Interview with LITA President, Rachel Vacek

What are your responsibilities as LITA president?

The president is the chief spokesperson for LITA and works closely with both LITA’s executive director and the board of directors in identifying and promoting information technology issues that are of interest to the association in all kinds of libraries, both nationally and internationally.

The president leads the board and executive committee meetings, and works closely with the 20-plus committees that serve the association, such as membership development, education, web coordinating, program planning, publishing, and financial advisory, to name a few.

The president also coordinates with the appointed representatives to groups and associations outside LITA, keeps the board informed, and is a proponent for advocacy of library technology issues. The president, in conjunction with the board, also determines the strategic direction for the association and is able to create task forces as needed to put initiatives in motion.

What are your goals for your presidential year?

Accomplishing impactful goals within a one-year period can be a daunting task. It becomes essential to coordinate efforts with the president-elect and past president to keep the forward momentum going. I am focusing on member experience and financial stability.

As someone who has worked in the systems and web librarianship field for years, the concept of user experience has always had special meaning for me. The ability to look at a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about being a member of LITA is especially important when examining and improving member experience.

When answering the question, “Why join LITA?” I have to evaluate the hard benefits like educational and conference discounts or being able to participate in leadership roles, as well as the softer benefits like opportunities to expand one’s network. I believe that people join LITA because they want to learn something new, help their colleagues, grow their network, and advocate for librarians working with technology.

I will work with many of LITA’s committees, primarily Membership, Education, and Publications, to:

  • Involve enthusiastic, active members who have embraced LITA’s mission and values in making new members feel welcome.
  • Recognize more frequently the outstanding contributions of LITA members.
  • Emphasize that a major benefit of joining LITA is about expanding one’s network and circle of influence, and having fun in the process!
  • Consider the goals of current and potential members. I think the best way to engage LITA members is to help them participate in meaningful and relevant activities that will further their goals and those of the profession.
  • Offer more virtual events and mentoring opportunities that help potential or new members learn more about LITA and establish connections and lifelong friendships. Being able to make these connections virtually is essential, since conference travel can sometimes be financially challenging.

The other goal I mentioned was financial stability. The LITA Financial Strategies Task Force presented a report to the board last year that is packed with timely, practical, and creative solutions for helping to address crucial challenges that all ALA divisions are facing. LITA also recently established a Financial Advisory Committee, and I believe that their work, in conjunction with the efforts of other LITA committees, are crucial to ensuring that LITA remains viable and relevant for years to come.

What are LITA’s goals?

In accordance with ALA’s goals of information policy, professional development, and advocacy, LITA’s four broad goals are:

  1. To foster collaboration and networking among LITA members.
  2. To offer education, publications, and events that inspire and enable members to improve technology integration within their libraries.
  3. To advocate for meaningful legislation, policies, and standards that positively impact the current and future capabilities of libraries that promote equitable access to information and technology.
  4. To improve LITA’s infrastructure in order to serve, educate, and create community for its members.

How will your role as LITA president benefit your own library and institution?

I work at the University of Houston Libraries in Houston, Texas. National recognition is one of the University’s priorities, and one of the Libraries’ strategic directions. Being the president of a national association is both a huge responsibility and an incredibly rewarding experience. With that comes an increase in press, interviews, and open doors, all of which are opportunities to highlight the UH Libraries and UH as outstanding organizations doing amazing things.

Also, because I have established an incredible network both within LITA and now with the leaders of the other divisions, I am able to help my colleagues make connections with others in the profession. I’ve become quite familiar with ALA’s structure and look forward to offering advice on getting involved, connecting colleagues with relevant skills and interests to appropriate groups, and being a sounding board for ideas.

What have you learned about yourself through this experience?

I’ve grown a tremendous amount in just the past year since becoming LITA’s vice-president. I realized that my previous experiences in chairing the UH Libraries’ Strategic Directions Steering Committee, being Chair of the Librarians, and leading numerous other committees, coupled with being a department head, have all prepared me for this endeavor. The experience of leading a board of directors, strategic and budgetary planning, collaborating with other divisions, and driving the organization’s vision is also preparing me for the next stage in my library career.