Written by Kelly Richards, MLA 2021-2022 President   

President's Update - Letter From Kelly

July 22, 2021

With my first official letter as President of the Michigan Library Association (MLA), I want to thank every library worker for their hard work and perseverance during this pandemic. I don’t believe any of us were prepared or trained to deal with a crisis on such a historical scale. In the midst of the fear, loss of life and uncertainty, we managed to come together and support one another. We held local and state-wide Zoom meetings sharing ideas on how to protect staff and patrons and the best way to provide services.

Jennifer Dean, the out-going President, was awesome in the way she led MLA without the ability to meet in person. It appears we are coming out of this and I hope that I can keep Jennifer’s momentum going. Though she is the immediate past President, we are fortunate that she will remain on the Board.

We are all hoping that we are close to being able to say "post-pandemic" with some credibility. Whatever we call this period we are in, it is still very stressful. I’ve talked to many library workers who are concerned and scared about the direction our society is headed. We are confronted with a divided country, the ramifications of tragedies like George Floyd’s murder, racial intolerance, stressed patrons from the pandemic, students who missed months of in-person learning, and the banning of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the lumping of any teaching on racial intolerance into CRT.

I will admit that I never even heard of CRT until very recently. Most of us probably didn’t know what it was either until it made the national news. I see CRT as a theory of how systemic racism is woven into the history of our society. How does this impact us in the libraries? It is only a matter of time before you start receiving calls about your library programs and materials that relate to the CRT in people’s minds.

How does any of this pertain to MLA? We are information specialists and we provide every viewpoint to our constituents. We are also caring human beings who are part of this society that is under stress. We have a role in all of these issues because they impact our profession internally and externally. We have to educate ourselves on how to work better and be better professionals with the issues we face. I was so proud of MLA recently because my first official meeting as President was attending a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Implicit Bias Training for the Board. The four-hour training was taught by an employee of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

My number one focus as President of MLA will be to build on the culture of the organization’s excellence in professional education. I want to get the brightest minds together to create advanced educational opportunities for Library Directors. There are many potential Directors and upper-level managers out there who would love to have some training in the practical everyday issues we face.

As President of MLA, I want to serve the membership by creating an enhanced learning environment that includes training in DE&I in hiring and human resources, best practices for library directors, advocacy, building your network, fundraising and understanding the union environment.

On day one, Executive Director Debbie Mikula and myself put together a group of respected library leaders to brainstorm training opportunities for library leaders. We’ve had several meetings on how MLA can improve its offerings on training and networking opportunities for Michigan. We see what other larger state library associations are doing for their members and want to emulate some programs for MLA. We hope to offer the many talented and seasoned library professionals in Michigan the opportunity to share their knowledge in MLA workshops.

As President, I understand MLA will be facing challenges in 2021-2022 and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it. I really appreciate your confidence in me and I’m looking forward to this awesome opportunity.

Love you all, I’m stoked.

Kelly Richards
MLA 2021-2022 President

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