New ALA division blends two strong voices for advocacy

Contact: Sally Reed

Acting Executive Director




For Immediate Release

February 17, 2009

CHICAGO - On Feb. 1, the Association for Library Trustees and Advocates (ALTA), a division of the ALA, and Friends of Libraries U.S.A. (FOLUSA) joined forces to form a new American Library Association division, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations, or ALTAFF for short.

This new division brings together Trustees and Friends into a partnership that promises to extend the association's advocacy efforts, boost membership and grow revenues.

“The formation of ALTAFF is a bold new step to expand and re-energize the voice for America’s libraries. Combining ALTA’s and FOLUSA’s dedication and expertise in library promotion will create a powerful force for libraries in the 21st Century,” said ALTAFF Executive Director Sally Gardner Reed, formerly executive director of FOLUSA.

Reed noted that now more than ever, Friends of the Library groups – non-profit bodies formed to support libraries in their communities – and Trustees are beginning to understand that the library is not always seen as a self-evident good. She pointed out that as the national economy weakens, efforts are being made to reduce library budgets, shorten hours and even close branches altogether.

In response, she said, “Public awareness campaigns across the country are focusing on how libraries contribute to communities by offering early-childhood opportunities for learning, assistance for job-seekers, reading fun in the summer so students return to school ready to learn and a resource for infinite opportunities for lifelong learning.”

ALTA is one of the American Library Association’s (ALA) oldest divisions with its inception in 1890. FOLUSA, a younger organization, began within ALA in 1979 and became an independent organization based in Philadelphia in 1984.

The boards of both FOLUSA and ALTA agreed that a strong division will foster support from lay groups and library governing bodies, as well as help Trustees and Friends work together at the local, state and national levels to promote and advocate on behalf of libraries. "No one has a stronger voice for libraries in the community and on campus than those who use and love libraries. This is a wonderful opportunity to pull those voices together for advocacy," said ALTAFF co-President, Peggy Barber.

Former FOLUSA President John Carson, a current ALTAFF board member, said the combination would “bring the premier Trustee organization and the premier Friends organization together, so that the united voices of Trustees, Friends and other library supporters would be exponentially more powerful for libraries.” Former ALTA President Don Roalkvam, who is also on the ALTAFF board, also said that an expanded array of products and services would help the enlarged division “move our combined vision of library advocacy forward with new membership and resources.”

"While their roles are different, the fact that both groups are comprised of citizens who care about and support their libraries makes them natural allies," said ALTAFF co-President Peggy Danhof.

The new bylaws, developed by a joint ALTA and FOLUSA task force, established sections within an expanded division, including Trustees, Friends, Foundations and Corporate Friends. Sections are represented on the ALTAFF Board of Directors, along with division-wide officers. There is a provision for liaisons from AASL, ACRL, PLA and COSLA.

The merger is the culmination of a process that began in 2007 at the urging of ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. Fiels felt the fact that the position of ALTA director was open presented an opportunity to strengthen the “lay” voice for libraries.

“I think it's very exciting,” Danhof said. “We have worked for over a year on this. The membership is very willing to move forward and increase our outreach within the organization, as well as provide for additional education for Trustees, opportunities for Friends and association with Foundations.”