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CLA Elections 2017 - Sharon McKellar
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Sharon McKellar, Oakland Public Library

ALA Councilor

Sharon McKellar has worked in public libraries since 2000, starting her career in Brooklyn, but quickly moving to California where she began working for Oakland Public Library in 2003.  After working in branches as a children’s librarian and branch manager, she began her current role as the Community Relations Librarian in 2012.  As the system’s Community Relations Librarian, she is responsible for overseeing public relations, communications, publicity, social media, and the public website for the 18-location system.  

Sharon has a history of serving on committees locally as well as nationally.  She represents the library on several Oakland city-wide committees related to digital services, technology, and communications and serves on the library’s eResources, Training, and Critical Response committees.  She has served on committees and task forces with the American Library Association (ALA),  Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC),  and the ALA GLBT Round Table and has represented ALSC on the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee.  

As an active member of the California Library Association, Sharon has presented at CLA conferences and helped to plan and presented at the recent CLA/CALIFA Leadership Institute for Rural and Small Libraries (focussing on sharing library stories).  

Outside of this work, Sharon blogs about the Newbery Medal on the School Library Journal’s website (Heavy Medal) and serves as a member of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Executive Board.  Sharon was also proud to be a part of the Libraries and Museums contingent attending South by Southwest in 2015.  

Candidate Statement

Throughout my career as a librarian I’ve had a passion for being involved as a change-maker and have experience that proves my dedication to libraries and library staff, as well as the communities that we serve.   Libraries change lives.  I want to work as hard as I can to ensure that we all have the tools we need to be successful in our mission.

I am dedicated to helping provide professional development opportunities, to creating, engaging in, and facilitating community conversation, to diversifying our profession, to sharing ideas, to telling library stories, and most importantly to doing the work that needs to be done.  As an organization, CLA is in the position to do all of these things, and more.  I would love to help.

The ALA Chapter Councilor holds a special role in bringing voice to California libraries at the National level.  We face unique challenges in California, but we also bring a needed perspective to the national conversation.  

CLA and ALA both have the numbers, strength, and power to bring about change.  I would be proud to be an advocate for California’s unique and diverse libraries at the national level and to utilize my experience in California, along with my previous work with ALA, to bring the strengths, the message, and the concerns of California libraries and library staff to ALA Council.  I am a strong voice, ready to represent you and all of your beliefs and needs.



  1. How do you define leadership?
    Leadership is being in the position to enact change for the betterment of a group of people.  A good leader is going to do their best to represent the needs of the community they are leading and to bring about changes in a manner that is as smooth as possible. 

    Leadership can, sometimes, mean making hard decisions and not pleasing everyone, but being able to effectively communicate reasoning behind decisions leads to solid leadership.

    In addition, leadership can mean taking a step back and allowing others to shine and to support them by providing tools, mentorship, training, and other types of support for growth and development.

    Leadership involves listening, empowering, working hard, and stepping forward and back, as needed, to best provide support for the community.

  2. Why are you interested in this position?
    I am passionate about libraries, and about library staff and supporting their efforts in any way I can.  I’m extremely active in leadership locally (on many committees at the library and in the city, as you can see on my resume) and would love to take my leadership skills to the state level. In the past I’ve been active in ALA, particularly ALSC, but have found myself wanting to focus my attentions more locally, in the state of California.

    I’ve really admired the recent work of CLA and would love to be a part of carrying that work forward.

  3. How would you describe your personal leadership/communication style?
    I’m a straight-forward communicator.  I believe strongly in empowering the voices of others and try to use my leadership positions to raise up the voices of those who have less of a chance to be heard.  At the same time, I have a wealth of experience and knowledge, and I’m not shy about sharing my own ideas and experiences.

    Collaboration is important, so that’s embedded into my leadership style, and I work hard, when facilitating conversation, to make sure that everyone has a chance to share ideas, raise concerns, and express themselves.

  4. What strengths would you bring to the position?
    I’m a dedicated and passionate advocate for libraries and librarians and other library staff.  I think I bring the rare combination of both creativity and organizational skills to any group I’m a part of.  I have connections with librarians around the state, have public speaking experience (and enjoy public speaking), training experience, experience organizing events and large-scale programs, and experience working in many facets of public librarianship.   

  5. What experience do you bring to this position?
    I’ve worked in libraries since 2000.  During this time I have served on committees large and small, local and national.  I have experience with the marketing and publicity side of things, with partnerships, and with the technology side (web content management) in addition to more classic customer-facing public librarianship.  I serve as my library’s Public Information Officer and have experience with the media.

    I have served on American Library Association committees for many years (primarily through ALSC). 

    I recently worked with Vanessa Christmas on the planning of the Yosemite Leadership Institute about telling library stories for advocacy and was one of the presenters.  

    I also serve on the Board of Directors of a national nonprofit organization. 

  6. What issues or trends are particularly informing your work at this time?
    Recently, I have been particularly engaged in conversations around neutrality in libraries, around information and news literacy, and around diversity in our field.  I also keep up closely with technology trends and have a particular interest in professional development and trainings.

  7. Who are the thought leaders (in libraries or in other fields) who interest you?
    Some of the thought leaders I am particularly interested in include:
     - EveryLibrary and their staff (Patrick Sweeney and John Chrastka)
     - The Library Freedom Project
     - We Need Diverse Books
     - The Electronic Frontier Foundation
     - Carla Hayden
     - Sarah Houghton

  8. Who are the regional and statewide stakeholders libraries need to be in communication with?
    Libraries need to be in communication with:
     - Their boards and other bodies that oversee their work
     - Their cities, counties, and other governmental bodies
     - Their users/patrons
     - The state library
     - CLA
     - The Governor of California, as necessary
     - Friends groups and other advocates
     - Foundations
     - Schools and School administration
     - Universities and Deans
     - The media

  9. What do you feel are the most critical challenges and opportunities facing California libraries right now?
    The most obvious critical challenge right now is, of course, funding, but this isn’t the only one.  Libraries in California are facing shifting populations, more people for whom English is not their first language, people at risk in a variety of ways, and people who are scared due to our current Federal Government’s agendas.  There is a vast digital divide, and a high rate of low literacy. 

    All of these challenges, however, create amazing opportunity to support our communities and meet their needs.  We can work together to create and provide programming and services that help Californian citizens all over the state.  We have a relatively supportive state government and strong and interested state librarian and library.  We also are home to some of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world. 

    The state of California is large and diverse and meeting the needs of urban and rural populations both is a challenge.  There is also a great opportunity in this state for some of the most influential and inspiring librarians to come together, learn from each other, and work together. We also have unique programs, consortiums, and training programs that serve our libraries (e.g. Infopeople, Califa, etc)

    ALA Councilor

  10. Describe your involvement with ALA.
    I’ve been an ALA member since 2005 and have attended most ALA Annual Conferences and Midwinter meetings (with exceptions when I was on maternity leave and traveling around the world).  I’ve been on committees, presented poster sessions, and have served as part of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee (as the ALSC representative). 

    I have mentored new members, and have volunteered at conferences. 

    I was nominated for ALA Council in 2015 and had to withdraw from the election because I went on maternity leave.

  11. What are the most important factors or needs that distinguish California libraries from libraries in other states?
    California libraries serve one of the most diverse populations in the nation and California is a large state with a huge variety of types of communities and libraries.  This makes our needs different from many other states. 

    In addition, California libraries work with the understanding that everyone has library services, and because of this operate with some complicated rules around universal borrowing and lending.  I’ve found that we are one of the few states in the country that work on the assumption, for example, that public libraries are free and open to everyone, regardless of municipality.  This also leads to a sometimes complicated system of city, county, and district libraries that work together to ensure access for all.