Breaking Down Barriers,
Building Up Communities
Dear ILA Members and Friends,
The experience of serving as ILA President is bookended by two member-centered responsibilities. The first one is to convene a Conference Program Committee and to choose a theme for the Annual Conference that will take place approximately 18 months later. The second is two-fold: chairing and convening the Nominating Committee, and chairing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee of the Executive Board. The latter is a relatively new group, intended to provide guidance and leadership to the Executive Board, and by extension to the association and profession, in strategically planning our efforts to increase and develop diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and to keep the Board accountable for progress toward our DEI-related strategic goals.
Newly elected Vice Presidents/Presidents-Elect and the Conference Committee do not know what the future will hold, or what the Illinois library environment will “look like” when we begin planning for the ILA Annual Conference. This was particularly true for my conference committee and me as we were still in the very early stages of the pandemic. However, we did know that our communities, and libraries’ place in them, was more important than ever. As the committee and I thought about the flexibility and resilience that libraries showed to help reduce the disruption that COVID-19 had caused; the courageous steps libraries were taking to increase awareness of systemic racism, social injustice, and other current issues; and the ways libraries and library staff simply “thought outside the box” while designing and implementing library services and programs, we found our way to the theme of Breaking Down Barriers, Building Up Communities.
Over the course of the year, as the state—indeed, the world—began to adapt to post-pandemic conditions, libraries, particularly school and public libraries, found themselves at the nexus of culture wars over materials and programs, primarily those by and about people of color or LGTBQIA+ people. We worked with our sister organization the Association of Illinois School Library Educators (AISLE) to amplify their strong statement about book bans, and our own Intellectual Freedom Committee chose to honor the students of Downers Grove High School in recognition of their extraordinary advocacy for their own right to read. Legislatively, we focused on reducing the digital divide by introducing legislation to ensure reasonable, equitable pricing for e-books for libraries and advocating for library broadband connections to be included in the state budget.
As I look ahead toward finishing my term, I am excited by the opportunity to chart the future and future leadership of ILA via the Nominating Committee, ensuring that the future board represents the diversity of our members with representatives from all backgrounds, all library types, and all geographic areas of the state. Also, I am looking forward to being a part of the award process for our second year of the inaugural Inclusive Travel Grant program that financially supports Illinois library staff from underrepresented populations to attend a national conference of their choosing. Thank you to the 2021-2022 DEI Subcommittee for initiating this incredible step forward! The bar has been set high and the Executive Board and elected leadership remain focused on you, our members.
Here’s to 2023 and beyond,
Jeanne C. Hamilton, Bloomington Public Library
ILA President, 2021–22