By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Making a compelling case that the work of libraries and librarians is a vital and necessary component of a community’s infrastructure–rather than just a nice local service–is a key reason Joseph Janes (MLIS ’83, Ph.D., ’89) is running for the presidency of the American Library Association (ALA).

Libraries and librarians “are incredibly important in every community and in every facet of life. What we do and what we represent is critical. How would people who don’t otherwise have access to books, materials for children, space [to meet], technology, the Internet, be able to do without the library? They’d be lost,” he contends. “It’s a critical piece of the community infrastructure, but that message doesn’t come through.”

Articulating that imperative is a goal for Janes as a candidate for ALA president in the 2016-17 year. He is currently chair of the master’s degree program in Library Information Science at the University of Washington Information School, and an associate professor there.

Seeing himself as a natural storyteller, he said, one of his most important roles for ALA would be to address every day, “our story, to be the voice of libraries, librarians, and librarianship to the world…to lead and contribute to discussion on the way forward for libraries and librarianship…highlighting great ideas from throughout the profession.”

While some communities may take their libraries for granted or worse, view them as luxuries, that perspective does libraries and librarians a terrible injustice, Janes said. That’s because libraries are much more vital to learning and to the center of a community, “enhancing each stage of the cycle of knowledge, supporting creation, assessing and collecting and organizing those works, preserving and managing the resources in our care, helping people to search and find, and use, all the while fighting for equality of access and the freedom to read and think.”

Syracuse Connection

“A lot of what I have taken forward in the way I think about this field, and libraries, is very strongly flavored by the experience I had at Syracuse,” Janes noted. He said he adopted the view of “not being constrained in thinking about what libraries are and what they can do in the world,” as a direct result of “the classes I had, the students I was with, my time teaching there as a doctoral student, and the fabric of the school. That has been very influential in my own thinking and my attitude. I’ve always felt that I had a great education there and am very happy about the time I spent there,” he added. 

Active in ALA

Janes has been an ALA member since he was a student in 1982. He served on the ALA Committee on Accreditation (2007-11), the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy Advisory Committee (1998-02), and has been active in AA divisions, Library & Information Technology Association (LITA) and Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) activities. In 2006, he received the Isadore Gilbert Mudge award from RUSA for distinguished contributions to reference work.

Internet Public Library

He also is the founding director of the Internet Public Library (1995-98), and a frequent presenter at national library conferences nationally and in Canada, Europe, the UK, and Japan. He has written several books: “Library 2020“; “Introduction to Reference Work in the Digital Age“; and co-authored “Anonymity in a World of Digital Books: Google Books, Privacy, and the Freedom to Read.” Janes also is the creator of the podcast series, “Documents that Changed the World.” At the University of Washington, he teaches courses in information sources and services; search; research methods and statistics; and the use of Internet technologies in librarianship.

Three other candidates are vying for the position as well: James La Rue, CEO of LaRue & Associates; JP Porcaro, librarian for Acquisitions and Technological Discovery at the New Jersey City University Guarini Library, Jersey City, N.J.; and Julie Todaro, dean of library services at Austin (Texas) Community College.

Midwinter Reception

The iSchool and University of Washington are co-sponsoring a “meet-the-candidate” reception for Janes at the Midwinter ALA conference. It is taking place at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 31, in the Hyatt Regency’s Gold Coast Room.

All four candidates are also scheduled to appear at an ALA candidates’ forum during the Midwinter Meeting, which is planned from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. that same day.   

Janes’ campaign website provides additional information.