This is a guest post by Christine Lind Hage, director of Rochester Hills (MI) Public Library and a member of the ALA Policy Corps Working Group. She is a past president of the Public Library Association and of United for Libraries. She served on ALA Council for 10 years and is currently a member of the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) Advisory Committee.
As technology and innovation develops and as the political landscape shifts, we need experts who can clearly articulate the contributions, value and concerns of America’s libraries to policymakers at every level. ALA needs professional librarians who not only understand the impact of federal legislation on libraries and the millions of people they serve, but also who have the depth of knowledge it takes to help shape policies on the front end.
To expand ALA’s ability to advocate on key policy issues, ALA President Jim Neal and ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy are working with library leaders from AASL, ACRL, PLA and UFL to create the ALA Policy Corps. Announced earlier this month, the ALA Policy Corps will consist of 10 to 12 advocates who will receive training and opportunities to participate in targeted policy advocacy work primarily at the national level.
Jim Neal himself has modeled our vision for the ALA Policy Corps. He has represented the American library community numerous times in testimony on copyright matters before congressional committees, in the U.S. Copyright Office Section 108 Study Group (2005-2008) and as an advisor to the U.S. delegation at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) meetings on copyright.
ALA member and retired Maine State Librarian Linda Lord is another example of a librarian who has used her expertise and in-depth understanding to help shape federal programs. She has been an effective voice for libraries regarding the E-rate program. Linda’s real-life experience in rural and small libraries was instrumental in getting the E-rate process streamlined and critical additional funding secured. Linda’s advocacy included testifying before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on the importance of E-rate for libraries that serve rural America. Upon her retirement, Senator Angus King (ME) said,”Her leadership at the national level on the E-rate program and other issues has been a huge benefit to Maine.”
Just this month four librarians testified at a hearing of the House Administration Committee about the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). They highlighted the enduring value of the FDLP in ensuring that Americans can access the documents of their government, not just today but in the future. Their real-life experience lent to their own credibility and that of librarianship as a profession in general.
We do not expect all Policy Corps applicants to be seasoned experts at giving congressional testimony. If you have past advocacy experience at any level, a commitment to keeping current on policy-related library issues, and the desire to develop your policy advocacy skills and apply them over a period of years – you should apply to be part of the ALA Policy Corps.
Whether it is the importance of copyright, E-rate, FDLP or federal library funding (to name only a few issues!), it is essential that library professionals share our experiences and provide our expertise to elected leaders and other decision-makers. You can learn more about the ALA Policy Corps and apply at our website, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/ala-policy-corps. The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, November 3.