The American Library Association announced this week that Patricia "Patty" M. Wong, city librarian at the Santa Monica Public Library in Santa Monica, Calif., has been elected ALA president for 2021-2022.
Wong received 6,718 votes. Her opponent, Steven Yates, assistant director of the University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies, received 2,448 votes.
There is no question that Wong's term as president, like that of incoming president Julius C. Jefferson, who will begin his term in June, will be one of the most consequential in years. ALA is currently in midst of a major organizational overhaul and facing a serious cash shortfall. And earlier this month, ALA was forced to take historic action in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, urging American libraries to close their doors for the first time in the organization's history and canceling the ALA Annual conference for the first time since 1945 during the closing days of World War II. With any luck, Wong will take the helm of a revamped, rebounding organization at a comeback ALA Annual Conference, which is scheduled for June 24-29, 2021, in ALA's hometown of Chicago.
In a statement, Wong thanked her opponent, Steven Yates, calling him "a strong ALA advocate." She added that she was excited to get to start working toward a strengthened association.
“We all need to work together to advance and build on the success of our 143-year-old institution," Wong said. "Our immediate challenges rest with the impact of COVID-19 on libraries, library workers, advocates, and library users in this country and throughout the world. These outcomes remain to be determined, but the ALA will continue to support our members and libraries everywhere through its continued support of innovation and the evolution of library service."
Wong also hinted at the organizational challenges the ALA is now facing. These include, she said, finances that need to be "rightsized with fiscal controls and practices that reflect transparency and accountability" and the adoption of diversified business models that are "revenue positive and sustainable." She also noted that it would be necessary "to build on the ALA’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion."
In addition to serving as city librarian at the Santa Monica Public Library, Wong also serves as part-time faculty at the San Jose State University iSchool. An active ALA member for 35 years, Wong has served several terms as an ALA councilor-at-large, and is currently in her second term on the ALA Executive Board, previously serving 2001-05. She is also the recipient of several awards, including the 2012 ALA Equality Award.