Last week, the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) hosted a lunch and discussion for the 2014 Google Policy Fellows. Members from various policy organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the National Consumers League, and Public Knowledge attended to learn more about ALA’s role in shaping technology policy and addressing library needs. Alan Inouye, Larra Clark, Marijke Visser and Charlie Wapner all shared their role and policy focus at OITP, and Jessica McGilvray and Jeffrey Kratz represented the Office for Government Relations (OGR), along with Communications Specialist Jacob Roberts. The lunch also gave the fellows a chance to ask questions and share their research interests at their respective host organizations in further detail. In many cases, interests and positions overlapped, and it was a good opportunity for sharing resources and perspectives on such topics as copyright, 3D printing, and net-neutrality in the non-commercial sphere.
The Google Policy Fellowship program is a great way to bring together passionate people engaged with aspects of technology policy ranging from privacy and disruptive innovation to E-rate and digital inclusion. One thing that was clear from the discussion around the lunch table was that the policy implications of information technology are complex, and organizations’ interests often converge and diverge on a case by case basis. The informal question-and-answer format also provided a good platform for addressing libraries’ roles and interests in technology and innovation. Although deeply involved in the policy world, many attendees were not aware of key aspects of the library’s evolution in the digital age, such as increasingly offering ebooks and makerspaces, which require close involvement with policies governing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and First Sale Doctrine. Overall, it was a good opportunity to expand the conversation, reflect on recent Federal Communications Commission decisions, and consider the future of libraries and other tech-related fields in the spectrum of current policy.