Letters from the Road - Day 1

Holding Space logo to the left, with a large pin on Johnstown, PA. To the right, the following text: Stronger Together for Workforce Development July 27, 2020, Johnstown, PA. ALA logo.

Hello from the road,

Today was the first step towards highlighting the significant contributions of our nation’s libraries and library workers, with the launch of “Holding Space: a national conversation series with libraries.”

This week and next, I will pay virtual visits to 12 libraries in 10 days. Libraries of all types in Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and California are on our Zoom roadmap.

When I first imagined this tour, I pictured myself hitting the road and traveling thousands of miles by bus, but now here we are facing a global pandemic that prevents us from meeting face to face. This tour comes at an unprecedented time, when libraries of all types are stepping up to meet the needs of their communities as they respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19, a national financial crisis, and social unrest. Now more than ever, we need to share our stories and place a national spotlight on library resources, programs, and advocacy efforts that fuel recovery and connect communities.

I am humbled and honored to have such great inspirational national library leaders as Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden and Institute of Museum and Library Services Director Crosby Kemper III join today’s kickoff event. I greatly appreciate their well wishes and, as we move forward with this ambitious journey, I hope to bring their words of encouragement to fruition as we work to bring national attention to and fight for funding for the significant roles academic, public, and school libraries play within their communities.

Today, I visited Cambria County Library and participated in a roundtable discussion regarding workforce development. I was joined by Gwenn Dando on behalf of Wayne Langerholc, Jr., Pennsylvania State Senator (R-35) Jeff Dick, PA CareerLink® site administrator; Ashley Flynn, library director, Cambria County Library; Christi Buker, executive director, Pennsylvania Library Association; Alan Cashaw, president, Johnstown NAACP, and Glenn Miller, deputy secretary and commissioner for libraries, Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Entitled Stronger Together for Workforce Development, the event showcased Cambria County Library workforce development programs, services, and local partnerships that support patrons with finding jobs and building careers. Panelists detailed efforts surrounding Pennsylvania CareerLink Cambria County’s relocation of its career resource center and computer lab to Cambria County Library, creating a natural partnership that commonwealth officials praise as the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Through the library’s commitment to its diverse communities, library officials discussed the value in engaging and collaborating with diverse partners such as the NAACP and addressing workforce issues such as access to information and digital resources.

Many of the contributions of Pennsylvania libraries take place in the shadows. This event was an opportunity to highlight how the library has responded to the state’s 16 percent unemployment rate by providing customers with resources that support economic development, digital literacy, and professional certifications. Sharing library stories with local community and professional organizations and encouraging elected leaders to lend support to libraries was a fantastic first step.

We need to stand-up for libraries at the local, state, and national levels and ask that tour participants and advocates contact their legislators and remind them that libraries keep communities connected in times of crisis, play a significant role in COVID-19 recovery efforts, bring continuity to teaching and learning, provide assistance for job seekers and small businesses, and assist those seeking to apply for unemployment benefits, veterans’ assistance, and health insurance.

Let’s continue to advocate for libraries and the funding needed to continue their vital work! I invite tour participants and library advocates to join us in our support of the Library Stabilization Fund Act (LSFA) that provides federal resources to libraries during the COVID pandemic. Please email your members of Congress to help and share Holding Space library impact stories and ask them to cosponsor LSFA.

It's not too late to join us. Visit the Holding Space website at to register for future events or follow #ALAHoldingSpace for tour updates.