Guest Post: Joe Janes for ALA President

GLBT News solicited each of the current candidates for ALA President to submit a guest column for our membership. The News Committee nor GLBTRT officially endorses any candidate for ALA office. 

Hello!  I’m delighted to have this opportunity to reach my fellow members of GLBTRT.  I’m Joe Janes, and I’m a faculty member and Chair of the Master of Library and Information Science program at the University of Washington Information School, and I’m a candidate this year for ALA president.

I’ve had the chance to see, first hand, the power our work can have.  A few years ago, I had the privilege to be asked to serve as an expert witness on behalf of ALA in our lawsuit opposing the Children’s Internet Protection Act.  Testifying in federal court in Philadelphia was an honor, made doubly so when I met there one of the lead plaintiffs in the suit—a young person from Portland whose online search for information about gender identity was blocked by the software the library was forced to use, and who sued for the right to view the results of that search.

My actual testimony went well, as did the cross examination (ask me sometime about the questions I was asked about, um, erotic confectionary), and although ultimately we lost on appeal in the Supreme Court, I was proud to have played a part in the ongoing fight for the right to read and think and search freely.  And—in a lovely and unexpected coda—that young person I met all those years ago?  Graduated from our program a little while ago and is now happily married and settled and working as a librarian.

I have two primary aims in running.  First, I want to take every opportunity I can to tell our story to the widest possible audience.  Why not get the ALA president on the Daily Show, or a regular gig on NPR or a Reddit AMA?  Why not get the Caldecott and Newbery and King awards back on morning television where they belong?  We have a great story to tell about the work we do and how we do it, how all of our institutions are critical infrastructure in all the communities and clienteles we work with, and I’m a pretty good storyteller, so I’d love to chance to spread that good news:  how we add value and make every human activity better.

Secondly, I’ve also spent my career helping people to join our professional ranks, and in the process, to pose tough questions and problems and encourage creative and innovative answers.  I’d like to do the same without our professional community, to help us all think about what comes next, to strike the right balance of tradition and innovation to move us forward to be even better at what we do and how we do it.  (You can see more of my ideas at my web site: )

I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the GLBTRT Board at the Midwinter conference in Chicago (before the blizzard hit).  As I told them then, I am explicitly not running as the “gay candidate.”  However, I will say this.  I’m old enough to remember a previous Annual conference in San Francisco, back in ’92, and the cover of American Libraries that followed, featuring ALA members marching in the Pride parade.  I also remember how hot my face felt and the chill down my spine, at the letters in subsequent issues, full of outrage that this reprehensible lifestyle was being featured, threats to quit the association, indignation about what board and community members might think, and so on.  The back and forth about this, pro and con, went on for months.   So, if I’m lucky enough to win, and to represent the entirety of our profession to the wider world, and I was to become President-Elect at our next annual conference…in San Francisco…during Pride weekend…I’ll feel as though, in a small way, the scales will have become a little more balanced.

My supportive and encouraging husband Terry is also my dedicated campaign manager (and even though he’s an attorney, he joined ALA so he could vote for me). We are excited and very much looking forward the possibilities that lied ahead, and to serving the association and our profession.  Thanks for reading this, and I’d appreciate your support, and your vote.


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