E-rate Orders aside, the library community is starting the New Year with one less champion. Linda Lord, now former Maine State Librarian, is officially retired and has turned the keys over to her successor, Jaimie Ritter.
No one who knows Linda is at all reticent in talking about her dedication to her home state libraries—nor are those of us who work with her as a national spokesperson for libraries. Her work for ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) could be an encyclopedic list covering at least of decade of advocacy. In her most recent role as Chair of the E-rate Task Force, Linda has been invaluable to advancing library interests at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in Congress, and with her colleagues. At the height of the recent E-rate activity at the FCC, we joked with Linda that she should have special frequent flier miles for all the flights from Bangor (ME) to Washington D.C. That, and the fact that Linda’s email was first to pop up under the “Ls” and her phone number was always under “recents” on my phone list are testament to our reliance on her experience, her dogged support, and her willingness to work well beyond her role as a member-leader (a volunteer).
Of course Linda’s work is well respected in her home state as is evidenced by a number of articles and even a television interview as her retirement approached. These stories make it clear Linda builds strong, collaborative relationships with her colleagues, whether staff at the state library, librarians across Maine, and as far away as the Senate in Washington, D.C.
“Linda has done an amazing job making information accessible through libraries and schools across Maine,” said Senator Angus King. “She has the essential leadership qualities of vision, perseverance, willingness to work on the details, and a personality that enables her to collaborate and bring out the best in people. Her leadership at the national level on the E-rate program and other issues has been a huge benefit to Maine. She will always have my profound respect and appreciation for all that she’s accomplished for Maine and for the country.”
I can testify first hand on the difference Linda’s work has made for Maine libraries from my (wonderful) summer trips to Maine. In recent years we have noticed a marked improvement in library WiFi. While my kids love to hike when we travel in rural Maine, they now also are dedicated texters and need to know the next time we will be near a library so they can update friends in between dry periods of no connectivity. While passing through a town I point out the universal library sign and one child will ask, “Is that one of Linda’s libraries? Can we stop?” (knowing that there will be plenty of WiFi to go around).
We are proud to be able to share our own remembrances of Linda’s long tenure working with ALA. While I have long considered Linda “my ALA member,” many others have similar sentiments when asked to share anecdotes about working with Linda. I have included a few here.
Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA’s Washington Office reminds us all of Linda’s strong leadership qualities that have won her a respected place on the national stage:
“Linda has always been a strong voice for libraries, so OITP recognized and took great advantage of that. Coming from Maine, she had a soft spot for rural libraries and she became our “go-to” person when we needed an example of the difference a well-connected library can make for small towns or rural communities. When ALA staff use a Maine library as an exemplar the response is something along the lines of “Oh we know Linda Lord” and the point is immediately legitimized. She will be missed as a voice for libraries on the national stage.
As Chair of the ALA E-rate Task Force, Linda has spent countless hours on the phone, on email, in person making sure issues get covered—often asking the hard questions of how a policy course could impact the daily life of the librarian who has to implement or live with a policy. This ability has been invaluable as a gentle (and sometimes like a hurricane) reminder that what we do in D.C. has a very real impact locally. She is quite a leader.”
Linda Schatz, an E-rate consultant who worked with Linda and ALA for many years, describes Linda’s dedication to garnering support for the E-rate program:
“As I think about the many ways in which Linda has impacted the E-rate program, perhaps the most long-lasting has been her diligence in working with Members [of Congress] and their staff. Not only did she take the time to meet with and inform Senators Snowe and Collins about the impact of the E-rate program on Maine libraries, she continued to point out the benefits to all libraries and helped with last minute negotiations through the night to prevent legislation that would have had a negative impact on the program. She didn’t stop her communications when Senator Snowe left the Senate but took the time to meet with Senator King and his staff as well to ensure that they, too, understood the importance of the program to libraries. These communications about the E-rate program as well as the general needs of libraries will long be felt by the library community.”
Linda has the respect she does across ALA staff and members who have had the privilege of seeing her in action in large part because of her warm and sincere manner. “Not many people can bring the same passion for network technology as for early childhood learning, but Linda did. Not only was she an incredibly effective advocate, but I have admired and enjoyed her generous and collaborative spirit for years,” said Larra Clark, deputy director for ALA OITP. Linda easily wins over her audience.
Kathi Peiffer, current Chair of the E-rate Task Force and Pat Ball, member of the joint ALA Committee on Legislation and OITP Telecommunications Subcommittee both highlight these qualities in their recollection of Linda. “She is always gracious and has a wonderful sense of humor. She is the Queen of E-rate! (Kathi). She is always smiling and always gracious and I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet and work with her. I salute a great librarian and lady.” (Pat)
Alan S. Inouye, director of OITP, puts it well when he says, “Saying “thank you” to Linda Lord is just so inadequate. Her contributions to national policy on E-rate are extensive and range from testifying at the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and participating on FCC expert panels to chairing innumerable E-rate Task Force meetings (at their notorious Sunday 8:00 am times!). As Maine State Librarian, she has greatly advanced library services and visibility in her state in many ways. I hope that the library community, ALA, and OITP can find a way to continue to avail ourselves of Linda’s expertise and experience—retirement notwithstanding!”
So Alan leaves me with a little hope that I can continue to dream up ways we can call on Linda. As we often tell members who get involved with OITP, it’s very difficult to cut the ties once you join us.
And Linda was worried she might lose touch with library issues. I doubt it.