2018-19 ALA Presidential Candidate Interview: Loida Garcia-Febo [Series]

Editor’s Note: In order to learn more about the candidates for President of the American Library Association, HLS asked the candidates a few questions about topics relevant to students and early career librarians. Read on to hear what they have to say!

Loida Garcia-Febo is an international library consultant, researcher and expert on topics such as human rights, advocacy and services to multicultural populations. She has served communities as academic, public, school, and special librarian in Puerto Rico and Queens. Loida is President of Information New Wave an international NGO seeking to enhance the education of ethnically diverse communities. She has taught in 20 countries and has advocated on behalf of libraries at the United Nations, US Congress, NYC City Hall, NY State Senate and on streets and sidewalks of New York. She is currently a member of the Executive Board of ALA and its Finance & Audit Committee, IFLA Governing Board, and chairs IFLA’s Action for Development through Libraries Programme (ALP).

  1. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge that LIS students face? How would you implement solutions to this problem as president of ALA?

My vision for the Association comprises an ALA advancing our concerns through actions conveyed by pillars of ALA’s Strategic Plan including Professional and Leadership Development which will benefit students and new librarians.

I believe that we must equip our members including LIS students with professional and leadership skills needed to flourish in the current moment they are experiencing in their careers, to lead from where they are, and to serve libraries, library users and communities.

Mentoring programs can help students understand how to move in, move up and move on within our profession. We can build on the successes of the New Members Round Table and LLAMA’s New Leaders. My experience mentoring new members for the NMRT, developing global webinars presented by ALA and IFLA’s New Professionals and the Continuing Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section, producing and moderating an online training for new REFORMA leaders, educating LIS students on subjects such as diverse populations, outreach, library programs and services allows me to understand our need to strengthen mentoring and career development programs. These are models we can expand to reach out to our LIS students. Content developed through any initiative should be available in different online platforms according to our members’ needs.


*I would like to thank Hack Library School for providing a space for students to discuss issues impacting LIS programs and librarianship. I often include HLS in my talks to students and new librarians as an example of how it is possible for students to create resources and develop initiatives.

  1. What’s your take on the shift at many programs away from the word ‘library’ as an identifier? What does the change from ‘library’ to ‘information science’ signify?

I would love to see the word library in the name of LIS programs. It seems that the shift away from the word library is a complex issue rooted in each one of the LIS programs’ needs and their role within their universities. I believe transparency and communication with all stakeholders, students and professors is very important, if this process must need to take place. These changes from ‘library’ to ‘information science’ seem to respond to initiatives to expand programs to include a variety of information MLS-degreed professionals who might find jobs in libraries, as consultants, professors, work in tech or start-up companies, museums, archives, and public and private organizations.

There might be situations where LIS programs may merge with other faculties and as a result the name changes. In the midst of all the changes, I have seen that the student’s degree continues to include the word library as in Masters in Library and Information Sciences. Librarians are information intermediaries that help people find information, understand it, and utilize it.

  1. How should ALA support students of color who are entering the field?

As ALA President, I will work with ALA units, Divisions, and members everywhere to address the persistent underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the ranks of librarians. As a librarian and as a Latina, I am deeply concerned about this situation. Our profession ought to mirror the populations we serve and our diverse communities.

I have been inspired to build on the work of the Office for Diversity and the Spectrum Program to dedicate resources to increase fundraising to award more scholarships to assist individuals from different ethnic groups interested in obtaining a graduate degree and leadership positions within the profession and our organization. We must continue to provide opportunities to recruit and educate librarians from different ethnic groups, and I am committed to advocate for better salaries and work conditions that would help us to retain librarians and library workers.

As ALA President, I will focus on pillars reflecting ALA’s Strategic Plan including Diversity and Inclusion. I will work together with REFORMA, all ALA’s ethnic affiliates, JCLC, ODLOS and the ALA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Implementation Working Group. They bring expertise needed to implement recommendations in the areas of recruitment and retention, promotion of librarianship, advocacy, continuing education, better salaries and work conditions and more opportunities to thrive in our careers and as leaders. This is key to increase representation of ethnically diverse individuals in the ranks of librarians. Together, we can bring change!

I have worked together with ALA Past Presidents and the current President-Elect and President to identify ways to involve more members of underrepresented groups in the Association.  As REFORMA President, I coordinated an online training for new leaders which was presented in partnership with ALA. The event was recorded to reach colleagues from chapters all over the nation. This is a model to support and grow leaders.

In 2005, I established the annual Joint REFORMA Northeast Mini Conference with ALA ethnic caucus: AILA, APALA, BCALA and CALA. This is a forum where students and library workers come together to brainstorm concepts, learn about library services, network, start partnerships, and discuss professional opportunities. We can model regional events after this one always including students.

More recently as a member of the Executive Board of ALA, I have been a strong vocal supporter of inclusion of members of ethnically diverse groups in task forces, committees and association’s activities. I am committed to continue promoting the inclusion of ethnic groups, and developing opportunities for them.

I absolutely support the recommendations from the ALA’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion towards encouraging all offices, divisions, and round tables of ALA to review their goals, strategies and outcomes for diversity and inclusion periodically. Develop a strategy to ensure inclusion of more members from underrepresented groups in committees, task forces and association activities. Pursue increasing funding opportunities to support participation at ALA conferences and meetings. Explore ways to increase continuing education for ALA members in the areas of diverse groups and building connections between people who are not like themselves.

  1. What role does the ALA president play in supporting a national agenda for libraries in the current political climate?

I am a person of action. The proposed budget elimination of IMLS, cuts to NEH and NEA, and library funding coming from other sources such as the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, will directly impact real people from our communities: women, children, first-generation college students, job seekers, newcomers, persons with disabilities. They visit our libraries with their families every day. I will stand up to those threatening our core values and the elimination of library services. We, our great team of almost 56,000 ALA members will rally for libraries together along with library friends and advocates across this country.

My Vision for ALA includes an association that will be the leading voice advocating for libraries and library users while maintaining our core values. ALA will have a place and a voice at the decision makers’ table, particularly for those in our communities with no voice. We will amplify their concerns to Congress, at the state house, in city councils, and school boards. ALA will build coalitions with like-minded partners sharing our values. ALA will advance our concerns through actions conveyed by pillars of ALA’s Strategic Plan: Advocacy, Information Policies, Professional and Leadership Development, and Diversity and Inclusion.

Together we can bring change. I am bringing my passion for our communities and my experience advocating for libraries. I have spoken at events and discussed public policy at the United Nations with Member States (countries), with Congressmen in Washington DC, given testimony in my city at NYC City Hall, advocated for libraries at the NY State Senate, and also on the streets and sidewalks of NYC. I believe in building coalitions with like-minded national and global organizations sharing our values to strengthen our efforts. I am comfortable advocating for our freedoms and core values everywhere.

I am committed to work with ALA members to build capacity for advocacy through education.  Replicating online advocacy events I have coordinated with teams in partnership with REFORMA, Office for Library Advocacy, and the ALA Washington Office to provide library services to all in the community will be key to build capacity for advocacy through education. I am also bringing my experience training librarians in different regions of the world including Asia, Africa, and Latin America & the Caribbean on advocacy, human rights, and the right of everyone to access information, and freedom of speech.

The ALA Boot Camp presented by the offices of Library Advocacy and Intellectual Freedom represents an opportunity to reach ALA chapters and members advocating for libraries at state level. We need to expand this model that can help us to build capacity for advocacy through education.

An advocacy model we can replicate is the advocacy plan we followed when advocating for access to information and libraries at the United Nations. I am proud to have advocated for libraries and the right of access to information (under the goal of Peace, Justice and Strong Societies/ Rule of Law) at the United Nations. I worked with a global team from different regions of the globe. They were advocating for libraries with elected officials in their country while other colleagues and I were representing libraries at the United Nations, meeting with consults, elected officials, and collaborating with the coordinator from the USA government to advance library concerns on national and international agendas. Efforts from colleagues at country levels were coordinated together with our efforts at the U.N. Additionally, the strategy included meetings with U.N. Member States, partnering with NGOs and civil society, presentation of informative panels at global library and non-library conferences including events at the U.N., and publication of articles highlighting the value of libraries on global and national media such as The Guardian.  As a result of this work, which covered various years and included a global team of library advocates, access to information was included in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals which is the document countries from the world will use to guide their development efforts. This is the first time Access to information was included in a document by the U.N., this was a huge and historical win for libraries. Our library team was able to present a strong case to include access to information on the global and national agenda. I am very glad to have collaborated with a great team to make it happen.

I believe, together, our great ALA team can fight for libraries to keep them open, recruit and retain our library and information workers, and restore budgets.

Our core values will guide ALA to adopt public policy and to build broader coalitions with national and global value-sharing partners to move library concerns on national and local agendas with organizations such as La Raza, ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

Every library worker is an advocate. Together, we can bring change advocating for services for all in our communities, equity, diversity, inclusion, information policies, funding, awareness about the value of libraries, and position librarians as leaders. We must use multiple online and in-person platforms to advocate for libraries and grow advocate leaders.

  1. Just for fun: what is the last book you read?

I am currently reading From Outreach to Equity: Innovative models of library policy and practice from the ALA’s Office for Library and Outreach Services, edited by Robin Osborne, and I am re-reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Thank you so much for talking with us Lisa!

Readers, don’t forget to vote! Polls are open from March 13-April 5 and all ALA members are eligible to vote. 

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