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EXIT INTERVIEW—Fiels tackled challenges, drove change in 15 years at ALA

Through terrorism, recession and information revolution, library group was strong advocate for social justice, intellectual freedom


March 17, 2017
By William Ehart

You might think libraries aren’t much more complicated than books and shelves, but the $55 million-revenue, 62,000-member American Library Association is a sprawling organization that has faced a volume of challenges during the 15-year tenure of Executive Director Keith Fiels.

“Some people say you can only do a few things well, but ALA has to do a large number of things and try to do them well,” said Fiels, 67, who is retiring in July.

ALA serves some functions of a professional society—including education and certification and advocating for library funding—but the group, with 11 sub-associations and 56 chapters, is dedicated to a social mission that includes intellectual freedom, more liberal rules surrounding use of copyrighted material, outreach to the public, diversity and social justice.