An eager mentor and champion for libraries

“Having found success fighting for libraries on a local and state level, I’m eager to be a mentor and champion for library systems nationwide. I’ve always believed that the success of one library depends on the success of all libraries. My ultimate personal goal is to ensure that success by acting as a legislative champion for the libraries, the people who work for them and the patrons they serve. The accomplishment of this depends on helping libraries to deliver exceptional value to tax payers and serving under-served audiences. During my 20 years as a librarian, I’ve witnessed libraries help people to become the absolute best versions of themselves – and to me, that’s something worth fighting for.” – Lance Werner

Lance Werner

Better Libraries and Stronger Communities Through Kindness, Empathy and Love

The Ohio Library Council invited Lance to be the keynote speaker at their 2018 convention. The topic was how to build better libraries and stronger communities through kindness, empathy and love. Following are time marks for the stories within Lance's presentation:

  • Deep thoughts (6:34)
  • Brian’s fish story (11:20)
  • People hand us either stones or balloons (15:25)
  • Kindness is a component of empathy and love, and vice versa (18:45)
  • Kindness does not equal weakness (25:55)
  • The world is in desperate need of more kindness, empathy and love (27:40)
  • In the workplace and within the community (30:25)
  • Customer services at Kent District Library: The KDL Way (37:15)
  • Call to action (44:05)

Endorsements

Chris Afendoulis, Michigan House of Representatives // Ed Altwies, Account Executive, Midwest Tape // Susy Avery, Co-Director, Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University // Stephen Bajjaly, President-Elect, Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) // Rick Baker, President, Grand Rapids Chamber // Megan Blue, Health Policy Analyst, Beaumont Health // Steven Bowers, Director-DALNET, Wayne State University // Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library // Doug Crane, Director, Palm Beach County Library System // Nicolle Davies, Executive Director, Charleston County Public Library // Meghan Davis, VP of Global Marketing, bibliotheca // Carol Dawe, Director, Lakeland Library Cooperative // Wendy Falb, Executive Director, Literacy Center of West Michigan // Scott Garrison, Dean of Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education, Ferris State University // Jo Giudice, Director of Libraries, City of Dallas // Bill Harmer, Director,  Westport Library // Diane Jones, Kent County Board of Commissioners // Lakeland Library Cooperative // Chang Liu, Director, Loudoun County Public Library // Lisa Posthumus Lyons, County Clerk/Register of Deeds, Kent County // Peter MacGregor, State Senator – 28th District // Gail Madziar, Executive Director, Michigan Library Association // Barry McKnight, Programming & Community Engagement Coordinator, La Crosse Public Library // John McNaughton, Director, Grand Rapids Public Library // Jo Anne Mondowney, Director, Detroit Public Library // Larry Neal, Director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library // Bill Pink, President, Grand Rapids Community College // Randy Riley, State Librarian, Library of Michigan // Ron Stefanski, Managing Director - Corporate Education, Penn Foster // Jim Saalfield, Kent County Board of Commissioners // Monique Sendze, Director of Technology Strategy, The Library Corporation // Debbie Stabenow United States Senator for Michigan // Jim Talen, Kent County Board of Commissioners // Steve Tobocman, Co-Director, Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University


“Lance is not afraid to challenge the status quo. His fearlessness and aversion to complacency make him the best kind of leader to create positive change and deal with transition with an open mind and an open heart.”


Peter MacGregor, State Senator – 28th District

“I am pleased to support Lance Werner for President of the American Library Association. Lance has not only provided vision and leadership for one of the largest and busiest libraries in Michigan, but has supported the growth and success of other libraries across our State. I know his passion for libraries, commitment to their mission and strong leadership grounded in local communities will make him an excellent President of the American Library Association.”


Debbie Stabenow, United States Senator for Michigan

“Lance’s political acumen, as evidenced by his participation in the Michigan Political
Leadership Program and his background in law, coupled with his business savviness will make him an obvious choice for the ALA President. He is well-versed in policies and procedures and his knowledge is an asset when determining what his organization can push the envelope on and what he is procedurally bound to.”


Susy Avery, Co-Director, Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University

"Over the past year, I have watched Lance distinguish himself among a class of 24 bipartisan political leaders at the Michigan Political Leadership Program. Lance has unique leadership skills that will enable him to lead a diverse body of professionals and is adept at listening to a wide range of interests and putting thought into action."


Steve Tobocman, Co-Director, Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University

"There is no one more passionate about libraries than Lance. Lance has a unique and pragmatic approach and hopeful insight into his community's problems and needs, and his willingness to examine the issues and listen closely to these needs and concerns sets him apart and makes him a perfect candidate to be president of our beloved association."


Monique Sendze, Director of Technology Strategy, The Library Corporation

"As his formidable experience, accolades and honors demonstrate, Lance Werner’s courage, passion, dedication, drive, and capacity for innovation have fostered transformation in libraries across Michigan and beyond. He is absolutely the right person to lead ALA at this moment, a challenging time for our association and libraries nationwide."


Scott Garrison, Dean of Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education at Ferris State University

"Lance will bring exceptional leadership to our association as president of ALA. I know Lance to be a tireless advocate for our profession and a leader who believes in the transformational power of libraries to evoke the power of learning and inspire communities to dream big."


Bill Harmer, Director, Westport Library

"As a highly communicative and transparent leader, Lance Werner listens and makes people feel valued and heard. He will take member feedback and turn it into action, much like he has done with community feedback."


Diane Jones, Commissioner, Kent County

"Lance Werner is one of those rare individuals who navigates multiple levels of government offices with ease and great effectiveness. I am always impressed with Lance’s ability to produce results for our public libraries through innovation and building strong support with stakeholders. I’m honored to endorse him for the position of President of the American Library Association."


Jim Saalfield, Commissioner, Kent County

"I heartily endorse Lance Werner for ALA President. I am excited to see Lance bring his high energy and 'can do' spirit to ALA. His creative, innovative thinking and his passion for libraries are a winning combination that’s just was ALA needs now more than ever!"


Stephen T. Bajjaly, President-Elect, Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE)

"Lance has brought great energy and innovation to the Kent District Library system. The ALA would be well served by his extraordinary leadership skills."


Jim Talen, Commissioner, Kent County

“Lance is a kind, driven leader. His passion for libraries is contagious and evident in everything he does. Lance is innovative in his work and ensures that libraries, literacy and continuous learning is something accessible to everyone everywhere.”


Megan Blue, Health Policy Analyst, Beaumont Health

"I have seen Lance in action and he is inspiring, thoughtful and innovative. I believe his positive energy is just what the library world needs to move us forward and keep us at the top of our game. "


Jo Giudice, Director of Libraries, City of Dallas

"Lance’s passion, vision and hard work has enhanced and enriched libraries across Michigan. He has a way of connecting with people and inspiring them to be their best. This talent combined with his genuine interest and concern for all those he meets makes him an exceptional leader and well suited to advance ALA into the future."


Gail Madziar, Executive Director, Michigan Library Association

"Lance Werner has the energy, enthusiasm, vision and talent we need during this time of great change for the American Library Association. His out-of-the-box thinking and political acumen will serve the library community well as we navigate the challenges of the future."


Larry Neal, Director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library

"Lance Werner is a proven leader whose skills, talents and impeccable work ethic will serve the American Library Association in ways that guarantee a progressive and sustainable future."


Jo Anne Mondowney, Director, Detroit Public Library

"Lance's recent keynote, 'Better Libraries and Stronger Communities Through Kindness, Empathy and Love,' was a moving statement on the role of libraries in the 21st century. He would be an effective and powerful president of the American Library Association."


Barry McKnight, Programming & Community Engagement Coordinator, La Crosse Public Library

“Lance is a bold leader with a kind heart who works tirelessly to improve the lives of his colleagues and community. He truly embodies the ideals of servant leadership that can transform ALA.”


Doug Crane, Director, Palm Beach County Library System

“Lance is continuously finding new ways to elevate library services to new levels. His genuine love for community service and engagement is inspiring. Lance is always willing to roll up his sleeves and help and he is a great collaborator. I am proud to endorse my friend for ALA President.”


John McNaughton, Director, Grand Rapids Public Library

“Lance has brought a unique and creative approach to his leadership at Kent District Library. The enthusiasm of his leadership team and the entire staff is a result of his overall vision to take KDL to new heights. His passion for public libraries and their continued success is contagious to everyone he touches.”


Ed Altwies, Account Executive, Midwest Tapes

“With the philosophy of leading with kindness, love and empathy, combined with outside-the-box leadership, Lance's impact as the next ALA President would spread far and wide!”


Meghan Davis, VP of Global Marketing, bibliotheca

“We have a chance to elect one of the most charismatic, creative library leaders out there to ALA. Lance Werner is like so many of you— the real deal. It’s such a blessing to see his work bringing community engagement to an entirely new level.”


Ron Stefanski, Managing Director - Corporate Education, Penn Foster

“Lance is a compassionate leader, steeped in knowledge and innovation. He understands our profession and is willing to take risks to do the right thing. Lance will bring the leadership ALA needs at this time of change. I support Lance as a library director, a candidate, and a friend.”


Nicolle Davies, Executive Director, Charleston County Public Library

“There is nobody more suited to lead the American Library Association into the future than Lance Werner. Lance’s passion and innovation have shaped KDL into the thriving 21st century library system we enjoy today, and his leadership has produced positive and lasting outcomes for the people he serves.”


Lisa Posthumus Lyons, County Clerk/Register of Deeds, Kent County

“Lance is one of the most innovative strategists I know. He is leading libraries to be more relevant than ever.”


Wendy Falb, Executive Director, Literacy Center of West Michigan

“Lance is a visionary leader and passionate about libraries. His energy and ideas will energize the profession.”


Chang Liu, Director, Loudoun County Public Library

“Lance is all about improving library services. His consistent focus on what is needed to improve his community’s library experience has helped to establish him not just as a state, but national leader. His passion for libraries matched with his considerable skill set allows him to bring diverse groups of people together.”


Randy Riley, State Librarian, Library of Michigan

"A strong library system is vitally important for lifelong learning. Lance Werner has been a tremendous leader and partner, bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to focus on innovation and service. The ALA would grow and thrive with Lance at the helm."


Bill Pink, President, Grand Rapids Community College


“Lance believes in engaging stakeholders at all levels, in ways that enable them to become part of the solution. He has repeatedly demonstrated the incredible return on investment public libraries offer their communities and continues to work hard at the local, state and national level to ensure that librarianship and libraries are viable for the next century and beyond.”


Carol Dawe, Director, Lakeland Library Cooperative

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Experience & Accomplishments

Advocacy at State and National Levels

  • Fighting for state funding for libraries
  • Assisting in the writing of legislation to protect libraries’ right to distribute information on ballot proposals leading up to elections
  • Helping to craft bills designed to protect libraries from losing budget monies to tax captures
  • Convinced TEA Party groups to assist with millage election, winning a 45% increase by the widest margin ever
  • Lance is a member of the ALA Policy Corps, representing libraries in Washington DC as an advocate with federal agencies and
    elected officials. He believes in engaging stakeholders at all levels, in ways that enable them to become part of the solution.
    This creates win/win situations for everyone.

 

Positions held

  • Fellow at the Michigan Political Leadership Program (2018-present)
  • Michigan Library Association, Chair of the Legislative Committee (2015-2016)
  • Lakeland Library Cooperative, President (2015-2016)
  • Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science Advisory Board (2015-present)
  • Michigan Library Association, President (2012-2013)

 

Education

  • MLIS, Library and Information Science, Wayne State University
  • Juris Doctorate, Law, Michigan State University College of Law (licensed attorney, 2002 - current)

Awards & News Coverage

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

While libraries are extremely good at providing service to under served and/or diverse people, there is much room for progress in how we are staffed and how we engage one another. I hope that these brief answers to questions asked by ALA groups provide insight to my fresh approach for leadership of ALA and how we can make serious advances in equity, diversity and inclusion.

Q&A with Spectrum Advisory Committee

What are your recommendations to advance the implementation of sustainable work plans to incorporate best practices which advance diversity?

The first thing to do is to share best practices that inspire and guide others. Some of the people who attended ALA Midwinter had the opportunity to hear about Seattle Public Library’s initiatives, but far more people have not. Seattle Public Library is probably not the only role model that can be showcased. ALA is in an excellent position to celebrate those who are experiencing success, and to do so in ways that others can learn. Second, the idea of continuous improvement should be embraced as a perpetual hunger to become better. And third, we need to identify root causes of issues and improve upon them. There are numerous resources, such as Six Sigma and modern manufacturing, which libraries use to explore root cause analysis. You’ll find that I’m the biggest champion for others. My sole interest is in the success of other people, so I’m 100 percent focused on empowering them.

What are your plans for increasing librarianship and ALA membership for library workers of color?

I have two plans: The first is to make a concerted effort to seek out and invite people from underrepresented groups to join, participate and lead. ALA already has some of these efforts in place, but more needs to be done to engage and include greater diversity throughout the industry. My goal as ALA President is to build upon that good work and open doors of opportunity throughout ALA. The second plan is to instill a love of librarianship in the hearts and minds of young people from all walks of life. Currently, not enough people of color see library work as a viable and attractive career choice. One strategy is to bring back strong libraries in our schools, so young people have better first-hand experience and role models in libraries. This requires making a more compelling case for strong libraries with school administrators, policy makers and millage voters. Additionally, it’s up to us, as leaders in the library industry, to establish processes and resources dedicated to greater diversity. As ALA President, I will create a task force that will focus on outreach to those who are underrepresented and engage them from the earliest age that they can pick up a book through adulthood.

Understanding that many from underrepresented groups are discontinuing ALA membership due to racist incidents experienced at ALA events and meetings, what is your response and what are your ideas for repairing these relationships?

For the people who may be considering quitting ALA for any reason whatsoever, or are simply frustrated, my immediate message is for them to vote. There are many long-range things that must be done, but the immediate urgency is for them to vote. ALA leadership is elected by a very small percentage of members. As a result, we have status quo leadership. ALA needs fresh leadership that hears the voices of members and acts accordingly. It’s unfortunate and it’s unacceptable that many are experiencing frustration and injustice, and it must stop. ALA must be diligent in investigating all issues of injustice and delivering consequences for anyone who acts inappropriately. As ALA President, I will cut through the rhetoric and status quo to drive meaningful change and equity.

Q&A With REFORMA

There have been many concerns about the persistent underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the ranks of librarians. How do you perceive this problem and how would you address this deficiency as ALA President?

Thank you for asking me these questions. Any type of organization can be made stronger through diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion are at the core of innovation and culture, and this makes us stronger as a society. 

I completely agree that ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the library profession and that we must do better. The staffing of many libraries often doesn’t reflect the groups served. This problem requires a holistic solution that starts our youngest patrons, to sow seeds of the library profession as a fantastic career. As ALA President, I will identify those libraries that are doing an outstanding job with this challenge and see how other libraries can learn from them, to adopt their best practices and replicate their success. We’re very fortunate to have groups such as REFORMA, dedicated to developing and promoting the interests of the Spanish-speaking and Latino community. I’m eager to meet with you to learn about your initiatives, goals, successes and where you need help.

In the context of your background as an employer/ administrator, what steps had you previously taken to promote an ethnically diverse work environment?

Creating an employment environment that is supportive of everyone is very important to me. One of our goals at KDL is for every employee to feel welcomed and to come to work as themselves because by being their genuine selves, we facilitate an environment where our team members feel safe.  To promote diversity in our workforce, we have provided diversity training to our staff, have collaborated with community groups such as the Urban League, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, to promote employment opportunities through special job fairs and summer internship programs.  We have offered a premium rate of pay for those who are bilingual across two or more languages, resulting in retention of individuals with those important skills while encouraging those who speak English as a second language to enjoy the library.  Our workforce representation of the LGBTQ community has grown in part because we’ve demonstrated our commitment to this community through our collection and displays.  KDL took our commitment to diversity to another level when we became a role model to other libraries by initiating a collaborative effort with Disability Advocates of West Michigan.  In this partnership, we invited Disability Advocates and their team of occupational therapists to review all our work space across 19 locations to ensure our workplace is user friendly to both staff and those we serve, educating our staff around both the small and large things they can do to make a work setting more accommodating to those with both visible and non-visible disabilities.   Every job description at KDL offers written instruction to encourage those with concerns for their physical ability to perform tasks to share those concerns so that we might accommodate them and we have done so on many occasions.  Often highly productive workers tend to retire and “age-out” if you will, but not at KDL where we have embraced their talents and skills learned over many years and continue to employ them in retirement as substitutes, providing them with paid training and paid professional development.  Having a multi-generational workforce is a strategic lever for us and I would encourage others to consider how utilizing their talented retirees can facilitate positive outcomes for their workforce and their community.  That really is the challenge facing all of us and I will create a call to action for library leaders to adopt best-in-class practices so that our industry can be appealing and approachable by all who we serve. 

What could ALA do to involve more underrepresented groups (ethnic minorities) in the Association?

If libraries are successful in staffing in a way that reflects the racial diversity of their service area, the membership and participation in ALA should follow suit. If there is a disconnect between diversity of library staffing diversity of ALA membership, that’s a different problem, which falls upon ALA processes for membership marketing and nominations. The core of my campaign is to do more than invite people to the “party”…we must also ask people to “dance.” It’s essential that a concerted effort be made to reach out and engage underrepresented groups. As an association, I believe that we can do more to learn from those who are most successful, engaging them in ways that catalyze widespread success.  

What can library school educators do to recruit underrepresented groups?

First, library school educators need to understand who the underrepresented groups are. The best standard is to strive for the diversity of staffing to reflect the diversity of the service population. Once the underrepresented groups are clearly identified, find ways to engage them. It may be in small ways at first, but start with conversations. Ask lots of questions. Find ways to serve their needs and engage them as a group. There’s no quick fix to this, but as stronger mutual relationships develop, opportunities will arise. And, as described in other answers, find the rock stars. Those libraries who are really rocking it with recruiting underrepresented groups and find ways for others to become inspired and learn from them. 

How can these schools address the issues of diversity within the curriculum so that all graduates are better prepared to address the needs?

The situation varies from school to school and among different underrepresented groups. This is a great question to be explored between groups like REFORMA and library school educators on local levels. There’s no one-size-fits all solution, but the expectations should be clear: A diverse curriculum must be accessible to all. As an organization, ALA should recognize and celebrate those who are doing an outstanding job in ways that inform and inspire others.

Q&A with ACRL

Please share your thoughts about supporting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in libraries. Describe steps you have taken to ensure that these fundamental principles have moved from theory into practice.

Diversity and inclusion are at the core of innovation and culture, and this makes us stronger as a society. These are not abstract concepts at KDL. We have a long history of removing barriers and constantly working to engage diverse patronage and employees. Inclusion is critical to our profession. Through continuous improvement processes, we are constantly refining engagement efforts in an effort to “up our game” with the goal of having meaningful impact on diverse communities and library culture. In this vein we have:

  1. gone to community leaders and trusted institutions that represent diverse communities and asked how to best engage their constituencies;
  2. provided designated paid internship opportunities for diverse applicants;
  3. asked and responded to specific community needs to provide valued resources;
  4. constantly work to provide a diverse collection;
  5. developed a retiree retention program to enable knowledge transfer and on-going engagement of work for our retired employees, allowing them to supplement their income while covering staff absences; and
  6. collaborated with advocates for the disabled to modify physical space and job tasks to enable our team members to work to the best of their physical ability while adding value to their community.

I would bring my first-hand experience to increase diversity and inclusion by implementing some of the same tools that I have used as a director (listed above). We should also celebrate role models and successes in ways that inform and inspire others.

 

It’s time to separate the talk from the walk on equity, and focus on the walk. No more status quo.

An unfortunate encounter between two members at a council forum during ALA Midwinter is proof that racism and bias exist today, but more importantly, it shows the need for action. I’m sorry I wasn’t at that forum. For anyone to have encountered this is unconscionable, especially in a profession that prides itself on kindness, empathy and love. This doesn’t call for more meetings and committees; this calls for action. There should be an investigation followed by consequences for anyone who blatantly disregards the ALA Code of Conduct.

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