ALA Ecosystem Initiative

Page Banner-One Voice: Building a Strong Library Ecosystem

The ALA Ecosystem Initiative is a multi-year effort to strengthen the library ecosystem through identification of shared priorities for action and unified messaging. Today, the effort is guided by the State Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Committee on Library Advocacy (COLA). The group's charge includes examining ALA's practices and policies to ensure alignment with and support for ecosystem best practices, as well as convening ongoing conversations and programming that support and connect ecosystem efforts.

A library ecosystem is the interconnected network of all types of libraries, library workers, volunteers, and associations that provide and facilitate library services for community members; families; K-20 learners; college and university communities; local, state and federal legislatures and government offices; businesses; nonprofits; and other organizations with specific information needs.

A patron of one library is the potential patron of any other library at a different time of life or location. No library exists independent of the library ecosystem. When we stand together in mutual support using common messaging themes that demonstrate this interconnectedness, every library is stronger.


In 2020, ALA's Ecosystem Task Force published the ONE VOICE toolkit to help library organizations assess and extend the strength of their ecosystems, and to identify and pursue priorities for advocacy and legislation. While written for ecosystems at the state level, the framework can apply to the library ecosystem at any level, and can include a wide range of library organizations such as friends groups and trustees, vendors, literacy groups, and all types of libraries and library organizations..

The toolkit is anchored by the Ecosystem Continuum, a rubric to help organizations examine the library environment with a focus on four strands that serve as pillars for a healthy ecosystem:

  • leadership
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • sustainability

A group can start where they see themselves in the rubric, wherever they think they can get the most traction and best work together to build new or strengthen existing structures.

Laying the groundwork for the Ecosystem Continuum is an Implementation Guide that will support organizations and individual ecosystem builders no matter where they fall along the path towards a thriving and unified library ecosystem that is more impactful than its individual parts. The guide contains links to resources that support a focus on ecosystem development, from an assessment checklist to templates for building a shared agenda to visualization tools for those organizations or individuals that seek an extra boost in securing buy-in to make ecosystem efforts a priority. Some of those tools are shared here.

Questions? Visit the Library Ecosystem Toolkit FAQs or contact: ecosystem@ala.org


Resources

ALA Library Ecosystem: Together We Make a Difference! [webinar]
presented by ALA's Ecosystem Subcommittee, December 7, 2021

The ALA Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Committee on Library Advocacy (COLA) builds awareness of why and how the Ecosystem Toolkit helps all types of libraries and their leadership/professional organizations build relationships for effective legislative and community advocacy. Subcommittee members Rachel Minkin (Michigan State University) and Dr. Michelle Robertson (University of Central Oklahoma) offer examples of how the Toolkit is being utilized in Oklahoma, Michigan, and Tennessee followed by a panel of speakers reflecting the impact of Ecosystem work.

Who Are the People In Your Ecosystem? [webinar]
presented by ALA's State Ecosystem Task Force, October 29, 2020

ALA's Statewide Ecosystem Task Force has spent the last year working together to create a toolkit for state associations and their partners. The resources are intended to help build an internal set of relationships among all types of libraries and all their leadership/professional organizations for the purpose of strengthening advocacy to a variety of audiences. Hear from individuals who are doing the work within their states to strengthen their ecosystem and get a quick tour of the Task Force’s new toolkit.

State ecosystem work

ALA Ecosystem Initiative & Toolkit for TASLA
presented to the Texas Association of School Library Administrators, May 2021

Building a Strong Michigan Library Ecosystem
presented during Michigan Library Advocacy Day, April 2021

Share Your Story
South Carolina Library Association, SC Association of School Librarians, and Friends of SC Libraries, Spring 2021

One Voice for Washington Libraries
Alki, the Washington Library Association Journal, March 2021 [p. 23]

Strengthening Our TLA Library Ecosystem
Texas Library Journal, Winter 2020

Building a Michigan Library Ecosystem
presented to Michigan Library Association by Ecosystem Task Force member Steven K. Bowers, November 18, 2020

ALA divisions spread the ecosystem word

From Silos to Ecosystems
College and Research Libraries News, June 2021

Moving Forward to Build a Strong Library Ecosystem 
AASL's Knowledge Quest, December 29, 2020


Join the ecosystem conversation

The ecosystem conversation continues. Join us on ALA Connect.


To view the archive of ecosystem initiative work prior to publication of the ONE VOICE toolkit, please visit: ala.org/advocacy/state-ecosystem-initiative-archive.

For additional information contact Ecosystem Subcommittee chair Sara Kelly Johns:
ecosystem@ala.org