The campaign season is in full swing and it’s time to think about making a difference at the polls. Believe it or not, library leaders can legally and ethically encourage engagement in the elections. In this session we look at 10 specific steps library leaders can take to mobilize library supporters, including voter registration drives, learning about candidates, attending and hosting forums and working the polls. We also provide details on what non-profit staff, boards and volunteers are allowed to do under existing rules. Now is the time to capture the increased interest in the political process to promote civic participation and enhance your library’s presence.
Author Archives: Jacob Roberts
The campaign season is in full swing and it’s time to think about making a difference at the polls. Believe it or not, library leaders can legally and ethically encourage engagement in the elections. In this session we’ll look at 10 specific steps library leaders can take to mobilize library supporters, including voter registration drives, learning about candidates, attending and hosting forums and working the polls. We’ll also provide details on what non-profit staff, boards and volunteers are allowed to do under existing rules. Now is the time to capture the increased interest in the political process to promote civic participation and enhance your library’s presence. Attend this session to learn how to be involved!
Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Time: 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT
This summer, when I haven’t been attending hearings and panels, or writing about bookmobiles, I’ve been joining the rest of the Google Policy Fellows at Google’s DC office for occasional events. They’ve been interesting opportunities to learn more about the policy work of an influential company–as well as, rather unexpectedly, about their driverless cars. But there hadn’t been much of a chance to dig into the intersection of information technology policy and libraries (despite that being, of course, the most interesting intersection of all).
Yesterday, I organized a lunch and discussion for some of fellow fellows here at the ALA Washington Office. Fellows from the Center for Democracy & Technology, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Internet Education Foundation, and the New America Foundation enjoyed a productive conversation with Carrie Russell, Marijke Visser, Larra Clark, and Corey Williams from the ALA Washington Office.
After an overview of the work done by the Office for Information Technology Policy and the Office of Government Relations, our conversation turned immediately to a series of fascinating questions: Given the limitations of mobile technology (e.g., for tasks like homework) are libraries working to encourage wired as well as wireless internet access in communities where the latter dominates? How are libraries adapting to an environment that requires more licensing agreements? How are libraries working to promote digital literacy in traditionally disadvantaged communities? What are the benefits and risks of open access to Congressional Research Service reports? What are the economic benefits of digital literacy? What are the current business models for e-book lending, and how could they change?
As we talked, the fellows were introduced to a variety of resources and case studies of libraries doing work in these areas. We discussed some statistics from the new Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, the Philadelphia Free Library’s hot spots, digital literacy programs in St. Paul and New York, library makerspaces, and more.
In the process, we identified productive overlaps between ALA projects and the fellows’ work, and new ideas and possibilities for collaboration emerged. The conversation got some of the fellows thinking in new ways about libraries as important, influential actors in the information technology ecosystem. And it introduced the ALA Washington Office staff to the exciting work the fellows are doing.
Cards have been exchanged, and resources traded. So hopefully collaboration and cooperation will be just around the corner.
Google Policy Fellow
Office for Information Technology Policy, ALA Washington Office
In 1973, to protest United States support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries launched an oil embargo that led to widespread gasoline shortages in the U.S. and around the world. While many Americans waited in long lines at gas stations, or went without, others found less savory solutions. For months during the crisis, gasoline in the El Paso Public Library’s bookmobiles was siphoned and stolen in the night. And it wasn’t until bookmobile operator Valentin Ontiveros suggested parking the vehicles side-by-side but facing opposite directions, so that each blocked the other’s gas tank, that the thievery (and the hit to the library’s budget) stopped.
I’m a Ph.D. candidate in history, completing a dissertation about the role of bookmobiles in building and contesting communities in the U.S. So when I found this anecdote, I was thrilled. It’s a great little story that illustrates how the bookmobile ended up enmeshed in so many aspects of American life.
But it’s also a lesson for libraries working to adapt to new tools and growing infrastructures today. This summer, as a Google Policy Fellow at the ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, I’ve been developing a set of principles to help libraries and policy-makers plan for an uncertain and increasingly digital future. Bookmobiles are a fantastic case study for this. They offer a robust example of how libraries took advantage of the power offered by new technologies (internal combustion!) and the connectivity offered by emerging networks (paved roads and highways!). Today, as libraries exploit similar forces made available by newer technologies (e-books!) and more emergent networks (broadband!), it’s worth looking back to see how libraries adapted to them in the past.
The El Paso story suggests, for example, that flexibility is one of the most important principles to bring to bear in planning for new environments. When libraries first started to send out bookmobiles powered by internal combustion engines in the 1910s, it would have been rather difficult to predict that six decades later, conflicts among nation-states (some of which didn’t even exist then) would end up affecting a local program in Texas. But using gas-powered vehicles meant tying library service to an infrastructure running from the local governments that paved roads to the global system of petroleum extraction.
And that’s really the lesson here: New technologies and new networks mean unexpected problems. Connecting your library to broadband internet and offering e-books for checkout means becoming enmeshed in in a vast web dependent on cooperation (or at least tolerance) among telecom providers, hardware manufacturers, publishers, and governments—not to mention the good will of hackers.
Libraries can’t predict the future, but they can plan for flexible response to unpredictable situations.
How will your library respond to planned obsolescence in digital devices? What will your library do when local demographics shift dramatically, or when patrons’ technology and content demands suddenly change? What will happen if your digital content provider wants to dramatically renegotiate your license agreements? How quickly will you adjust when your internet- or technology-use user policies don’t seem to be working anymore? And how will your library respond to problems we can’t even currently imagine?
Building opportunities for frequent evaluation and course-correction into the library’s management and practice is one way to design for flexibility. This can include regular morning staff meetings like the ones that helped the Independence Public Library go from struggling to being the “Best Small Library in America.” Or it could mean more general efforts to empower staff-members to make connections and propose suggestions for how to change the library’s position in the world. Let the whole staff, in other words, be Valentin Ontiveros.
My final report, which will be available to all of you, will examine many more cases (a color-coded bookmobile program that promoted racial segregation during Jim Crow, for example, or a collection of mid-century romance novels about bookmobile librarians), as well as more ideas about how the bookmobile’s past relates to libraries’ future. So stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, you can read more of my thoughts about information in motion over at bookmobility.org. And check out the Digital Content and Libraries Working Group’s new series of tip-sheets for help as you plan for flexibility.
Google Policy Fellow
Office for Information Technology Policy, ALA Washington Office
In-person visits are critical for effective influence on politicians, particularly in an election year. With the last three months of the election season (phew!) around the corner, now is the time to press council members, legislators, administrators, school board members — in fact, anyone you can think of — to visit. And if you’re concerned about whether election rules restrict your ability to be involved in advocacy at this time of year, don’t be! This video covers the rules of engagement and points you to the resources at nonprofitvote.org and clpi.org to keep your visits aboveboard. Watch to learn the secret strategies for getting decision makers in the door — and eventually agreeing with you!
We’d love to hear from you about your experiences with site visits. Please contact Ted Wegner, firstname.lastname@example.org, and share your stories. This way we can hear what is working (and what isn’t) and share success stories with other libraries who are interested in legislator site visits.