Plum librarian takes lead at American Libraries Association

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Today's libraries offer patrons much more than books, says Courtney L. Young of Plum, who was inaugurated this week as president of the American Libraries Association. Providing Internet access, career resources and meeting spaces, libraries serve a several different needs, and in her new position Ms. Young plans to boost their role in communities across the nation.

As president of the 56,000-member association, Ms. Young, who is head librarian at the J. Clarence Kelly Library at Penn State Greater Allegheny in McKeesport, said she will emphasize career development, diversity and community outreach. Ms. Young was sworn in Tuesday at the Chicago-based association'‍s annual conference in Las Vegas.

One of Ms. Young'‍s first projects will be organizing a career development facilitator workshop, where 25 members from different states will learn to assist people seeking jobs. Since the recession, more and more people have started using libraries in their job searches, often seeking resume advice or simply using the Internet to work on applications. Librarians should be prepared to help patrons with the process, she said.

"It's all about making sure people have access to the information that they need," Ms. Young said.

Another of her priorities is ensuring that the association membership is diverse. In addition to strengthening the association'‍s Spectrum Scholarship Program, which helps students from underrepresented backgrounds pursue degrees in library sciences, Ms. Young said she aims to increase minority retention.

As libraries change, collections, too, are becoming increasingly diverse. Besides books and electronic resources, some libraries now lend tools, baking pans and fishing lures, and libraries provide entrepreneurs with meeting spaces as they get their businesses off the ground, Ms. Young said. Each year around Earth Day, Penn State's University Park library lends kilowatt meters that measure energy efficiency.

Libraries are designed to serve a variety of community needs, and she hopes to continue bolstering the relationship between libraries and their communities, Ms. Young said.

The ALA's "Declaration of the Rights to Libraries," launched under former ALA president Barbara Stripling, is one example of how the association works to promote the role of libraries. Public signing ceremonies of the document give library patrons a chance to express their support for the services libraries provide and begin thinking about the purpose libraries serve, she said.

Ms. Young has served numerous roles in the association, most recently on the Planning and Budget Assembly, where she advocated for financial learning services and spearheaded a series of webcasts about the association'‍s budget. She also was president of the New Members Round Table and chairwoman of the diversity committee.

Her love for libraries began at a young age. In high school, she worked at St. Louis University Library, where she enjoyed working with people and solving problems. She studied English at the College of Wooster, spending a lot of time in the library while working on an independent research project in literary analysis. She earned a master of library sciences degree at Simmons College.

As head librarian at the Greater Allegheny library, Ms. Young monitors acquisitions, teaches students about research and oversees operations. She also was promoted this week to full professor of women's studies.

Margaret Signorella, Penn State Greater Allegheny director of academic affairs, said Ms. Young has been instrumental in converting the library into a "knowledge commons," a process that is still ongoing. The goal of the project is to create a space where students can access online resources and work together on non-traditional research projects, such as videos.

Ms. Young'‍s election as president of the library association will bring greater visibility to Penn State'‍s libraries, which are "at the forefront of the digital revolution in librarianship," Ms. Signorella said.

Stephanie McFeeters: or 412-263-2533.

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