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Denise R. Lyons: Candidate for Core Director-at-Large

Denise R. Lyons: Candidate for Core Director-at-Large

We asked candidates for Core Director-at-Large to answer some questions before the spring election opens on March 11. Voting will close on April 3, with results announced on April 8.

The Directors-at-Large are elected to three-year terms, 2024–2027.

Denise is the Commissioner and State Librarian at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives in Lexington, KY.

  1. What has Core brought to your career, and what would you bring to Core were you elected to this position?
    I had participated in some of Core’s precursor organizations, but it was really about 2 ½ years ago that I had taken notice. It was the focus on administration/management and leadership which interested me the most. The Core Forum in Salt Lake was the first time I presented, and my colleagues and I discussed how valuable we felt Core would be. Perhaps it was that it seemed more contemporary or fresh but also the direction was an important one at that point in our careers. Having stepped into my current position as State Librarian and Commissioner for the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives not long before I attended (and presented) at the conference in New Orleans, I realized how even more valuable Core can be. My agency is only one of ten state library agencies that has libraries, archives, and records management. At last year’s preconference, there was someone at my table who turned out to be a potential colleague from the University. I believe that my position with all of these three interconnected pieces will bring a unique set of experiences to Core and its members. Personally, I am looking to connect with those in organizations beyond public libraries to learn about what future directions impact them and how we may collaborate more fully across libraries and organizations.
  2. What does equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA) mean to you personally and what should it mean for the Core division professionally?
    I’ve always thought we need to embrace being more like a quilt where we are coming together, overlapping, stronger, rather than a melting pot where everything individual disappears. Each person with which we interact has a voice and we need to ensure those voices are heard, especially when we know that others are likely to be louder. To be our best, we need to honor people of all backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. This is in the spaces and places where we live and work being mindful that we are including others who traditionally may not have had these opportunities. Having worked a long time with the Talking Book Library for the Blind and Print Disabled in a few states, I have great appreciation for the work they do and how it has helped me to be more aware of the need for accessibility and inclusivity. Library staff are public servants, and they work each day to provide equal access and opportunities for everyone. I know we need to work harder in this country to eliminate barriers, whether they be cost, transportation, bias, physical or social barriers; we need to support the public library because it allows for diversity of representation, thought, access, and provides meaningful opportunities for all.
  3. Member engagement is critical for the life and health of the Core division. How do you plan to sustain and grow Core’s membership?
    I have always stressed the importance of professional development. Having been active in state, national, and international organizations since I was a student, I appreciate the ways that the organizations have given me an additional sense of place and purpose. I would aim to identify the interests and needs of members in order to be able to craft a variety of different types of offerings in continuing education, networking, and engagement. In talking with colleagues, I think there is still a lack of recognition about the organization which provides tremendous opportunity to reach out in a variety of ways and connect with library staff at all levels and let them know about the value of Core for them and the ways they can bring their own individual value to the organization.
  4. What is one thing you will do to make Core more welcoming to new members?
    Often, especially after the pandemic, we lost the interpersonal touchpoints we used to have. I am a firm believer in bringing people back together as it is these discussions, both formal and informal, that have helped to shape my career and supported my commitment to librarianship. I love to meet and talk with people as my general curiosity always finds something interesting to explore and discuss. I’m always happy to answer questions, mentor new librarians or library staff, and communicate in a positive way about how we all bring valuable experiences to the table. People often do not feel recognized or appreciated, and I think this is one way that I try to connect in a positive, personal way.
  5. 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?
    There may be opportunities to grow the name recognition. Often, when I talk about Core, some are not as familiar with it as other parts of ALA or other professional organizations. The organization is still young and since it also transitioned during the pandemic, we may all still be adjusting to changes. I love marketing, communications, and outreach so I would love to be able to share my experiences and ways that I think this organization has focused on areas of importance and need. Consistent and well thought out communications and PR can help to make Core more recognizable. I also think it will take some planning and discussion about the best way to showcase what this group has and does differently than the other divisions.
  6. What’s one thing you think Core is doing particularly well and that you would intend to support or enhance?
    I think the member engagement piece is important. People have few resources these days and even less time. They want their interactions to be meaningful and the professional development to be relevant. Keep figuring out how to assess the community for what they need and helping to connect to those who can assist. Connecting people across types of libraries, geographical areas, and areas of interest should continue to be an important part of building a Core community.
  7. What’s one thing that you think the Core division should change?
    As we have some libraries that cannot participate as they have in the past, I’d like us to think creatively about how to reach out to keep them involved. If a library cannot use funds to pay for courses or a membership because of state restrictions, what other options can we discuss? Many times, it isn’t just the restrictions that have come with state funds, but it is the lack of funds at all for library staff to join, participate, come to conferences, or even access a webinar. Perhaps there can be growth in scholarships or awards. It would be great if we could think of some different pathways to participation.
  8. What do you believe would benefit most from active state/national/international advocacy from the Core division specifically?
    I think middle managers, small library directors, and future leaders benefit most. If we are able to advocate for stronger and more consistent library funding and professional development, these are the ones who will be stepping into a variety of roles. Core can provide some of the tools to navigate some of these difficult times as libraries are fighting for resources, funding, selection and censorship, and marketing their value in the community.
  9. What is one thing you want to make happen while on the Core Board?
    I would like to target the participation from the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) and their staff who I believe would lend tremendous experience and strengthen the organization by giving an additional home to these amazing staff.
  10. How will you pursue collaboration between sections of Core, and perhaps even with other ALA divisions?
    I’ve been involved in other divisions such as ALSC and PLA, and there is great opportunity in the development and mentoring space for growing leaders. I think having a cross-division leadership program, even as a pilot, could be very useful. I strongly believe in building relationships and feel that I will be able to use that to work across ALA.

Denise’s Personal Statement

I am a live‐out‐loud librarian which means that I am always on board for highlighting the amazing work of libraries. We cannot be quiet about the important work that is being done and so I serve as a catalyst for the work of libraries, educators, and archives. We have stories to tell and I want to tell them. I am a progressive, creative, and innovative leader. The most sustainable organizations are those with strong partnerships and so I build relationships in every possible way. I listen to those around me, surround myself with the most qualified people, and feel a strong commitment to the work I do and the people who benefit. I seek to serve in Core leadership because I believe that I can lend my voice to the organization so that we can build strong leaders looking to create a strong future for libraries and our partners.

Thank you, Denise!