Arlene Laverde, THHS Librarian, elected president of the New York Library Association

Arlene Laverde, THHS Librarian, elected president of the New York Library Association
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On July 16, 2021, The New York Library Association (NYLA), a leading statewide organization dedicated to serving the interests of the New York library community, announced that Townsend Harris’ school librarian Arlene Laverde has been named as President of the 2022 Council. Laverde’s partnership with NYLA will begin in November and is a three-year commitment. The first year of her tenure with the NYLA will be spent as President-Elect, followed by President in her second year, and then Past-President in her third year. As President-Elect, Laverde will work with the NYLA President and NYLA Past-President to become familiar with the Executive Committee and the organization. 

Previously, Laverde has served as the President of the New York City School Librarians Association (NYCSLA) from January 2019 to January 2021, in addition to15 years of library management in NYC schools. She also  served on the American Library Association (ALA), American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) committees, and is currently the Region Two representative for NYLA-Section of School Librarians (SSL), among others. 

The Classic spoke to Laverde as she reflected on being elected President. 

Q: What motivates you to extend beyond your roles at our school?

Laverde: I love being a librarian, and I love being a librarian at Townsend Harris High School. I like to think that I am a good librarian and the students and faculty benefit from having me here. So many students and teachers do not have a librarian or a library in their school and that is a huge disservice to their education. Libraries provide so much for the school community and every school is deserving of a fully staffed and functioning library program. I think with my passion and willingness to speak straightforwardly I can bring attention to the importance of school libraries, as well as public and academic libraries. 

Q: What have been some of the challenges you faced along the way in reaching this position? 

Laverde: A major challenge is time. There really isn’t enough time in the day. 

Q: How have your experiences as the Townsend Harris librarian and outside organizations helped you along the way?

Laverde: So many parts of my experience at THHS have helped me get to this role. The students at THHS are inspiring. They have shown me that anything can be accomplished if you put your mind to it. Seeing their passion for growth and achievement has given me the courage to pursue this opportunity. I also spoke with both Mr. Condon and Mr. Olechowski about the opportunity before making my decision. I wanted to let them know about this great opportunity and make sure that I had their support. This role will require me to attend a couple of meetings in Albany. They were excited for me and expressed their belief that I would do well in the position. Outside of Townsend Harris, I have helped behind the scenes in a state branch, but it hasn’t been until recently where I decided to make my presence known. My position as President of the New York City School Librarians Association brought me to the forefront of the local library community. I wasn’t an outspoken voice in the state branch, but later decided to run for the state President, where I can make an impact across the state.

Q: What are your plans and goals as NYLA President?

Laverde: If you have ever seen the cartoon Pinky and the Brain, my standard answer would be “To take over the World”. But in all seriousness, the first thing I want to do is reeducate the public about libraries—school, public, and academic. There are so many who still have a narrow viewpoint of what libraries and librarians are. Libraries are not places of silence and books, they are so much more than that. There are literacy programs, college programs, and career programs. People gather in libraries to socialize and learn. Libraries are places where people can search for and apply for jobs. Everyone has access to computers and the internet in the library. My dream is for New York State is to not only enforce the mandate of a certified librarian in every secondary school, but also to recognize the value of having certified school librarians. 

Laverde concluded, “One of the most crucial things I believe we can do is keep our communities informed. A well-informed community makes the right decisions.”