Cindy Hohl, the director of policy analysis and operational support at the Kansas City Public Library, has been elected president of the 58,000-member American Library Association (ALA) for 2024-25.
“I'm very excited,” Hohl said after receiving the call Wednesday, April 12. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us here at the Kansas City Public Library, especially to be able to share our ideas and leadership capacity with the field.”
She said that the Library will be the “hub of all library activity” and the “sky’s the limit” on what that might mean as far as hosting guests from other systems and disseminating, receiving, and sharing information.
“The Kansas City Public Library has always been a trendsetting institution, one that is trusted, one that is accessible, one that is here to help,” Hohl said. “So, as you look at thought leaders across the field, we have a lot of strong leaders within our organization.”
Her leadership positions at the Library, as well as those she has held nationally and internationally, positioned her well for a presidential run.
A member of the Santee Sioux Nation, Nebraska, Hohl has served in more than two dozen posts with positions at state, national, and international library organizations, including the American Indian Library Association, many affiliated with the ALA, and the Freedom to Read Foundation.
The Freedom to Read Foundation has been at the forefront of opposition to book banning and other censorship efforts, and Hohl has frequently served as the Library’s voice on that topic. After acknowledging that book bans and challenges are nothing new, Hohl sees the trend as likely to continue into her presidency as elected officials introduce language and legislation that tends to limit access to information.
“Librarians will continue to want to make sure that everyone has equal access to information.It is very important to us. It is one of the tenets of librarianship, and it's something where that's what we're here to do as trusted service professionals in our communities,” Hohl said. She also sees artificial intelligence as a looming challenge. While it’s exciting that AI is more readily available and frequently used than ever before, particularly programs capable of academic and creative writing, it carries some concern.
“There is a lot of information that has not been verified,” Hohl said. “So, as with any web browser search, it's important that everyone has the education they need to be able to use that tool responsibly, especially looking at not only the information that's being gleaned and disseminated but making sure that it's something that's going to be helpful and not hurtful.”
She said that librarians across the nation will remain a critical resource to their communities in fortifying patrons against misinformation and guiding them toward credible sources.
Additionally, “it's very important that everyone understands that there's a responsibility with using technology like that; it's important that they're using information for good,” Hohl said of writing programs such as ChatGPT.
For Hohl, the potential challenges of her new position are every bit as exciting as the opportunities she’ll have to connect with others, learn about other library systems, and add to her skillset.
The role of ALA president entails a long list of duties but, Hohl said, she’ll primarily act as the organization’s spokesperson and work to support her colleagues and ALA members by “making sure that everyone has access to information in a timely manner and that you speak to matters that are of great significance.”
Hohl, who’s been with the Library for more than 5½ years, said she thinks of herself as a connector and a relationship builder, so connecting people to each other and to projects comes naturally to her.
“I want to be able to learn more about people, what it is that inspires them in their work and how I can help them grow,” she said.
Hohl’s opponent in the ALA presidential race was Eric D. Suess, director of the Marshall Public Library in Pocatello, Idaho. She won 67% of the nationwide vote and is now the first ALA president from a Kansas City-area library, the first from a Missouri library in 90 years, and the second Native American to hold the position.
She will serve as the ALA’s president-elect in the coming year and assume the presidency of the association in July 2024.
Hohl said, “I absolutely love librarianship; I think that it's a wonderful field, and there are immense opportunities for everyone.”