This summer, when I haven’t been attending hearings and panels, or writing about bookmobiles, I’ve been joining the rest of the Google Policy Fellows at Google’s DC office for occasional events. They’ve been interesting opportunities to learn more about the policy work of an influential company–as well as, rather unexpectedly, about their driverless cars. But there hadn’t been much of a chance to dig into the intersection of information technology policy and libraries (despite that being, of course, the most interesting intersection of all).
Yesterday, I organized a lunch and discussion for some of fellow fellows here at the ALA Washington Office. Fellows from the Center for Democracy & Technology, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Internet Education Foundation, and the New America Foundation enjoyed a productive conversation with Carrie Russell, Marijke Visser, Larra Clark, and Corey Williams from the ALA Washington Office.
After an overview of the work done by the Office for Information Technology Policy and the Office of Government Relations, our conversation turned immediately to a series of fascinating questions: Given the limitations of mobile technology (e.g., for tasks like homework) are libraries working to encourage wired as well as wireless internet access in communities where the latter dominates? How are libraries adapting to an environment that requires more licensing agreements? How are libraries working to promote digital literacy in traditionally disadvantaged communities? What are the benefits and risks of open access to Congressional Research Service reports? What are the economic benefits of digital literacy? What are the current business models for e-book lending, and how could they change?
As we talked, the fellows were introduced to a variety of resources and case studies of libraries doing work in these areas. We discussed some statistics from the new Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, the Philadelphia Free Library’s hot spots, digital literacy programs in St. Paul and New York, library makerspaces, and more.
In the process, we identified productive overlaps between ALA projects and the fellows’ work, and new ideas and possibilities for collaboration emerged. The conversation got some of the fellows thinking in new ways about libraries as important, influential actors in the information technology ecosystem. And it introduced the ALA Washington Office staff to the exciting work the fellows are doing.
Cards have been exchanged, and resources traded. So hopefully collaboration and cooperation will be just around the corner.
Google Policy Fellow
Office for Information Technology Policy, ALA Washington Office