Friday, July 04, 2008

Talk given at Jim Rettig's inaugural banquet, 1 July 2008

Lakota warrior Crazy (or Enchanted) Horse is attributed with the phrase: ‘It’s a good day to die.” Strangely, although the Anishinabe and Lakota weren’t traditionally the best of friends, I thought of variations of that phrase often over the past year. I told myself: “It’s a good day to read Strugis or “The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure.” “It’s a good day to send that weekly report to ALA Council.” “It’s a good day to write that monthly column for “American Libraries.” “It’s a good day to travel to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Shreveport, Oahu, Boston, Olympia, Columbus, Tucson, Las Cruces, Vancouver, Northfield, and places in between. Good moments became good days, months, until a good year passed. It was a good year to be an ALA President.

Many of you were with me during the hard work, exhilaration, and the sometimes lonely days. We greeted each other in email, on Facebook, in Second Life, in elevators, passing in airports and at conferences. I saw and heard from old friends—my six best girlfriends, including my sister, Della Nohl , the two Beths, Rebecca, Lisa, and Anela. I was blessed to see current and former students in the midst of welcoming crowds. I had the excellent good fortune to travel, to greet wonderful students and faculty and library workers in China, Mexico, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Korea, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand. I slept in the shadow of a sugar beet factory, near the banks of the Ohio river in Louisville, in a room overlooking the Atlantic, and found magic under the Northern Lights in Fairbanks.

We’ve worked hard, very hard over the past year. An ALA President’s work involves usual, predicted duties, responding to new requests, and then, often, demonstrating work of potential interest to ALA members. What were our accomplishments?
· Two education forums, one focusing on doctoral students’ work and the other on service engagement of students in their master’s programs;
· A book contract for The Service Engagement, a monograph that Alex Hershey and I will soon be completing;
· The information architecture for a database of Capstone/fieldwork experiences;
· A Gathering of Readers online celebration of indigenous children’s reading and culture that took place during National Library Week;
· Web content highlighting selected library services for immigrants and those incarcerated;
· A workplace wellness website that will find its new home with the ALA-APA;
· Wellness document for library workers including a workplace wellness inventory, wellness passport, and a staying healthy at conference plan;
· A Wellness Fair featuring exhibitors, poster sessions, a celebrity chef, and Dance Dance Revolution;
· An Exercise Pavilion with classes on relaxation exercises, and seated yoga, Pilates, and hula;
· Delivery of over 30,000 SURVIVORSHIP Notebooks to public libraries from the Lance Armstrong Foundation;
· Discussions related to library camps for youth;
· Launching of a national oral history project, Capturing Our Stories, with a media rich digital library;
· Meeting effectiveness tip sheets and podcasts;
· Conference events including an Honor Dance, Presidential programs at the Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference, and a Many Voices, Many Nations evening of indigenous readings and performance;
· Podcasts and bilingual tipsheets on meeting effectiveness;
· The first Presidential Citations for Gaming in Libraries;
· The First Presidential Citations on Innovation in International Librarianship;
· And collaborations with WGBH-Boston, Reading is Fundamental, the Indigenous Language Institute, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Chi megwitch to my family and loved ones. An 18 year old boy, Owen Hunter, completed his senior high school year and is preparing for college at SUNY-Syracuse in the Environmental Sciences and Forestry program. Sara Albert and Alex Hershey, worked with me. Megwitch. Joe Sanchez: made sure that the education forums took place and he guided my avatar, Mukwa Dibou, to her place in Second Life. Arro Smith made sure that the oral history project began first steps toward a digital library. Siobhan Champ Blackwell and Henry Stokes and an emerging leaders cohort lead the way with the workplace wellness. Kit Pilgrim organized the Gathering of Readers event. Sharon Shaulmon generously shared her experience in leading a discussion about national library camp. Lisa Romero, Eli Mina, and Elias Tzoc designed, created, and produced the meeting effectiveness resource.

So many ALA staff members who have gone out of their way to provide support. You expect the head of governance to do this work, and JoAnne Kempf did. So many others freely offered their help—Keith Michael Fiels, Dale Lipshultz, John Chrastka, Jenny Levine, James Vertovic, Wendy Prellwitz, Jenifer Grady, Lorelle Swader, Beth Yoke, Diane Foote, Andy Bridges, Melanie Anderson, Leonard Kniffel, George Eberhart, Lois Ann Gregory Wood, Danielle Anderson, Cheryl Malden, Alicia Bastl, Michael Dowling, Daniel Kraus, Greg Calloway, Delin Guerra, Jonathan Kelly, Karen Obrien. Each day, the terrific public information office came to my rescue: Macey Morales and Jennifer Petersen, stretched me, comforted me, buoyed me up to meet the many media requests. I still can’t listen to my voice or watch videos, but you made me look better than I know I am.

It’s been a good year. Today marks day 371 of my term; I gained Leap Year Day and a few extra days due to conference schedule. Tomorrow afternoon I return to my good life—what can be better than serving as ALA President is teaching in an LIS program, enjoying time with family and loved ones, continuing work with WGBH-Boston, serving as chief editor for Greenwood’s “American Indian Experience,” attending basketball games, and returning to host parties every 6 weeks or so. I stand to serve ALA should I be needed.

And today, it’s a good day to turn over this challenging, rewarding, exciting role to the capable hands of your next ALA President, James Rettig.