Dear RNC and DNC: Libraries are essential to achieving national priorities

RNC buttonToday, the Republican National Convention (RNC) kicks off in Cleveland, and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) begins next Monday in Philadelphia. In the latest installment of the Policy Revolution! initiative, ALA submitted comments to the Republican and Democratic Party Platform Committees. A party platform is a formal set of value statements and goals to guide the direction of a political party. Final discussion and ratification of the platforms will take place during the respective conventions.

ALA’s submission is based on a large body of prior work. At the most fundamental level, such comments are informed by internal ALA policies, approved by ALA’s Council. In terms of our work more specifically targeted to the national public policy arena, we completed the National Policy Agenda for Libraries in June 2015 to provide the strategic policy direction for libraries, under the auspices of a Library Advisory Committee that included a number of library community organizations in addition to ALA.

2016 Democratic National Convention LogoAt this point in the process, the primary goal is to showcase how libraries contribute to the broad range of national goals of importance to the major political parties. Given the economic unease around the country, ALA comments highlighted the roles of libraries in advancing economic opportunity. The comments also address several issues that are prominent in the campaigns, such as national infrastructure, veterans, education and learning and others.

There will be some library presence at the conventions. In Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library will be streaming briefings organized by The Atlantic. In Philadelphia, Siobhan Reardon, President and Director, Free Library of Philadelphia, will serve on a panel on getting online and digital inclusion that will be keynoted by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

Susan Hildreth, Tony Sarmiento and Alan Inouye (left to right).

Susan Hildreth, Tony Sarmiento and Alan Inouye (L-R) discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the upcoming national elections.

OITP held a number of sessions at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference to provide briefings and obtain guidance from the ALA community for our future policy direction.  In particular, we held one public panel session moderated by Mark Smith, Director, Texas State Library and Archives Commission with panelists Susan Hildreth, Executive Director, Peninsula (Calif.) Library System; Tony Sarmiento, Executive Director, Senior Service America; and me. Thanks to those who attended our session or one of our meetings and provided advice.

Of course, the political conventions only mark the beginning of the actual presidential campaigns, so there is much more work to be done in the months leading into the election, the transition to the next President and the first 100 days of the new Administration. We will be developing and disseminating much more information and honing in on specific recommendations. So here’s a question for you: If you could say one (or two) things to the presidential candidates about the value of libraries to our respective communities, what would you highlight? We’d like to hear from you—via the comments option on District Dispatch or send email directly to me at ainouye@alawash.org.

About Alan Inouye

Alan S. Inouye is the director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy. Previously, he was the coordinator of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee in the Executive Office of the President and a study director at the National Academy of Sciences. Alan completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

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