From the Office

alcts executive director, charles wilt

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

A Look at the ALA 2010 Plan (part one of six)


Draft Goal Area I: Advocacy/Value of the Profession

Draft Goal Statement: ALA and its members will be leading advocates for the value of libraries and librarians.

Draft Strategic Objectives:

  1. Increase support for research and evaluation to provide evidence regarding the value and impact of all libraries.
  2. Increase public awareness of the value and impact of libraries.
  3. Increase public awareness of the value and impact of the library profession and all library staff.
  4. Mobilize, support and sustain grassroots advocacy for libraries and library services at local, state, and federal levels.
  5. Increase collaboration on legislation relevant to libraries.

As I read over the goal statement and the objectives for advocacy, what strikes me as significant is it is basically unchanged from what I suspect most people’s notion of advocacy is. That is not bad, but it is a very narrowly drawn view of what advocacy for the association could and arguably should be. And I suspect it is in the unspoken or unwritten broader interpretation of advocacy where ALCTS lies. Advocacy is more than the “public awareness of value...” That is important, certainly, to lots of people, public libraries to an extent, academic libraries (defining “public” somewhat differently), and to the profession as a whole. But it is the “more” with which I am concerned because, again, the “more” is where ALCTS has a role in advocacy and can, in fact, advocate.

So you might be wondering where does advocacy fit into the ALCTS continuum? And notwithstanding, where does ALCTS advocacy fit into the ALA goal and objectives? I’m glad you’re wondering, or else, I wouldn’t be writing this.

ALCTS advocacy is divided into “passion” and “policy.” Passion represents all those issues for which we would “storm the ramparts,” so to speak. Policy deals with those issues on which ALCTS needs to have its opinion represented, whether proactively offered or sought after. “Passion” issues strike a chord close to our core. “Policy” issues may be more distant, or not yet in the limelight, or haven’t quite moved us to a more passionate response. Both types of issues, however, are important in identifying and then advocating our purpose, our interests, our stances, our contributions to the larger discussion, whatever that discussion is, no matter the stage.

A few examples might help in defining in more explicit terms what each of the two is. These examples are random thoughts, and are expressed to represent the ideal of the type of advocacy, but not meant to emphasize one area of ALCTS over another nor meant to list all the issues for which we might advocate.

Passion: Lack of training in LIS curricula for our areas, such as cataloging; bringing more attention to ALCTS and what it does, the reach it has, and our influence over a broad range of library issues; educating and bringing more attention and more appreciation to the work ALCTS members do in the library community. I can see a whole campaign, “We Care...” (I know it sounds corny), telling the “public” what we do for the library. “I’m a cataloger and I care about the way you find information when you explore the online catalog.” The same goes for preservation, collection development, and so on. If you haven’t already, read the article in this issue by Simmons College LIS student Mimi Kolosseus, who helped us with the board meetings at Midwinter. I believe that might sum it up.

You undoubtedly can come up with many more.

Policy: Comments and responses to NISO standards; effects of institutional repositories; any number of issues about e-resources; comments and responses to any number of reports and documents from outside ALA, particularly international ones; preservation of our cultural heritage (could easily be a “Passion” item too); responses to disasters; digitization of everything.

Again, there are many, many more, particularly as other agencies and organizations begin to cross over into what we see as our domain.

Fitting these into the ALA schema may take a bit of “shoe-horning,” but I think you might see these in objectives 1, 2, and 3. Some of our future policy advocacy could fit into 5, such as in the case of NISO or WIPO.

ALCTS advocacy doesn’t necessarily have to fit neatly into the goal and objectives of ALA 2010. We can always find it a home if we wish to. What is more important is that ALCTS advocate. We need to get into the habit of pushing our own brand of advocacy to the level that ALA is hoping to push theirs with this goal. However, to do so, we must have a solid strategy, coordinated effort amongst our different groups, and carefully defined outcomes for what it is we wish to achieve. Advocacy without the inkling of an expected result is not advocacy.