Among the hundreds of powerful connections and conversations that took place at the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, librarians of all backgrounds began commenting on a draft national policy agenda for libraries. They asked how libraries can secure additional funding at a time of government budget cuts. Several noted and appreciated the inclusion of federal libraries, and most people specifically welcomed the premise of all libraries as linked together into a national infrastructure. And many saw potential for the national agenda to serve as a template for state- and local-level policy advocacy.
The draft agenda is the first step towards answering 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?”
Outlining key issues and proposals is being pursued through the Policy Revolution! Initiative, led by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA). A Library Advisory Committee—which includes broad representation from across the library community—provides overall guidance to the national effort. 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.
“We are asking big questions, and I’m really encouraged by the insightful feedback we’ve received in face-to-face meetings, emails and letters,” said OITP Director Alan Inouye. “I hope more people will share their perspectives and aspirations for building the capacity libraries of all kinds need to achieve shared national policy goals.”
The current round of public input closes Friday, February 27, 2015. Send your comments, questions and recommendations now to the project team at oitp[at]alawash[dot]org.
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.
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.
“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.”