Letter to the Membership
ALA addressed its strategic goals in 2012 by continuing to connect and transform communities, and by equipping and leading advocates for libraries, library issues, and the library profession.
In 2012, President Molly Raphael concentrated on two of ALA’s strategic priorities: advocacy and diversity.
Her advocacy initiative, “Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities,” focused on engaging our communities to speak out more effectively for libraries of all types. The initiative was launched at the 2012 Midwinter Meeting with a two-part “conversation” facilitated by author R. David Lankes, and by the ALA President’s Program, which featured Richard Harwood of the Harwood Institute of Public Innovation. Between March and June, a series of three webinars focused on engaging communities, the evolving role of libraries, and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.
As President, Raphael also worked to, to promote inclusiveness in the Association’s leadership development efforts, in order to ensure that library leaders of the future are as diverse as the communities we serve. Her “Empowering Diverse Voices.” initiative included two webinars that featured leaders from across the Association, including past ALA presidents, division presidents, round table and state chapter leaders, and presidents of affiliate associations.
ALA also continued to promote diversity in the library field through its Spectrum Scholarship program, which completed a $1 million fundraising initiative to support scholarships that allow students from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds to become librarians. Since its inception a decade ago, Spectrum has provided nearly 800 scholarships to qualified applicants..
At the national level, ALA monitored a number of policy issues, including the status of federal funding for school libraries. ALA also took an assertive stance on library access to ebooks, meeting with publishers and other groups involved in the ebook “ecosystem.” In August, ALA released “Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries,” a report created by the new ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group.
ALA also continued to lead the way in the transformation of libraries and library services in an increasingly global digital information environment. The Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation reported that more than 62 percent of libraries report offering the only free Internet access in their community. More than 90 percent of public libraries now offer formal or informal technology training. In addition, more than three-quarters of libraries offer access to e-books, a 9 percent increase from the previous year, while e-book readers are available for check-out at 39 percent of public libraries.
In 2013, ALA will be focusing on “The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities,” a groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative of ALA President Maureen Sullivan. In partnership with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, and funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the initiative’s goal is to provide librarians with the tools and training they need to lead their communities in achieving their aspirations through library-led community engagement and innovation.
ALA also continues to address the many concerns of the library community about e-book publishing, including pricing, availability, accessibility and preservation. As in the past, the Association will lead the library community in navigating this digital revolution.
A Presidential Task Force on School Libraries will continue ALA’s campaign to promote awareness and understanding of the impact of the de-professionalization and curtailment of school library instructional programs on student learning and achievement. Many school libraries are at risk in today’s budget environment, and the Association must make them a top priority.
Last, ALA will be launching a new annual Leadership Institute. Led by ALA President Sullivan, the Institute will provide a group of mid level professionals with the training and skills they will need to become the library leaders of the future.
This is a critical period for libraries and the library community as a whole. The challenges we face are real and substantial, and we count on your support as we work together to surmount them, secure in the knowledge that libraries are essential for learning and essential for life.
Keith Michael Fiels
ALA Executive Director