Libraries are in a revolution fueled by rapid advances in technology, and thus the roles, capabilities, and expectations of libraries are changing rapidly. National public policy for libraries must reflect these changes. Today, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) released a discussion draft policy agenda for libraries to guide a proactive policy shift.
“Too often, investment in libraries and librarians lags the opportunities we present,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “Libraries provide countless benefits to U.S. communities and campuses, and contribute to the missions of the federal government and other national institutions. These benefits must be assertively communicated to national decision makers and influencers to advance how libraries may best contribute to society in the digital age.”
The draft agenda flows out of library values and the imperative of “opportunity for all,” as well as within a context of national political, economic and demographic trends. As such, it seeks to answer the questions “What are the U.S. library interests and priorities for the next five years that should be emphasized to national decision makers?” and “Where might there be windows of opportunity to advance a particular priority at this particular time?”
The draft agenda articulates three broad themes to organize the national public policy goals of the U.S. library community: Services, People, and Institutional Issues. Services, for instance, include education, entrepreneurship and access to government information. The agenda focuses on the high-level “Library” story rather than on the silos of academic, school, public, government, and special or other libraries.
“Though contemporary libraries and librarians have evolved in the context of the digital revolution, this evolution is not widely understood by decision makers and influencers, who may often have mental models of libraries and librarians from decades past,” said ALA OITP Director Alan S. Inouye. “This agenda will enable library organizations, including their members and allies, to drive toward common goals in shifting how libraries are perceived and resourced.”
Outlining this key set of issues and context is being pursued through the Policy Revolution! Initiative, led by ALA OITP and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) with guidance from a Library Advisory Committee—which includes broad representation from across the library community. The three-year initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has three major elements: to develop a national public policy agenda, to initiate and deepen national stakeholder interactions based on policy priorities, and build library advocacy capacity for the long-term.
“In a time of increasing competition for resources and challenges to fulfilling our core missions, libraries and library organizations must come together to advocate proactively and strategically,” said COSLA President Kendall Wiggin. “Sustainable libraries are essential to sustainable communities.”
The draft agenda provides an umbrella of timely policy priorities and is understood to be too extensive to serve as the single policy agenda for any given entity in the community. Rather, the goal is that various library entities and their members can fashion their national policy priorities under the rubric of this national public policy agenda.
“Libraries represent a national critical infrastructure that delivers services and engages communities—with a long history of accomplishment connecting people with each other and with diverse collections,” said ALA OITP Deputy Director Larra Clark. “Collaborations with libraries to fulfill national mission needs should be contemplated and resourced whenever plausible.”
The draft national public policy agenda will be vetted, discussed, and further elaborated upon in the first quarter of 2015, also seeking to align with existing and emerging national library efforts. Several members of the team that worked on the agenda will discuss the Policy Revolution! initiative and invite input into the draft agenda at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting on February 1 from 1-2:30 p.m. in the McCormick Convention Center, room W196A.
From this foundation, the ALA Washington Office will match priorities to windows of opportunity and confluence to begin advancing policy priorities—in partnership with other library organizations and allies with whom there is alignment—in mid-2015. Feedback should be sent by February 27, 2015, to oitp[at]alawash[dot]org, and updates will be available online.
Direct to National Policy Agenda (DRAFT)