2018-19 ALA Presidential Candidate Interview: Terri Grief [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!

Terri Grief has been a high school librarian for 28 years, all of them spent in western Kentucky. She feels that being a part of her professional associations at the local, state, and national level was the support she needed to be an effective school librarian. Terri has served as the president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians, the Kentucky Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians. She was the chapter councilor and a division councilor and was a member of the Executive Board of ALA. Terri was honored by the KASL when she was awarded the Barby Hardy Lifetime Achievement Award and she won the KLA Lifetime Achievement Award.

  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?

Right now the greatest challenge we ALL face is the current budget proposal by the president with its decimation of IMLS. In the school library world, the resurgence we just saw in ESSA could be pushed back. It is terrifying that this budget could also wipe out programs that support the public good from cradle to grave. Many people say that this is just the first attempt and the president knows that what we will end up with will not destroy all the things that actually make America great. However, that attitude might be dangerous. We are in this fight for the long haul-estimates from eight months to a year-so we have to be strategic in our actions. We have to strengthen relationships within ALA and with our outside partners and stakeholders. We have to speak with one loud and strong voice that libraries are fundamental to our democratic society. When ALA asks for phone calls, tweets, and emails, every one of us has to respond. I am grateful for our Washington office and, as president, I would work closely with the office to ensure our voices are heard on the hill. When I was in middle school, I really wanted to be a cheerleader but I had no athletic ability so that was out. I can promise you that I will be your cheerleader. I have a tenacious spirit and a never-give-up attitude. I believe we will be successful but it will take all of us to save IMLS.

2. What’s your take on the shift at many programs away from the word ‘library’ as an identifier?

Back in the 70s, school librarians changed their name school to library media specialists. We were trying to rid ourselves of the image that we only told stories and checked out books. We wanted to be seen as the technology leaders that many of us were in our schools. Maybe back then it was a fight to be seen in the same light as the AV guys. We lost some identity because people didn’t know what we did anymore. In about 2010, AASL voted to once again be school librarians. I always identified as a school librarian. What does the change from ‘library‘ to ‘information science’ signify? We are information scientists and I understand the push for others to see that our skill sets go way beyond books. I still like the title library, personally, and hope that my actions rather than a title show what I do.

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

We need to support all diversity, color, sexual orientation, differently abled, even people who enter the field at older ages. The Spectrum Scholarship program has been successful in recruiting but we have to do more. Mentoring new professionals is vital and I would appoint a task force to plan this. I’d involve the new members roundtable and the retired members roundtable to see if they could develop a plan that could be easily transported to states. We can’t expect them to do it all but have a plan that could be instituted at the local level would provide real support.

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

The president has to be the spokesperson for the association’s core values. He or she has to understand that every member as the right to his or her own political belief and as defenders of the First Amendment, ALA members might have differing opinions. However, we all have agreed that we believe in access, privacy, democracy, diversity, lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, the public good, professionalism, service, and social responsibility. On matters that deal with those, the president can speak with confidence for the association. Right now, in this political climate, our core values are being threatened. The ALA has to be a leader and a partner with groups like the ACLU. We are respectful but we will not back down on this issues. We have friends on the hill and we will survive this difficult time.

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

I read about 100 books a year, mostly YA. I just finished a series by Leigh Bardugo called the Grisha trilogy that were super fun. Today I read A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley which is the book that the movie Lion is based on.


Thank you so much for talking with us Terri!

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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