ALA is launching a new Policy Corps to expand our ability to advocate on key policy issues on behalf of the library community. Participants in the Corps will focus on issues for which deep and sustained knowledge are necessary to advance ALA policy goals and library values among policymakers. Training and opportunities to participate in targeted policy advocacy work will be provided to participants.
A critical resource for our policy advocacy is library advocates with specific knowledge in our priority areas. We need both the front-line experience and perspective and the additional capacity to reach and influence more decisionmakers more often. For example, such advocates may serve on a think tank panel to discuss how libraries advance small business and entrepreneurship opportunities, testify at a Congressional hearing on copyright policy or accompany Washington Office staff on a visit to the Federal Communications Commission to discuss the E-rate program.
ALA has a few library advocates with both practical and policy experience that we draw upon, but not nearly enough, especially as some of them are retiring from the profession. Moreover, we do not have any systematic process through which we can renew this resource. We have been depending on good luck, which is not a sustainable strategy for effective policy advocacy.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND GOALS
To create ongoing capacity for the library community to develop and sustain strategic advocacy efforts, build relationships, and positively impact public policy decisions that align with ALA’s national policy agenda.
Goals for the Program:
- Cultivate policy experts available to ALA and the ALA Washington Office who are able to intervene and participate in targeted advocacy work such as testifying before legislative committees, meeting with governmental or industry leaders and their staffs, participating in national forums, working with policy partners, and interacting with local, regional, and national media
- Create longevity in expertise and engagement in early to mid-career library and information professionals
- Positively impact national public policy in areas key to ALA’s strategic goals and library values
The ALA Policy Corps is being launched as part of Jim Neal’s presidential initiatives in collaboration with the American Association of School Librarians, Association of College & Research Libraries, Office for Information Technology Policy, Public Library Association, and United for Libraries. Throughout this pilot year, we hope that other units will become engaged with the Corps.
RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER ALA INITIATIVES
This program represents a logical progression of the Policy Revolution! Initiative led by the American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy. Policy Revolution! was a three-year initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; from 2013-2016, the initiative established a National Public Policy Agenda for Libraries, created a Public Policy Advisory Council, and developed resources targeted to policymakers with the goal of emphasizing how libraries are responding to the changing needs of society.
The Policy Corps initiative is an extension of the Libraries Transform campaign, started in 2015, and is a core ‘Libraries Transform; Libraries Lead’ ALA presidential initiative for Jim Neal. The Policy Corps also complements and provides a pathway for additional professional development related to the ALA Emerging Leaders program, ACRL’s College Library Directors Mentorship Program, and the PLA Leadership Academy.
CANDIDATES FOR THE CORPS
There is no one model for the best candidate to serve in the Corps. That said, there are some expected characteristics that include:
- Member of ALA
- At least five years of library experience
- Preference for candidates early to mid-career
- Past advocacy experience at the local, state, national, and/or international level
- Desire to develop one’s policy advocacy skills and apply them over a period of years
- Solid speaking and writing skills
- Be aware of and able to express the impact of legislation and policy on their community, type of library, and/or patrons
- Make a commitment to keeping current on policy-related library issues and to building and supporting a strong, national network of advocates over time.
- Prior engagement in ALA desirable, such as service on boards, committees, or other entities and/or participation in professional development or scholarship programs
- Ability to make and sustain a five-year commitment
- Support from library or educational institution
For this pilot class, we expect to select 10 to 12 participants. We seek a class that includes diverse representation from across library types and geographies.
Given that sustained engagement in policy advocacy is a hallmark of this initiative, participants in the Corps are expected to be involved for multiple years. The first year focuses on training whereas subsequent years will deepen actual engagement with policy advocacy with ongoing activities and networking across the cohort and among other policy advocates inside and outside the library community.
Two events in Washington, D.C. anchor the first-year experience. A two- to three-day workshop during the week of March 5-9, 2018, will provide a survey of key issues, major players in the legislative and policy processes, and the process of engaging national decision makers and influencers. Members of the Corps are also expected to participate in National Library Legislative Day on May 7-8, 2018, and on May 6 for Corps-specific meetings. Participants’ travel to both events will be funded as part of the Corps initiative.
Participants will be provided learning materials via conference calls, webinars, and a listserv and asked to participate in sessions and meetings at ALA conferences as they can.