New Visions

ALA Strategic Planning

Below is the ALA planning document "New Visions: Beyond ALA Goal 2000" that helped the ALA Executive Board and ALA Council set budget priorities for the 1999 fiscal year budget (Sept. 1998 - Aug. 1999).

This is a working document in constant revision. It is offered here for member information and comment. The current version (Feb. 25, 1998) reflects comments made at ALA's 1998 Midwinter Meeting. Please refer to the end of the document for instructions on how to submit further recommendations.

June 1, 1998 Revision

Beyond ALA Goal 2000

Charting a Strategic Path to the 21st Century -- A Discussion Guide


This version of "New Visions: Beyond ALA Goal 2000" is a revised version of the one widely distributed and commented on at the 1998 Midwinter Meeting in New Orleans. It opens for member comment and discussion one of the Executive Board's most serious responsibilities: establishing a strategic direction for the Association. This version reflects input from a wide variety of commentators, many of whom welcomed the document distributed at Midwinter, and some of whom felt it needed more emphasis in certain areas.

What everyone working on this document has learned over the last few months is that people want more involvement in the strategic planning process. In 1995, ALA Council asked the Board to take a more active role in strategic planning. The Board created a document for discussion in 1996, revised and developed that document in 1997, and will either revise this document or develop a new document in 1998. The strength of every revision lies, in part, on the feedback we receive from members and member groups. That is why we distributed several thousand copies of this document at Midwinter and why we are putting it on the ALA web site. We are attempting to create a continuous "feedback loop" that will allow us to create and update a strategic plan and budget priorities that represent the interests of the whole Association.

We ask you to send hard copy or email comments either directly to the Board or to Peggy Barber (, whose communications staff is collecting the responses. And we thank every one who has responded so far for their thoughtful and constructive observations. ALA has a lot to be proud of, and we look forward to moving with all our colleagues toward a very bright future.

ALA Executive Board
Spring 1998

Guiding Principles

Libraries everywhere, whether they are public or special, academic or school, virtual or real, are cornerstones of communities. They are repositories of memory and the focus of a community's self-definition. Communities are literally unthinkable without the store of knowledge that is most fully realized in the library.

In the United States, libraries are among the most potent national symbols of democracy. They uphold democracy by safeguarding three ideals: a diversity of ideas and perspectives, the intellectual freedom to articulate all points of view, and equity of access for all, regardless of social or economic status. They make these ideals practical by upholding the values of literacy and lifelong learning. It is the embodiment of these five values or ideals that makes libraries "an American value."

These principles were implicit in Goal 2000 [ALA's mission and Goal 2000 plan are summarized at the end of this document] and they frame the action areas and strategies that follow. But Goal 2000 also recognized that the struggle toward these ideals was still ongoing, that full participation and democracy were still to be achieved. Therefore, Goal 2000 specifically calls on the American Library Association to

  • Advocate for and celebrate both diversity and commonality.
  • Provide leadership for continuous, lifelong learning.
  • Ensure that all people have the opportunity to pursue the American dream through full intellectual participation.
  • Be recognized as the voice of the library and information profession and a source of leadership on information policy, intellectual freedom, and intellectual participation.
  • Explore the impact and potential of new technologies on public access to information, particularly as they relate to a 21st century concept of literacy (which includes knowledge of how to use the forms in which information is stored).

Key Action Areas

ALA advocates for libraries on the basis of its guiding principles. They are fundamental to all ALA units. They were defined as five key action areas by the Executive Board and presented as overarching budget objectives for FY1998 and FY1999 and approved at the last two Midwinter meetings. The energies and resources ALA puts into advocacy and its great variety of programs rest on its commitment to the following key action areas:

DIVERSITY. Diversity is a fundamental value of the Association and its members, and is reflected in its commitment to recruiting people of color and people with disabilities to the profession and to the promotion and development of library collections and services for all people.

EDUCATION AND CONTINUOUS LEARNING. The Association provides opportunities for the professional development and education of librarians, library staff, and trustees; it promotes continuous, lifelong learning for all people through library and information services of every type.

EQUITY OF ACCESS. The Association advocates funding and policies that support libraries as a great democratic institution, serving people of all ages, income level, location, ethnicity, or physical ability and providing the full range of information resources needed to live, learn, govern, and work.

INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. Intellectual freedom is a basic right in a democratic society and a core value of the library profession. The American Library Association actively defends the right of library users to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

21ST CENTURY LITERACY. The American Library Association assists and promotes libraries in helping children, young adults, and adults develop the skills they need -- whether the ability to read or use computers -- understanding that the ability to seek and effectively utilize information resources (information literacy) is essential in a global information society.

Key Strategies

All ALA units build strategies that are founded on these action areas -- unit strategies are these principles at work. ALA unit strategies may give Association strategies special focus, but they serve the key action areas and promote the principles of the Association.

The strategic work of the Association can be collected under these "Key Strategies" headings:

Advocacy: to promote ALA's mission and vision to the profession and the public. ALA must continue to advocate the role of libraries and librarianship to the public, legislators, and policy makers. Within the profession, there is a continuing need to communicate the vision of the Association to members, librarians, trustees, publishers, library vendors, and other library supporters.

Create national partnerships. ALA must continue to build on its vital relationships with other national and community organizations, including those that represent government, museums, higher eduction, and schools. Coalition building has accelerated in recent years, and in the words of Goal 2000 it is important that ALA continue to be "an active formal participant in various national arenas."

Leverage national resources. Building on its strength as a national organization with a large, diverse membership and alliances in every state and in many communities, ALA must continue to increase support for libraries and librarianship by bringing the resources of individual members, organizations, and staff together on projects with national impact. ALA must also continue to influence standards essential to library and information science and to the profession's education. Influence legislation and regulatory policy. Among library organizations, ALA -- one organization representing all types of libraries -- is in a unique position to influence policy makers and legislators in Washington and in individual states.

Address the impact of the global information society on the Association, on libraries, and on library and information users. Research and advocacy on issues of archiving, access, universal service, intellectual freedom within and across borders, the potential social divisiveness of new technologies, and the opportunities for the sharing of information, can only be effectively carried out globally by a national organization such as ALA.

Build on the Association's membership and financial health. ALA must continue to expand the Association's membership, develop its businesses, and maintain its financial soundness in order to continue supporting programs that benefit its members and the communities they serve.

Utilize technology effectively within the Association, and assist libraries to utilize technology effectively to fulfill their missions. ALA must continue to explore ways it can assist libraries and librarians in the field to use and understand newly available technologies, addressing and researching the impact of these technologies on the acquisition, organization, and preservation of information resources. It must also continue to develop its own use of emerging technologies, for instance in the development of its own Association management system.

Develop and maintain standards essential to library and information science and to the profession's education. As the world moves into the digital age, adapting, developing, and maintaining the high standards that have given library/information professionals their unique reputation lie at the core of the Association's mission.

Develop mechanisms for evaluation; encourage and facilitate research. Mechanisms of evaluation need to be developed to measure progress in the key action areas. Measurements must be based on valid and reliable information generated by research and comprehensive communication.

Appendix: Mission & ALA Goal 2000

Who We Are

The American Library Association (ALA) is the voice for America's libraries. For more than a century, ALA has provided leadership in defending intellectual freedom and promoting the highest quality library and information services. Its 57,000 members are primarily librarians but also include trustees, publishers, vendors, and other friends of libraries. ALA is a 501(c)3 charitable and educational organization.


The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Vision: ALA Goal 2000 -- Intellectual Participation

Building on the mission, ALA Goal 2000 was adopted in January 1995 by ALA's governing council as a five-year initiative to position the Association, libraries, and librarians for the 21st century. Goal 2000 envisioned that by the year 2000 ALA will have achieved the following:

  1. ALA will be accepted by the public as a voice and source of support for the participation of people of all ages and circumstances in a free and open information society.
  2. ALA will be an active formal participant in various national arenas discussing and deciding aspects of the information society that affect libraries and their publics.
  3. ALA will have identified and will be in collaboration with other organizations and groups working for broader public participation in the development of information society issues.
  4. ALA will have created a vision statement for broad distribution defining its position and role within the emerging information environment.
  5. ALA will have an expanded Washington Office with greatly increased ability to learn about, analyze, share information about and shape important national information issues in addition to tracking traditional library issues.
  6. ALA will have completed a five-year thematic cycle that has framed the advancement of these issues and coordinated the support of all areas of the Association in preparation for the 21st century.
  7. ALA will have provided training and support to library professionals and members of the public to create an awareness of the variety of social and technical issues related to the information society and to provide the necessary background for promoting further dialogue at the local level.
  8. ALA will have reviewed and adjusted its internal operations as a means of assisting all divisions and units in carrying out the new focus as appropriate to their sphere.
  9. ALA will have redefined library information education and provided five years of training for professionals to update their skills for the new information age.


Comments can be emailed to If you wish to comment by mail, please address your remarks to:

The Executive Board
American Library Association
50 E. Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611