ALA Washington Office Submits Comments on IAL

On Monday, that ALA Washington Office submitted comments on the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant program.

IAL was funded in FY 2014 at $25 million and is a competitive grant program where, by law, a minimum of half of this money must go low-income to update and maintain their school libraries.  The rest of the money goes to national non-profits that work for childhood literacy.

An example of IAL helping students and the community is in the Lowndes County Public School in Alabama.  The Lowndes Schools received an IAL grant in 2012 and they are using that award to help implement their Transforming School Libraries to Facilitate a Culture of Learning (TSLFCL) goal in their schools.  This money has been used to update the school library materials including books, e-readers, computers, and other such materials that are needed for an up-to-date school library.   This grant has also been used to open the school libraries on Saturdays and provide professional development for the district’s school librarians.

Consequently, this grant has allowed the Lowndes Schools to increase their number of reading materials being checked out by 63 percent.  The e-readers have provided many students simultaneous access to the popular titles so the wait time for high-demand books has been eliminated.  Students are also able to get immediate access to all the e-books that are available.  Furthermore, the school district has opened the school libraries on Saturdays and Saturday participation has exceeded the district’s goal by 50 percent.

Posted in Library Advocacy

House budget dismisses role of IMLS

Paul RyanIn a new budget released today from Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget Committee Chairman denounces the critical role that the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) plays in supporting civic engagement, literacy and lifelong learning in more than 123,000 libraries nationwide. Rep. Ryan recommends that the federal government not have a role in libraries and that Congress shift the federal agency’s responsibilities to the private sector in his 2015 fiscal year budget resolution.

A Hedberg librarian helps a patron apply for college. Photo by Hedberg Public Library.

A Hedberg librarian helps a patron apply for college. Photo by Hedberg Public Library.

More than $180 million has been appropriated to the Institute for Museum and Library Services through September 2014 to help libraries make information and services available to the citizens they serve. American Library Association (ALA) President Barbara Stripling released a statement in response to Rep. Ryan’s unfortunate budget proposal (pdf).

“Library funding support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services wields large returns in the form of literate and civically engaged communities,” Stripling said in a statement. “We hope that Congress will support the important role that the Institute for Museum and Library Services plays in supporting educated communities by rejecting the House Budget resolution.”

Facts about library use in Rep. Paul Ryan’s own state of Wisconsin:

  • Just blocks from Rep. Ryan’s Wisconsin office, more than 716,000 visitors used the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, Wisconsin to access library computers and research databases, check out books and receive job training in 2013.
  • More than 65 percent of Wisconsin libraries report that they are the only free access point to Internet in their communities.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services administered more than $2.8 million in the 2014 fiscal year to help Wisconsin libraries prepare young students for school and provide lifelong learning opportunities for all Wisconsin residents.
  • The state of Wisconsin reported that more than 215,000 children participated in summer reading programs in state public libraries.

Now is the time for action. Moving forward, the American Library Association is asking library users, students, parents and teachers to contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives by going to the Legislative Action Center and urge them to support funding in the 2015 fiscal year for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL).

Advocates can support IMLS by tweeting Rep. Ryan at @RepPaulRyan.

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Posted in Funding, OGR

OGR’s monthly recap: Feb-Mar

In an effort to keep you informed on what’s going on in Washington and the letters that we have sent, OGR will now have a monthly recap.  Being the first of these, today’s blog post will cover both February and March.

February 10, 2014

ALA joined with 23 like-minded organizations in a letter (pdf) to Director Holden, of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to petition for OSTP to conduct a public comment process on big data and the future of privacy.

February 24, 2014

ALA united with 26 other organizations in a letter (pdf) to members of the House of Representatives urging them to vote for H.R. 1211, the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2014.  H.R. 1211 is a bipartisan bill that would “amend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to promote greater government transparency and accountability”. On February 25th, the bill passed the House and a day later was sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

March 5, 2014

ALA signed on to a letter (pdf) urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward as quickly as possible to implement a Connect America Fund (CAF) mechanism for small, rural, rate-of-return-regulated carriers that will provide sufficient and predictable support for broadband-capable networks across all of rural America. In total, 37 organizations signed the letter including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, and NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, among others.

March 10, 2014

OGR and OITP worked with the Internet Archive to file a “friend of the court” brief (pdf) in David Leon Riley v. State of California and United States v. Brima Wurie, two Supreme Court cases examining the constitutionality of cell phone searches after police arrests. In the amicus brief, both nonprofit organizations argue that warrantless cell phone searches violate privacy principles protected by the Fourth Amendment. In the brief, the Internet Archive and the American Library Association argued that reading choices are at the heart of the expectation of personal privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Allowing police officers to rummage through the smartphones of arrestees is akin to giving government officials permission to search a person’s entire library and reading history.

 March 12, 2014

ALA joined with 32 other organizations in a letter (pdf) to President Obama, urging him “to expedite the declassification of the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) on the interrogation and detention practices of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)”.

March 13, 2014

The ALA, PLA, ALSC, AASL and the Medical Library Association, along with 1,060 other labor, health, and education organization sent a letter (pdf) to Congress asking that $163.6 billion be allocated to the House and Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittees for FY 2015.

March 24, 2014

ALA joined 15 other organizations in a letter (pdf) to Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space and Technology expressing opposition to Section 303 of the FIRST Act.

Library Advocates Gear Up for National Library Legislative Day: Register Now

Hundreds of librarians, parents and library supporters will travel to Washington, D.C. on May 5th and 6th to meet with members of Congress and discuss key library issues during the American Library Association’s 40th annual National Library Legislative Day. The event will focus on supporting federal funding for national libraries. Those who cannot attend National Library Legislative Day in person will have the option to contact Congress as part of Virtual Library Legislative Day. To register for the advocacy day, go to

Posted in Government Information, Intellectual Freedom, Legislation, Library Advocacy, OGR, Telecommunications, Washington Office News

A booklover in Paris

Photo of busLast week, Alan Inouye, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, traveled to France to discuss the U.S. library ebook lending ecosystem at the Salon du Livre (in English, the “Paris Book Fair”). There, he served on a lively digital book panel along with Johanna Brinton, a business development executive from OverDrive and Maja Thomas, who is the former senior vice president at Hachette Book Group.


Livre Presentation Area

CNL Logo

Inouye shared his experiences at the book fair in detail on the American Libraries magazine E-Content blog. Here’s a snippet from his article:

The ebook market in France is much smaller than in the United States, by roughly an order of magnitude. This contrast was clear as I walked down every aisle of the fair—I encountered only a handful of ebook vendors and saw little presence from technology companies in general. This was very different from my experience at the 2013 Book Expo America in New York City.

Given the state of the French ebook market overall, it is not surprising to learn that the French library ebook evolution is in its infancy. However, I did see keen interest from the full amphitheater, with librarians comprising about 20% of the attendees (I asked, and said it was “magnifique” in response to the good showing).

My remarks centered around ALA’s activities and experiences during the past few years. Our fundamental and current strategy is direct engagement with publishers and other players in the reading ecosystem. I recounted the dark days of 2011 and 2012, the improvements in 2013, and the lessons learned along the way. The questions were wide-ranging, from detailed queries about ebook distributor platforms (glad that a representative from OverDrive was present) to addressing the library ebook lending issue via legislative means.

The Ministry is taking a great interest in the library ebook issue. In addition to featuring the issue at this fair, the Ministry established last fall a working group of key stakeholders and is hopeful for expeditious work and progress.

View slides from Inouye’s presentation:

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Posted in e-books, OITP, Public Libraries

Are young Americans losing their religion with the Copyright Act?

Image via David Blackwell

Image via David Blackwell.

It’s the early 1990s. You’re driving home from school with your friend when “Losing My Religion” by REM comes on the radio. “I love this song!” she yells, knocking your awkwardly oblong “car phone” out of the cigarette lighter as she lunges for the volume dial. Deciding to do your friend a solid, you plug a blank tape into your cassette recorder upon returning home and proceed to make her an REM mixtape with “Losing My Religion” as track number one. You take it to her the following night with a six-pack of Zima Gold and a large pizza. You’ve just completed an information transfer via the “sneakernet”: a colloquial term describing the process of sharing electronic information by physically transporting it from one location to another. Record labels, production companies and other copyright-sensitive rights holders have seldom taken issue with this sort of sharing.

Fast forward about twenty years. Your daughter starts a business that allows individuals to transfer their MP3 files to a central server and share in the profit when their files are purchased from the server by someone else. Despite being careful to stipulate that her customers must delete their files upon transferring them to her company’s server, your daughter only makes sales to a few customers —including, for symmetry’s sake, your REM-fan-friend’s daughter—before she is sued for copyright infringement. Why did your daughter’s sharing activity result in legal action while yours did not? Both you and your daughter transferred information on a small scale. Both you and your daughter seemed to engage in distribution activities that fell within the bounds of our Copyright Act’s “first sale doctrine” (the principle that allows an individual who has lawfully received a copyrighted work to by and large dispose of that work as he or she sees fit).

The answer: the growth of new technologies has made finding copyright infringement immeasurably easier. During the “sneakernet” era, there was virtually no way for a third party to know about a small-scale transfer of electronic information. Today, transfers of MP3s and other digital files are easily traceable. How do the younger generations that are in the vanguard of the culture that has taken shape around digitization feel about this development? At an American Bar Association program last Wednesday, entitled, “The Politics of Copyright,” ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) Consultant Jonathan Band suggested that our Copyright Act may be experiencing a “crisis of credibility” among young Americans. The men and women of this country who are in their twenties and younger grew up with digital technology. To many of these individuals, the litigious environment surrounding file-sharing is vexing, as are recent court rulings against the application of the “first-sale doctrine” to transactions taking place in the digital realm.

Here at the American Library Association, we feel it is very important to promote public understanding of the Copyright Act. However, many young Americans grow increasingly disillusioned as they familiarize themselves with copyright law and jurisprudence. In light of this trend, we must consider reforming our copyright law so that it better addresses the unique issues surrounding the movement of digital content. This means reexamining policy changes that the American Library Association has long supported. Let’s talk about shortening copyright terms, introducing new formalities regimes and reducing statutory damages. Admittedly, achieving any one of these goals is a formidable task, given current domestic political realities and international legal frameworks. However, if our discussions yielded even marginal progress, we would improve attitudes toward copyright not just among young people, but among all people who believe in the importance of promoting public access to information.

Posted in Copyright, OITP


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