MLA President Addresses Need to Move from Values to Action!

In response to some of the expressions of concern she is hearing about the challenges facing our communities, our nation and our planet, Maryland Library Association President Denise Davis is optimistic!
“When so many feel increasingly powerless and fearful, libraries are expanding outreach deeper into the whole community,” she reports in her latest President's Message in the MLA newsletter, The Crab.  According to President Davis, by moving beyond the voicing of disagreement into action, libraries are working within communities to solve problems. 
The CRAB newsletter is published by the Maryland Library Association and is one of the many benefits of MLA membership. For more information on important library issues and services, or to join MLA, visit

President's Message: In Such a Difficult Time, What Can I Do? What Can We Do?

Denise Davis, President of the Maryland Library Association

In the last couple of years, I have noticed that many conversations inside and outside library circles include ever deeper expressions of concern about the challenges facing our communities, our nation, and our planet, often punctuated by these questions: “What can I do?” “What should I do?” “How can someone like me make a real positive difference in my community or the nation in such an extraordinarily difficult time?”

It is gratifying to see that these anguished conversations are starting to evolve into strategies, goals, objectives, new collaborations, networks, and partnerships, as well as promising implementation plans and inspiring actions and projects. As Maryland Library Association (MLA) members, it is especially gratifying to see these steps forward in our own state and in our own field.

Library staff, librarians and library associates – and institutions like MLA, the American Library Association (ALA), and public, academic, school, and special libraries around the state— are leading new efforts that are making a real difference. Libraries are expanding outreach deeper into the whole community. In the process, libraries are expanding the power to access knowledge and information, overcoming barriers, de-mystifying and accessing key community connections, and finding personal and cultural respect and empathy, all at a time when so many feel increasingly powerless and fearful. Librarians in Maryland and around the nation are shining a light on growing threats to user privacy posed by data collection and analytics. They are speaking and negotiating with vendors about concerns and developing new policies and procedures, as well as creating trainings and tutorials for the public. The Maryland library community is doing more than expressing frustration about declining civility; many of our state's libraries are joining together to facilitate civility both internally and externally. By doing so, they are building our libraries', communities' and nation's abilities to solve problems, not simply voicing disagreement.

Libraries are also expanding networks and partnerships to refine or develop vital services for “under the traditional radar” community members. Leaders from several Maryland libraries are working with the Maryland Access to Justice Commission to create a new type of network among public libraries, law libraries, legal clinics and the legal services community. In the prototype, librarians will provide basic legal reference services for lower-income people struggling with civil legal issues as well as referrals to legal services or pro bono attorneys who users may meet in the library, in the attorney's office or via video chat apps. At the 2018 ALA Midwinter Conference, I learned about several inspiring projects around the country including Project Welcome, ( projectwelcome/) where librarians are forming partnerships with refugee resettlement agencies to develop library services and collections for refugees and asylum seekers as they strive to assimilate in our communities.

We do not have to look far to find the foundation for this inspiring work. These efforts are rooted in the core values of librarianship: access to information, confidentiality/privacy, democracy; equity, diversity; inclusion; intellectual freedom; and social responsibility. But how do we get from values to action? That is where MLA, the Delaware Library Association (DLA) and ALA should help us, and they are really stepping up at the 2018 MLA/ DLA Conference.

MLA's mission is to advance the transformational impact of Maryland's library staff and libraries. MLA's number one goal is to provide professional development and training initiatives that empower its members to successfully address pivotal challenges and opportunities. The 2018 MLA/DLA Pre-Conference and Conference include an extraordinary array of proactive training and powerful speakers. There are programs on topics such as powerful library advocacy and leadership techniques; developing “human libraries;” fostering youth civic engagement; serving the homeless, engaging service members, veterans and military families; becoming active in the international library community; serving patrons with dementia; fostering diversity by building empathy and social capacity through literature; eradicating achievement gaps with embedded librarians; creating LGBTQ+ You(th Access); enhancing literacy and library skills for refugee families; “fake news” spotting; serving disabled users; creating a culture of opportunity; and much more. Among the presenters will be the President of ALA, Jim Neal, who will speak on “Library Leadership in a Time of Transformation and Turmoil: Virtuality, Virtuosity, and Virtuousness.” National and international award winning slam poet Gayle Danley will accept the William G. Wilson Maryland Author Award. Marci Merola, Director of the ALA Office of Library Advocacy, and Jamie LaRue, Director of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom will lead the Advocacy Bootcamp preconference, Jamie will stay be on a panel with Erica Jesonis and me, exploring the extraordinary challenges to user privacy in our era. Michael Dowling from the ALA Chapter Relations Office will tell us how to become “internationalized” by getting involved with the international library community (

Thanks to our outstanding MLA/DLA Conference committee, our great divisions, panels, interest groups, members, and ALA, the lineup of programs and speakers could not be more on point to address questions before us today.

So back to those questions…“what can I do?” and “what can we do?” We can start sharpening our focus on the challenges of our users and communities, learning from each other, applying the extraordinary skills of library staff, librarians and libraries as a whole, and working strategically with our colleagues and associations in Maryland, Delaware, around the nation and even worldwide. By embodying and engendering the core values that distinguish our profession in our work, we can undermine hopelessness, open the doors to opportunity to more and more community members, bridge divides, foster compassion, empathy, confidence and courage, and—even in this challenging time— become the leaders we have been waiting for.

The CRAB newsletter is published by the Maryland Library Association and is one of the many benefits of MLA membership. For more information on important library issues and services, or to join MLA, visit


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