping the MLS as a requirement, so I voted not to drop the MLS as a required credential for the ED position.  Since this question has come up again, I asked the IFRT board to discuss this matter on our email list. The vast majority of respondents now favor making the MLS a preferred credential, and they cited many of the same arguments we've seen in this discussion: that we are looking for an association executive, not a library director; that "preferred" still indicates the importance of the degree and will give those candidates with an MLS an edge over those with similar experience but lacking the degree; and that it is possible for people without an MLS to become advocates for our values.  Therefore, when it's time to vote on the requirement, I will be voting to remove the requirement and make it a preference.

Martin Garnar
IFRT Councilor

Jenna Nemec-Loise's picture

In my tenure with ALSC's Everyday Advocacy initiative, I've spent time with hundreds of library workers seeking guidance on how to advocate harder for kids, libraries, and the purpose and value of strong and meaningful Youth Services librarianship. They tell me what they're doing isn't working. They want to up their games. They want to go big or go home.

So imagine their collective surprise when I tell them, "Don't try harder or bigger. Try different."

I echo that challenge here and ask that we view our discourse on the ED search through different lenses. These are my questions as we work toward a knowledge-based decision:

If we do what we've always done, will we get what we've always gotten? I mean this in the short-term as we search for a new ED and in the long-term as we consider the overall health and vitality of both the association and our membership. What's worked in the past, and what hasn't? What might we gain by trying different?

What message do we send to the ED search committee if we don't honor their process and recommendation? Under the leadership of ALA Past President Courtney Young—who as ALA President worked extensively with our former ED and is ideally poised to know what's required of the position—our search committee peers have asked us to welcome change. In numerous posts, ALA President Jim Neal has clarified the search committee's process, challenges, and the reasons why potential candidates with the MLIS have declined to apply. Yet what I hear from some of our discourse is a counter-ask that the search committee try harder within current parameters. What does this tell our peers about our trust in their judgment, discretion, and articulation of what they need to execute their charge?

What are the potential consequences if we don't change the MLIS from required to preferred? Much of our discussion thus far has focused on the potential consequences of changing the MLIS from a required to a preferred credential. What if we spent an equal amount of time discussing what might happen if we don't?



Jenna Nemec-Loise
Division Councilor
Association for Library Service to Children


Laura Koltutsky's picture

SRRT Action Council has voted to support maintaining the MLIS requirement for future ALA Executive Directors. As Melora Norman had pointed out in the public thread other professional organizations do seem to be able to find leaders within their profession and do mandate that they hold the terminal degree of their profession. While we understand the frustration of the Executive Board with a difficult search, SRRT would urge them to continue searching from within our ranks. Changing the requirement to preferred rather than required may seem insignificant but this incrementalism is yet another step towards the devaluing of our professional qualification. 

The deciding factor for myself was when Keith Michael Fiels was asked if his successor should hold the MLIS and he stated that yes, that was his belief. This search shouldn't be an easy one, we are asking for someone to lead this complicated organization through an increasingly fractious time. I would prefer that this leader will not only be passionate about libraries but that they also be passionate about the profession of librarian, having chosen to become one themselves.

Thank you,

Laura Koltutsky

SRRT Councilor

Todd Krueger's picture

Greetings fellow Councilors,

YALSA encourages all those eligible to vote in the coming days on this vital aspect of the future of our organization. When considering who will best helm ALA going forward, we must attract a person who has shown success in leading an association and who can see the big picture of moving us forward as an organization. As the first search has resulted in the committee finding no suitable candidates, it is incumbent upon Council to open the field to potential candidates that will fulfill all of the many requirements we have asked for in this position. That the Search Committee came up empty among the first round of MLS/CAEP-required candidates, more than anything, should inform our decision. It seems very unlikely that a candidate holding one of the currently required degrees will now choose to apply and be selected.

For these reasons, the YALSA Board strongly encourages all Councilors to vote for the preferred but not required position in hiring the next ALA Executive Director.

Further rationale can be found in the adopted YALSA Board document found here: http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/ALAceosearch_...

Thank you,

Todd Krueger, YALSA Division Councilor

James Neal's picture

Instructions on the voting process and the formal resolution will be distributed to Council tomorrow morning.  Jim Neal. 
Sent from my iPhone

On N

Samantha Helmick's picture

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LeRoy LaFleur's picture

The Board of Directors for ACRL met a few weeks ago to discuss this issue and agreed to move forward with both supporting the decision to change the educational requirements for the Executive Director search to "preferred" or "recommended", and joining 9 other Divisions on the letter of support for this change. 

In offering our support for this change, however, our conversation reflected a desired interest in both having an MLS librarian hold the ALA Executive Director position and in providing the search committee with the ability to do the best possible job in recruiting and vetting candidates on behalf of the associations. 

When the ACRL Board had previously discussed this issue, prior to our last Council vote on the topic, I was among the few who recommended the change to the "preferred" language.  The Board's decision was to maintain the MLS requirement, and while I was empowered to vote as I saw fit, my vote to keep the requirement in place reflected in part my weighing of the discussions on the floor, and a desire to have the Search Committee first undertake the task of conducting the search with the requirement in effect, in keeping with ACRL Boards position.  Now, nearly a year later, the ALA President, and the search committee we have selected to conduct the search on behalf of the Association, is again asking for all of our assistance in giving them the necessary leeway to seek out the best candidates for this position.  I intend to cast my vote to support them in this endeavor and encourage you all to do the same if you can.  While I would once again love to hear the discussion on the floor and more about the challenges they encountered during the first round of the search, I also recognize the constraints of waiting until February for this to proceed.  

Thank you

Lee LaFleur, ACRL Division Councilor