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The Library Ecosystem at Work

Jim Rettig, ALA President 2008-09I think of our school, public, academic, and other types of libraries as parts of an integrated library ecosystem. If one part of the system is threatened or suffers, the entire system is threatened and suffers. Libraries offer incredible lifelong learning opportunities, and yet no one type of library can deliver learning opportunities from cradle to grave. But, through our overall library ecosystem, we do offer these opportunities in abundance along with the promise of lifelong learning for every individual.

While the library ecosystem has a lot to offer the members of our communities, we first have to get their attention, engage them, and then demonstrate to them how our services and resources can add value in their lives. We need to develop approaches that will resonate with policy makers and decision makers, and we need to sustain and strengthen our advocacy efforts on behalf of all libraries in order for the ecosystem to function.

This new web-based resource, Add It Up: Libraries Make the Difference in Youth Development and Education, focuses on the segment of the library ecosystem that includes school library media programs and public libraries as they serve children and teens. By supplying talking points and relevant statistics, this resource provides a specific approach for advocates to use in their work on behalf of this important community of library users. Advocacy efforts toward school library media programs and public libraries will strengthen the overall library ecosystem, preserving its balance by allowing children and teens to thrive early in life, beginning their path of lifelong learning.

The recent standards-based approach to childhood and teen education, has made some progress, but unfortunately, the progress has been painfully slow and has had unintended consequences. Many children and teens have been overlooked because their individual differences and needs have gone unnoticed in the rush to apply standards and to insist on measurable outcomes. Those who languish below grade level are likely to improve from a more inclusive approach which takes into account their individuality and recognizes learning in a larger context. Libraries can bridge this gap by providing a supportive environment with a rich array of materials to encourage and cultivate each child and each teen in his or her quest for learning.

If you believe, as I do, that advocacy efforts directed at children and teens are vital, then the materials in this website can help you learn how to become an effective advocate for school library media programs and public libraries. By strengthening these library programs, we also strengthen the library ecosystem. More importantly, we strengthen it at its base—where lifelong learning begins. A strong base is the solid foundation of a strong library ecosystem.

Sincerely,

Jim Rettig,
2008-2009 ALA President