President's Message | July, 2022

Dear friends and colleagues,

We hope that you are having a good summer, with whatever combination of rest, pleasure, and productivity you most need. We want first to thank the organizers of our 2022 summer meeting in Atlanta, in particular Paige Gray and Mandy Suhr-Sytsma, for putting on such a wonderful conference, enabling us to meet again in person despite COVID-19, and to socialize with, listen to, and learn from one another – we personally found the experience powerful and moving. We appreciate, too, the Accessibility Committee’s excellent guidance, which really helped improve the experience. Having access copies and being able to hear people clearly was especially important for hearing-impaired Kenneth, so thank you!

Along with the Board and Meeting Expectations, we have been reviewing the conference survey feedback and appreciate your insights and recommendations for going forward. We look forward to the meeting next summer in Seattle – thank you for hosting us yet again, Michelle Martin! – and are actively seeking possible sites for 2024 (and yes this is a hint – please contact us if you might be interested!).

At our June 1 meeting, the Board voted to alternate between virtual and in-person conferences moving forward, with the next virtual conference scheduled for 2025 and subsequent virtual conferences taking place in odd-numbered years. While there are many joys to in-person conferencing, virtual conferences can be more affordable and equitable for many and we want to continue the organization’s work to expand options for participation for all members and for international scholars in particular.

In order to make the conference more accessible for graduate students and contingent faculty members, ChLA has established a Mutual Aid Donation fund. If you would like to donate to this fund, please visit the ChLA website, where an option to donate directly to this fund is now available via the Donate Now/Giving Tuesday link (follow list under “Donations”). We hope that this effort, along with the introduction of a tiered conference fee structure based on members’ salary levels, allow for greater participation among all our members.

As you know, Althea Tait resigned her Presidency just before the Atlanta meeting. We are sorry to see Althea step back from ChLA but we understand and respect her reasons. We thank Althea for years of service to the organization as a Board member and in other roles. In her letter, Althea points to the heavy burden placed on scholars from underrepresented groups, not only in organizations like ours but in their home institutions (and all in the context of a challenging and often hostile national climate). Our sense is that, on the one hand, ChLA has achieved greater diversity in its administrative structure and across its various committees, which is great, but on the other hand, too much work has been asked of our scholars of color in particular. We hope to try to find the right balance between more diverse and equitable participation in ChLA and renewed commitment from those like ourselves with greater security and privilege.

As our amazing Past President Libby Gruner explained a few weeks ago, the Policies and Procedures Manual for ChLA specifies that the Executive Committee (the officers of ChLA) appoints a President in this kind of situation when the runner-up is unavailable (as was the case here). The EC chose to consult with the full Board, and at the Board’s request, the two of us agreed to serve jointly in the role for 2022-2023, to share the usual duties and to continue the organization’s commitment to collaborative leadership. Amy had just completed a term on the Board and had been deeply involved with the Momentum Committee; she is familiar with the organization’s current initiatives. Kenneth served as President in 2016-2017, and was a founding member of the Diversity Committee as well as a Board member twice. He’s a little rustier on the current challenges but eager to learn. We both have the time and labor to give ChLA, and are happy to do it. We appreciate everyone’s trust, and are excited to work with our VP and President-elect, Maude Hines, with our Treasurer Tammy Mielke and Secretary Paige Gray, with the Board, and with the broader membership.

As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility” and, although the ChLA Office of the President doesn’t come with the kind of power Spider-Man wields, we hope to use what power we do have responsibly and in service of our community.

We’ve had the opportunity to read members’ responses to the survey administered by our consulting partners and learn about the experiences of members who were interviewed by this same group (Momentum) back in 2021 and we’ve been thinking a lot about the experiences and challenges so many members have shared in open forums. While we are heartened by the ideas and arguments youth literature continues to inspire among our group, we know that we need to do more as an organization to ensure that everyone’s voices are welcomed into the conversation.

We see our roles as stewards of ChLA and act in service of its mission: to encourage scholarship, criticism, teaching, and research in youth literature while promoting our organization’s values of inclusivity, diversity, integrity, development, and celebration. We are an organization of scholars and educators, and we are committed to the pursuit of knowledge as it arises from both activities. We recognize, however, that these projects are always situated within structures that unequally facilitate and impede them, which means that we cannot ignore these realities and must work to mitigate these barriers as they exist within and outside our own organization.

We thank those involved with the work of the Ethics Committee as well as the Diversity Committee, Accessibility Committee, and the Ombuds Committee – four committees that have worked tirelessly to develop policies, practices, and mechanisms for increasing opportunities for participation in our organization and for keeping the organization accountable to all of its members. We also want to thank those people who undertake this work as individuals: those members who serve as mentors and support-people for other members and who use their own voices to call attention to the work of others.

In an effort to increase transparency and to offer everyone an opportunity to participate in and respond to the governance of this organization, we are committed to reporting our activities at our upcoming Board meetings and sharing the minutes of these meetings for everyone’s review. We welcome your feedback and suggestions and would be happy to meet with any person or group to talk further about ChLA and its progress. We would like the membership to guide our work and, as we learn more about the opportunities and challenges that face the organization and its members, we want to use our position to develop responses and initiatives that reflect and enact our core values.

Transparency in mind, we want to share one more outcome of our June Board meeting. In the spirit of our organizational values of diversity, development, and celebration, the Board voted to limit publication awards to once-per-lifetime. A ChLA member may receive each publication award (the article award, book award, edited book award, or graduate student essay award) only once unless they are acting as a co-author or co-editor with a member who has not received that award in their lifetime. This means, for example, that Kenneth cannot receive the edited book award again, unless he is nominated with a co-editor who has not won the award themselves. We are hopeful that this new practice will allow the organization to recognize a greater diversity of scholars and scholarly perspectives who have and continue to inspire and contribute to our community.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one or both of us with your questions, concerns, feedback, and suggestions. We would love to hear and learn from you and would be grateful for any opportunity for your guidance.

Kenneth Signature
Kenneth Kidd
[email protected]

Amy Pattee Signature
Amy Pattee
[email protected]

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