We asked candidates for Core Board Director-at-Large to answer some questions before the spring election opens on March 13. Voting will close on April 5, with results announced on April 12.
Two directors-at-large will be elected to serve 3-year terms (2023-26).
Kevin A. R. King is the Head of Community Engagement at the Kalamazoo Public Library in Kalamazoo (MI).
- What has Core brought to your career, and what would you bring to Core were you elected to this position?
The opportunities that Core has provided to the library workers via professional development have been an excellent way to both continue my education and broaden my thinking on leadership. Most importantly, I appreciate that we have a division within the American Library Association (ALA) dedicated to improving leadership, an area lacking in library education. My promise to the Core membership is to bring a passion and innovative spirit for discovering what individuals need to be a better leader.
- What does equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA) mean to you personally and what should it mean for the Core division professionally?
I am a strong believer in the idea that libraries must reflect the communities they serve. Due to the profession’s long history of white supremacy, the lack of libraries of color is shameful. Core must seek out avenues to not only help diverse leaders succeed, but also establish resources to assist more people of color to enter the profession. While at Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL), I led the team to help establish the Amanda Green Scholarship that provides monetary assistance to individuals seeking a master’s degree from an accredited library science program, KPL hopes to promote the training and hiring of more librarians of color in Kalamazoo and other communities.
- Member engagement is critical for the life and health of the Core division. How do you plan to sustain and grow Core’s membership?
The best way to prove Core’s worth is to present a healthy and progressive mission statement. Then you use that mission statement to craft engagement and opportunities for the profession that emphasize it. Too many organizations simply print the mission statement on a t-shirt or coffee mug, my goal is to make sure that every decision I make is driven by a mission statement that represents the needs of the profession. If your efforts are transparent and genuine, non-Core members will see the value and join.
- What is one thing you will do to make Core more welcoming to new members?
I plan to introduce the idea of onboarding new members. This could happen in multiple ways, including Core leadership personally contacting new members, online chats, a strong effort to have representation at state conferences. When you have an audience with new members, you can present Core’s mission statement and elicit how they see themselves advancing the division goals. The proposal would be remarkably similar to how the best organizations onboard new employees.
- Core is the product of a recent merger of multiple divisions. Is there one aspect of the division you believe could benefit from better cohesion, and how might you go about fostering improvement in that area?
When individual groups shelter into their own specific ideas and goals, they often lose sight of the profession’s larger goals and aspirations. In the partisan world we live in, groups hyper-focus on how they were wronged, instead of celebrating how a decision benefits all of society. If elected, my goal would be to highlight the common ground between the multiple divisions that were the original reasons for the formation of Core. I would then encourage dialogue between the former divisions, using Core’s strategic priorities, to seek out how we enhance common strengths and lift areas that are equally important.
- What’s one thing you think Core is doing particularly well and that you would intend to support or enhance?
Since Core formed, I have been reading the weekly president messages and monitoring activity online. Recently, I have been attending Core Board Meetings. The leadership of Core is doing a fantastic job of setting up many of the systems needed to sustain a new division. I will continue to support whatever is needed to ensure Core is sustainable, effective, and thriving. This includes strengthening strategic priorities, developing channels for member feedback, and a tool for supporting innovations that focus on leadership continuing education.
- What’s one thing that you think the Core division should change?
As I stated above, I believe that Core can set themselves apart from other ALA divisions by focusing on strengthening communication and onboarding new members. These actions promote trust, which is the essential building block of a great leader. Core should set themselves apart from the division that takes your dues, and not acknowledges your presence.
- What do you believe would benefit most from active state/national/international advocacy from the Core division specifically?
The lack of trust-filled leadership in all types of libraries is trending towards alarming. Core can emphasize building better leaders because it builds better libraries through an extensive advocacy campaign that focuses on the state level. If we can parlay an effective onboarding system into identifying advocates on the state level, who can then promote Core, then we all win.
- What is one thing you want to make happen while on the Core Board?
My hope is that by being nimble, innovative, and compassionate, I can help develop a dynamic onboarding program, create innovative ways to promote trust in leadership, and craft fantastic continuing education that is responsive to current needs.
- How will you pursue collaboration between sections of Core, and perhaps even with other ALA divisions?
Transparent and frequent communication. In my first year, I hope to schedule one on one meetings with the leadership within all sections of Core and every ALA division. This will lead to not only opening new channels of communication, but also allow for me to find out how Core’s strategic goals align with ALA’s overall mission. In my over 25 years in the library profession, I have experienced ALA in many ways. At its best, ALA can be a giant, staunchly defending library core values. When ALA is not moving forward, it resembles infighting between departments in a dysfunctional library. If I am lucky enough to earn your vote, I will work towards delivering the tools, support, and innovation to make sure libraries stay the center of all communities.
Kevin’s Personal Statement
Early in my leadership journey, I discovered that without establishing a rock-solid foundation of trust with my team, the path to an innovative and happy workplace would be fraught with disappointment, trouble, and hurt feelings. When I talk to fellow library workers about leadership and leaders, it has become apparent that a lack of trust has caused many critical projects to fail. Until leaders embrace the messy work of fostering trust at all levels, initiatives aimed at providing patrons with what they need to succeed, will at best require an inordinate amount of work or at worst destroy teams. I have made it a personal goal of mine to approach all teams with an open heart and a rock-solid effort to build trust. As a CORE Director-At-Large, I will commit myself to the issues that not only move the division mission forward but also foundational values that create future leaders.
Thank you, Kevin!
The other candidates running for Director-at-Large are: