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ALA lunch with Google Fellows sheds light on libraries’ active role in information policy

On July 28, I invited my colleagues from the Google Policy Fellowship program to  the ALA Washington Office to learn about the work of ALA and explore how that work connects to their own projects.

Google’s fellowship brings undergraduate and graduate students seeking to shape the future of the Internet to Washington, DC (as well as San Francisco and Ottawa), where they work with a wide range of organizations on projects covering a broad slate of topics–most of which are of interest to the library community.

Joining the ALA staff for pad thai and Szechuan beef were Google fellows and their coworkers, including Elizabeth Ruiz and Christine Konczal from the Media Access Project, Daniel Kent from the Internet Education Foundation, Luke Pelican from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Preston Rhea and Sarah Morris from New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative.

ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff welcomed the fellows and introduced a library perspective on access to information and all it entails.  Marijke Visser of OITP discussed ALA’s efforts to promote digital literacy, a topic close to the hearts of many Google fellows, and introduced the complex issues around e-books, prompting the fellows to ask questions like, “But if it’s an e-book, can’t everyone access it at once?”  Such questions led to a discussion of ownership of and access to content as well as privacy–two more topics of central interest to many of the fellows.  Corey Williams and Jessica McGilvray of the Office of Government Relations (OGR) discussed copyright in more depth and fielded questions about public access wireless hubs as well as ALA’s perspective on the Google Book Search lawsuit.

After the presentations, ALA staff and the guests had a chance to chat and network with other advocates for digital literacy and increased access to information.  Many of the fellows commented that they didn’t realize that libraries “were so active in all these areas.” Thursday’s lunch ensured that these future information professionals will see ALA as potential ally as they work to shape our information society.

Jessie Mannisto
OITP Google Policy Fellow

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