DU Alumni / Magazine Feature / People

Alumna named first Hispanic president of American Library Association

Camila Alire (MLS ’74) fondly remembers her first experience in a library.

“I was in grade school, and I went with my friend who had a library card,” Alire says. “The first book I ever checked out was The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.”

Today, Alire is the first-ever Hispanic to serve as president of the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library organization in the world. She was elected this summer to the 2009–10 term by the association’s 65,000-plus members.

“It is such an honor to lead the … association,” says Alire, who’s been dubbed by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the country. “And as the first Hispanic ever elected to the ALA presidency, I’m pleased to serve as a role model for minority librarians.”

Alire served as dean of libraries at Colorado State University and the director of libraries at the University of Colorado at Denver; she is currently an adjunct professor at Simmons College and San Jose State University. She’s also served as a community college library director, head of a special library, school librarian (K-12). Alire earned her doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Northern Colorado.

Loida Garcia Febo, president of the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, says Alire’s background makes her perfect for the job.

“Her experience working with different populations and diverse library workers will make her an excellent president as she understands the needs of our library workforce and patrons,” Garcia Febo says.

During her presidency Alire plans to advocate for all libraries, ensure all ALA members are prepared to share their libraries’ value and promote family literacy, especially among minority communities.

“Because of our country’s changing demographics, it’s important that we have a literate nation with people being able to make informed decisions that affect their everyday lives,” Alire says. “Being literate and becoming library users will also make them lifelong learners.

Alire says libraries today are indeed still alive and that usage is up, even in the Internet age.

“Google can give you 50,000 responses to your question; a librarian can help you find the answer you need,” she says. “So, the role of libraries hasn’t changed, even with the introduction of the Internet. They still play a critical role in helping their users become lifelong learners whether the users access their information online, in print or in person.”

She adds that society can’t underestimate the concept of “library as place. Libraries are being used for collaborative learning and group study as well as a place for quiet study.”

Alire praises DU’s Penrose Library.

“The library, under the leadership of [Dean] Nancy Allen, has done a great job in supporting the teaching and research mission of the University. The librarians and library staff … ensure that the students and faculty information needs are met.”

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