This past week, I had the privilege of attending a part of the New American Jobs Summit organized by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a member of the American Library Association’s Public Policy Advisory Council. This was a wonderful event and my only regret was being able to attend only a part of the day.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, raised a number of points of direct relevance to the library community. Foxx emphasized the skills gap, especially in the tech sector and that the nation needs stronger education, not training. We “train animals and educate people,” she said. “All education is vocational” and all degree seekers want a job. Foxx is supportive of innovative learning opportunities and better community partnerships. Of course, we will have to see if Chairwoman Foxx’s positions will lead to actual positive change for the nation’s communities.
CTA featured its new market research report “Future of Work,” based on a survey of tech industry leaders. Not surprisingly, 71% of leaders say it is difficult to find appropriately skilled employees. However, only 9% believe that the situation will improve during the next five years — so there is plenty of opportunity for libraries to help, for example, through engaging in coding awareness and skills development, bolstered by ALA’s Libraries Ready to Code initiative.
To cap off the festivities for National Library Legislative Day, ALA hosted a party to honor and acknowledge the work of Emily Sheketoff, who is retiring as the head of ALA’s Washington Office. Nearly 200 attended the affair, with a program and audience of Washington luminaries and library intimates. Check out the video message from Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). We are all extremely appreciative of Emily’s contributions during her 17 years at ALA.
We expect E-Rate to become a policy issue at both the FCC and Congress this summer or fall and so we are beginning some preparatory work in anticipation. On April 28, ALA was a major part of an E-Rate briefing at the Russell Senate Office building, organized by the Education and Libraries Network Coalition (EdLiNC, of which ALA is a founding member) and National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training (NCTET). The session opened with remarks from Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and included OITP’s Marijke Visser as co-moderator and Henry Stokes from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and a member of ALA’s E-Rate Task Force. The main purpose of this briefing is to raise the awareness of how the E-Rate program is essential to ensuring the availability of high-speed broadband in libraries and schools. Also in the vein of E-Rate, ALA recently submitted comments to the FCC in its solicitation for input on an array of rules that it may revise or eliminate.
Finally, I will be presenting at a parallel session and at the lunch plenary session at the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide conference in San Diego. I will be there on May 25 and 26 and would be happy to meet up. If you will be at the conference or are based in the San Diego vicinity and want to meet up, please do contact me. Happy to talk about whatever I can, especially related to the policy swamp of Washington!