National Issues and Trends

State of America's Libraries 2017

Equity, diversity, and inclusion

Poster: Everyone is welcome here. (pictured: Muslim woman in hijab.)
Artist Micah Bazant (micah​bazant.com) created this poster for the Oakland (Calif.) Public Library

The library community has always supported equity, diversity, and inclusion in our society, and is closely monitoring the actions of the new administration that threaten to undermine the nation’s progress in these areas. In a February 24 statement, ALA President Julie Todaro strongly protested the rollback of protections for transgender students in our nation’s public schools:

“The Trump administration’s decision to revoke important protections for transgender students couldn’t conflict more with the library community’s fundamental values and the principles upon which libraries are founded. Transgender students deserve the right to use restroom facilities that are aligned with their gender identity. On average students spend 6–7 hours per day at school, and every student deserves to learn in an environment free from discrimination...ALA, its members, all librarians, and library professionals are committed to diversity, inclusiveness, and mutual respect for all human beings, and we will work tirelessly to ensure full representation of any and all members of society.”

Information to help libraries respond to equity, diversity, and inclusion challenges can be found at Libraries Respond. Created by ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services, the online resource is designed to support libraries’ commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Telecommunications

All types of libraries serve the telecommunications needs of their users. Libraries need high-speed, affordable, broadband services to provide equitable internet access. Libraries have benefited from the broadband grant programs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Universal Service Fund for libraries, yet much work remains.

In order to promote continued economic, social, and political growth and innovation, the internet must be open and accessible to all people. The federal Open Internet rules, effective June 12, 2015, protect individual, organizational, and business access to an open internet. Recent actions by the Federal Communications Commission, such as stopping companies from providing discounted internet service to low-income people, threaten equitable access.

In a March 7 letter (PDF) to the FCC, supporters of net neutrality urged the government to keep the internet open and accessible to all people, thereby protecting and supporting the values of competition, innovation, free speech, and equality of access. The letter endorsed the following:

Competition. Net neutrality helps to ensure that all companies, from small startups to larger companies, have equal access to consumers online. It allows companies to fairly compete for customers within their market and incentivizes the development of new services and tools for consumers. This competition is the engine of the US economy and should be promoted.

Innovation. Net neutrality makes it possible for new companies and new technologies to emerge and ensures that broadband providers do not create undue burdens and cost barriers that can harm small businesses and undermine job growth.

Free speech. Net neutrality ensures that everyone with access to the internet can organize and share their opinions online equally, a key safeguard for our democracy. It ensures that ISPs are not arbiters of speech and expression online by favoring particular forums or providing enhanced access to specific content and audiences.

Equality of access. Net neutrality ensures that access to websites and content is based on individual preferences. This means content creators are not forced to pay ISPs for content distribution to reach consumers. It also means that end users can access all the content they desire without restrictions from ISPs. This allows all people in the US to access essential healthcare services, educational resources, and employment opportunities and the freedom to choose from the full spectrum of online content.

Calls to action in support of libraries

Changes in national policies impact libraries and library users. Calls to action in support of libraries—including appropriations, copyright, access to government information, and privacy and surveillance—are described below.

Appropriations. Support funding at $186.6 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) in the FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill and maintain level funding of $27 million for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. LSTA helps target library services to people of many geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, to disabled individuals, veterans, businesses, and to people with limited literacy skills. Half of all IAL funds provide school library materials to low-income communities.

Copyright. Immediately move to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with visual disabilities and, in parallel, consider and pass its associated implementing legislation with proposed “report” text without change. The treaty will afford 4 million Americans critical new access to copyrighted material worldwide vital to their education, work, and quality of life. The ALA does not believe that full implementation of the agreement requires any changes to US law, but does not oppose those proposed by the administration, as written. ALA vigorously opposes all changes to the proposed legislation and associated committee report text that could delay or derail the treaty’s ratification. ALA also is equally committed to respecting the rights of authors and to assuring that overly restrictive copyright laws do not thwart the framers’ intent that copyright is meant “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Government information. Pass the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR, S.779 / H.R. 1477). Rapidly conference the FOIA Improvement and FOIA Oversight and Implementation Acts (S.337 / H.R.653), and send the approved Report to the President for signature. Take up and pass the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act (S.2639 / H.R.4702), and assure continued public access to the unique information collections held by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). ALA is strongly committed to no-fee access to all government-funded information and reports, robust support for all federal libraries and archives, maximum public access to all nonclassified government information, and funding a single repository for NTIS’ unique scientific and technical collections.

Privacy and surveillance. Restore the constitutional privacy rights of library users and all Americans lost to overbroad, invasive, and insufficiently “checked and balanced” provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ALA urges immediate passage of the ECPA Amendments and Email Privacy Acts of 2015 (S.356 / H.R.699) and reform of Section 702 of FISA. Librarians have long defended against government attempts to obtain patrons’ borrowing and internet use records without a warrant, believing that liberty need and must not be sacrificed to security.

State of America's Libraries 2017