Letter to the Membership
Faced with a “perfect storm” of growing demand for library services and shrinking resources to meet that demand, libraries in 2009–2010 worked to provide critically needed materials and services such as technology training, online resources for employment, continuing education, and government resources.
Across the country, library supporters lobbied decision-makers––often turning to social media to spread messages––in an effort to keep doors open and stave off cuts. In North Carolina, an online grassroots fundraising and awareness campaign through Facebook and Twitter helped convince trustees of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to rescind a vote that would have closed 12 branches and laid off more than 140 library employees. The experience inspired CML Learning and Development Coordinator Lori Reed to create SaveLibraries.org, a clearinghouse of news and tools to fight library budget cuts and closings.
In June, more than 2,000 turned out for Library Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. Nearly five times larger than any National Library Legislative Day in the past, the event included a rally on Capitol Hill, meetings with elected officials, and a virtual component that drew another 1,000-plus participants to advocate for libraries by e-mailing members of Congress.
Social media grew in importance as a way to improve member engagement, as more and more division, round table, committee, and interest group members joined ALA Connect, the association’s social networking site and shared work space. ALA also introduced an Online Learning website, a one-stop shop for information about different units’ podcasts, webinars, e-courses, and more.
2008–2009 ALA President Camila Alire centered her presidential initiative, “Libraries: The Heart of All Communities,” on frontline advocacy and family literacy. Alire, a professor at Simmons College in Boston and adjunct professor at San Jose University in California, focused on getting frontline librarians and other library staff engaged and empowered to articulate the value of their libraries. Advocacy toolkits were created for each type of library—academic, public, school, and special—and workshops were held around the country to train library staff and supporters to speak effectively about the value of their libraries.
As part of Alire’s Family Literacy Initiative, ALA’s five ethnic affiliates—the American Indian Library Association, the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, the Chinese American Library Association, and REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking)—developed and implemented family literacy activities that would engage families in their respective communities to read, learn, and play together.
In the coming year, key initiatives will address advocacy and fundraising. “Our Authors, Our Advocates” builds a cadre of nationally known writers who will speak out on behalf of libraries through interviews, posters, podcasts, publications, and other media; it will also serve as a model for creating advocates for libraries at the community level. “Frontline Fundraising” will provide tools—including an online toolkit and webinars—that can be used by everyone, regardless of the size or type of library, to supplement the budget from their jurisdiction or institution. Finally, the “Why I Need My Library” contest invites young people to communicate why libraries are needed now more than ever through short videos made available on YouTube and the ilovelibraries and @yourlibrary websites.
We have important work to do in this critical time for libraries, librarians, library workers, library supporters, and the communities we serve. As we work to maintain essential services, we must also encourage our many supporters to speak out—to highlight the key role libraries and library staff play in the economic, social, and educational fabric of our nation.
Keith Michael Fiels
ALA Executive Director