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CLA Elections 2017 - Derek Wolfgram
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Derek Wolfgram, Redwood City Public Library


Candidate Statement

CLA has been an incredibly important part of my professional life since I moved to California in 2006. My CLA responsibilities have included President (2013), Conference Chair (2016), Finance Committee member, Legislative and Advocacy Committee member, and Leadership Development Committee member (twice, once as chair). I also received the CLA Outstanding Librarian in Support of Literacy Award in 2009.

I’ve been a Director or Deputy Director in a variety of California public libraries: large and small; urban, suburban, and rural; city and county; rich and poor. I have a proven record of leadership in the California library community and within CLA in particular. Having participated in many aspects of CLA’s work over the last decade, I have observed CLA’s challenges as it went through a series of organizational transitions. Throughout all of the changes, I also saw incredibly passionate, dynamic Board members, committee members, volunteers, and staff who were committed to sustaining CLA through the tough times and making the organization stronger and better. I’m proud to have played a part in these efforts.

The last few conferences have been phenomenal, amping up the levels of creativity and fun while also providing an impressive array of meaningful professional learning opportunities. This is beneficial on multiple levels – not only do library workers across the state gain inspiration and knowledge to provide even more amazing service to their communities, but increased engagement with and attendance at conference also means more revenue for CLA. It’s a win-win: conference attendees build new skills and relationships, while also making the organization stronger.

CLA is much more than its conference, but there’s a reason the conference has been a consistent focal point of the association since 1897: members clearly see the value, and they are willing to pay for it. This is also true for other successful ongoing elements of CLA’s work, including legislative advocacy, professional networking and development opportunities through committees and interest groups, and programs and partnerships like Summer Reading and Lunch at the Library. The key to sustainability is to continue to develop initiatives with a clear benefit to members, and I think CLA’s recent work with leadership development has the potential to create and demonstrate significant value.

If elected as treasurer, I will contribute my energy and ideas to the Board’s efforts to continue to develop new programs that simultaneously strengthen our members and the Association itself. I understand the financial challenges facing CLA, as well as the strengths of the organization that will help us overcome those challenges and the organizational priorities and momentum that we must sustain. I am committed to providing open, transparent communication to the membership about CLA finances.

As Director of Redwood City Public Library, I focus on our Library’s work to support equity, diversity, and inclusion for all people in our community, as well as creating experiences to help people share the joys of literacy and learning. My work is strongly supported by things I learn at conference and other CLA professional development opportunities, as well as by the wonderful professional network I’ve built through CLA. I see the value of CLA, and it’s meant enough to me that I want to give something back beyond my personal and institutional membership dues. If elected, I will work to help others in our California library community to enjoy the benefits of CLA, as well as exploring new ways to connect with all of our potential members who haven’t experienced the value of CLA. Yet.



  1. How do you define leadership?
    Leadership entails the translation of vision to action. Leaders develop a compelling vision for the work of an organization, passionately communicate it to both the people to be served and the people who will do the work in order to develop a sense of urgency and excitement, and provide the necessary guidance and resources to support the people who make the vision a reality. Leadership is proactive, positive, and participatory – leaders invite the engagement and contributions of others not only by listening to their ideas and solutions, but by facilitating opportunities for people to play a meaningful part in achieving the desired outcomes.

  2. Why are you interested in this position?
    My favorite part of being on the CLA Board (with one year each as Vice President, President, and Past President from 2011-2014) was the opportunity to work with amazing, creative, passionate, dedicated colleagues throughout the state who made even the most challenging work an absolute pleasure. CLA's success comes from the combined impact of the contributions of a diverse team of hundreds of engaged members, supported and directed by the guidance of the CLA Board, and serving in a leadership role on the Board is one of my proudest professional accomplishments. While it was a lot of work, I can honestly say that I miss it and want to get back to offering my contributions to the success of the organization that has given me so many opportunities to learn and grow professionally. I have a particular interest in the financial sustainability of CLA, having seen firsthand a number of approaches to organizational structure and staffing over the last decade, so I am interested in the Treasurer role in particular so I can contribute my talents to this key success factor for the organization I love so much.

  3. How would you describe your personal leadership/communication style?
    In many ways, I view leadership as a facilitation activity – I don’t need to be the one whose ideas are implemented, as long as I’m comfortable that my colleagues and I have engaged in a process that results in the best ideas being the ones implemented. I am very open and collaborative, seeking to actively involve others and give them opportunities to contribute to the organizations’s work while simultaneously growing and developing as professionals. In each library system for which I’ve worked, I’ve received accolades from front line staff for my positive and proactive communication to keep people informed about what’s happening and maintain focus on the organization’s vision, as well as authentically listening to their ideas. I also think it’s very important to bring an element of fun and humor into work situations whenever possible.

  4. What strengths would you bring to the position?
    My work in CLA and California public libraries has demonstrated my leadership abilities, and I’ve also served as a mentor for four statewide leadership development institutes (2009, 2010, and 2014 Eureka Leadership Institutes, as well as the 2016 California Library Leadership Instititute). As indicated in the previous question, I think my positive, proactive communication and active listening ability are great strengths. I’m also very focused on data-driven decision making and very comfortable with a variety of statistical and outcome measurements. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to foster experimentation and innovation in libraries for the benefit of their communities while keeping focused on core mission and strategies. I also have a deep background in creating, delivering, and designing professional development activities, from conferences to staff development days to individual workshops on a variety of topics, and this work continues to dovetail with CLA’s priorities and activities.

  5. What experience do you bring to this position?
    From a CLA perspective, I’ve been involved in numerous facets of the organization’s work since I moved to California a decade ago. In addition to serving as Vice President/President/Past President from 2011-2014, I’ve served on the Conference Committee (chair, 2015-2016 and member, 2007-2008), Leadership Development Committee (chair, 2013-2014 and member 2008-2009), Intellectual Freedom Committee (2013-2014), and Legislation and Advocacy Committee (2009-2013). I know the organization and its work really well. Serving as a member of the Finance Committee during my term as President, as well as having been Conference Chair, has given me a lot of insights into the finances of CLA. From a broader financial perspective, I’ve successfully managed a variety of library budgets ranging from $3 million to $22 million, and have been actively involved in budget planning as a member of both the Peninsula Library System Administrative Council and the Pacific Library Partnership Executive Committee.

  6. What issues or trends are particularly informing your work at this time?
    Looking at the work of the library through the lenses of diversity, inclusion, and equity has been my biggest focus of late. We conducted a series of sixteen community conversations in Redwood City in late 2016 using the Harwood technique, and it was striking how many of the community’s aspirations came back to inclusivity and equity, regardless of the age, income level, or background of the 200+ residents to whom we listened. In all of the work we do with early literacy, technology access, collection development, outreach and programming for all ages, and community partnerships, we are conscious and intentional about the impacts on equity in our community.

  7. Who are the thought leaders (in libraries or in other fields) who interest you?
    The humanism and humor of Kurt Vonnegut, the leadership approach of Ronald Heifetz, the inclusivity and kindness of Todd Parr, and the social activism of Henry Rollins.

  8. Who are the regional and statewide stakeholders libraries need to be in communication with?
    The California library community is blessed with a number of organizations that contribute to different elements of our success as a community – the California State Library, regional library systems, Califa, Infopeople, and CLA, to name just a few of the larger entities. Facilitating connections among public, academic, school, special, and law libraries and the organizations who serve them creates opportunities for collaboration and amplified messaging. Open communication and coordination among all of these groups is crucial to making sure we highlight what’s important about libraries to the broader community.

    But we can’t stay focused inward within the Library community – communication with Federal and State legislators, as well as regional and local elected officials, is essential to ensure that library priorities are heard by the people who drive policy and funding decisions. There are other statewide entities that share many of our priorities, including, but not limited to, labor unions, educational nonprofits, and faith-based organizations – our work would definitely be strengthened by deeper and broader connections with groups from other disciplines but whose philosophies overlap with ours.

  9. What do you feel are the most critical challenges and opportunities facing California libraries right now?
    - The availablility of local, State, and Federal funding
    - Maintaining relevance to the communities we serve as expectations change (in terms of service delivery, staff      training and development, and technology)

    - Maintaining public awareness of what we offer in an era of increased competition for people’s time and attention

    - Helping individuals and communities overcome the digital divide, the achievement gap, and other structural inequities


  10. Why are you the best candidate for this position?
    I’ve worked in a diversity of California public libraries: large and small; urban, suburban, and rural; city and county; rich and poor. I have a proven record of leadership in the California library community and within CLA in particular. I understand the financial challenges facing CLA, as well as the strengths of the organization that will help us overcome those challenges and the organizational priorities and momentum that we must sustain. I have positive working relationships with other CLA elected officers and board members. I am committed to prudently managing CLA’s resources; exploring new business and revenue opportunities while sustaining work on existing priorities; and providing open, transparent communication to the membership about CLA finances.

  11. What are your thoughts about the current CLA budget and financial state?
    I think that CLA has made a lot of positive strides in recent years to be very prudent about expenditures while enhancing existing revenue streams and exploring new ones, so I’m very hopeful about the financial sustainability of the organization. The last few conferences have been incredibly successful thanks to the hard work of CLA staff, Board, and committee members, resulting in a terrific product that has drawn increasing numbers of attendees and increasing levels of net income. I’m very excited about CLA’s more recent move into the leadership development business and am eager to see how those efforts will  directly impact the bottom line, as well as increasing member engagement (which serves the dual purpose of enhancing services to members and increasing the revenue potential from membership dues.)  I would love to see CLA get to a point where it could sustainably hire a full-time executive director, because I do think that would allow CLA to engage with more opportunities for new business development. However, the existing leadership from both CLA staff and Board members have been outstanding, and CLA’s financial position is slowly but surely becoming much stronger.