I just returned from the Annual Meeting of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), held in Teton Village, Wyo., just down the road from Grand Teton National Park and Jackson. From the moment I left the airport, I knew I was not in D.C. any longer, as there were constant reminders about avoiding animals. There were road signs informing drivers about “moose on the loose;” strong suggestions about hiking in groups and to carry bear spray; and warnings about elk hunting so “please wear bright colors.” In D.C., we only worry about donkeys and elephants engaging in political shenanigans.
Work on our Policy Revolution! Initiative attracted me to the COSLA meeting, to leverage the presence of the state librarians, and also librarians from the mountain states. Our session focused on four aspects of work related to developing a national public policy agenda:
- From a library leader’s perspective, what are the most important national goals that would advance libraries in the next 5-10 years?
- From the U.S. President’s perspective, how could libraries and libraries best contribute to the most important national goals, and what national initiatives are needed to realize these contributions?
- From the many good ideas that we can generate, how can we prioritize among them?
- What does a national public policy agenda look like? What are its characteristics?
The wide open spaces and rugged individualistic culture of Wyoming, symbolized by Steamboat, reminded me of the vastness of the United States, and great resources and resourcefulness of our people. In this time of library revolution, we need to move beyond our conventional views of the world to figure out how libraries may best serve the nation for decades to come. With the next presidential election just around the corner, and with it the certainty of a new occupant in the White House, it is timely and urgent to develop and coalesce around a common library vision.
One thought on the way home was stimulated by the Wyoming session. What should be the priority for national action? Three possibilities occur to me:
- Increase direct funding (i.e., show me the money)
- Effect public policy changes that may or may not directly implicate funding, such as copyright, privacy, licensing regimes, accommodations for people with disabilities, but are changes that can only be achieved at the national level, or at least best addressed at the national level
- Promote a new vision and positioning for libraries in national conversation (i.e., bully pulpit)
Should a national public policy agenda systematically favor one of these directions?
Many thanks to COSLA for hosting us, with particular thanks to Ann Joslin and Tim Cherubini (and his staff). I also appreciated the opportunity to sit in a number of sessions that included generous doses of our long-time friends E-rate, ebooks and digital services. We had a special treat as Wyoming’s senior U.S. Senator, Michael Enzi (R-WY), addressed the group, regaling the audience with his love of reading and libraries.
I had the opportunity for a quick tour around the area. I was impressed with the large, modern Teton County Library (in Jackson), which has good wireless access–yay! After seeing the Grand Tetons and tooling about Jenny Lake, it is gonna be hard to settle back down to the political chaos that is Washington, D.C.