Big Ideas ALA Executive Director’s Letter

Ordinary Actions Making an Extraordinary Impact

There is a quote attributed to the world-renowned scientist George Washington Carver of Tuskegee Institute that says, “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” I was born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, and grew up seeing and learning this quote throughout my childhood and adolescence, so much so that I now internalize it as a guiding principle of my life.

Eryn Carter, CAE

As we launch into another year, we might marvel at (or perhaps lament) how quickly the previous year went by. The adage, “the days are long, but the years are short” seems more poignant at the beginning of each year as we resolve to accomplish something that we’ve never done before. The top five New Year’s resolutions of 2023 are all familiar and quite common to most of us:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Eat healthier
  3. Lose weight
  4. Save more money
  5. Spend more time with family and friends

What would happen if we just focused on doing the same things that most everyone does but doing them more spectacularly or, as Dr. Carver might say, doing them in an uncommon way?

No doubt, life’s circumstances and events happening in the world around us often lead us into uncharted waters. But one of things I have learned and come to appreciate since becoming the Executive Director of ALA is the determined and resilient spirit of the ALA community.

The challenges ALA members face and overcome, the knowledge and mental strength that they build to be successful in their profession, and how generously they volunteer their time to serve on committees and as mentors are the foundational stones on which ALA will continue to grow and thrive. When you add the resources, camaraderie, and the diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) focus ALA delivers, we realize how much ALA is committed to adding value to members’ lives no matter what challenges we face.

“I would encourage everyone to leverage not just the tangible programs and services ALA offers but also the intangible benefits of friendships and relationships you have within ALA.”

Since joining the ALA team, I have witnessed and experienced firsthand the joy and commitment of ALA members, business partners and staff — the way everyone is welcomed and embraced as part of the ALA family with graciousness, hospitality and generosity has left an indelible mark on the organization. The common values and shared purpose have brought members together to form a community of like-minded individuals who care deeply about their peers and are committed to growing as professionals and as human beings.

Witnessing how ALA staff and volunteers work together to create and respond to the opportunities to support members’ needs has been beyond impressive. Whether it is learning from and engaging with each other at in-person or virtual events, sharing knowledge and offering encouragement through the Online Community, or contributing to the content of educational resources — all are testaments to the passion the ALA community has.

Working closely with the ALA staff, seeing the professionalism, insightfulness and integrity they bring to every project, is an example of their absolute commitment to keeping ALA resources and services at the forefront of our Association.

I would encourage everyone to leverage not just the tangible programs and services ALA offers but also the intangible benefits of friendships and relationships you have within ALA. Perhaps we will be able to benefit from messages and tools that help us reach our goals, motivate us to take action toward a greater goal, and implement ideas that inspire us to take what we’ve learned and create something extraordinary for ourselves and others. Together, we can move forward and command the attention of the world.