ALA to partner in White House volunteer effort

Contact: Steve Zalusky

Manager of Communications,

ALA Public Information Office

(312) 280-1546


For Immediate Release,

June 17, 2009

CHICAGO - The American Library Association (ALA) , along with a host of other non-profit organizations, will participate in United We Serve, a national effort launched by President Obama to engage more Americans in serving their communities this summer.

Libraries will play a major role in this initiative, which was announced by the President today.

The ALA and the White House are encouraging libraries to post volunteer opportunities at As the initiative develops, the ALA will make available resources to assist libraries in conducting volunteer efforts. Visit for more information.

“In today’s economic climate, libraries face increasing challenges in carrying out their mission to provide opportunities for lifelong learning. In an era when demand for library services is increasing but funding for them is declining, volunteers play an important role in supplementing the high-quality service library staff provide,” said ALA President Jim Rettig. “We applaud the president’s recognition of volunteers’ value and his commitment to ensuring they continue to serve our society in many ways.”

United We Serve kicks off on June 22 and runs through September 11, which will be marked for the first time as a national day of service and remembrance. The initiative focuses on four key areas: education, health, energy and the environment; and community renewal. It is being led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that improves lives and strengthens communities though volunteering and service.

“This summer, I'm calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation,” said President Obama in his announcement. “Economic recovery is as much about what you're doing in your communities as what we're doing in Washington – and it’s going to take all of us, working together.”

"This presents a great opportunity for libraries of all types to involve young people as volunteers," said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. "This will also be a great opportunity to educate the public about the importance and vitality of America’s libraries."

Libraries fit neatly into this new national initiative, since they already employ vast numbers of volunteers. One area where volunteers will prove especially valuable is summer reading. Summer reading programs are particularly effective in helping children avoid the “summer slide,” the decline in reading skills that sometimes occurs during the long break from school.

Research has shown that children who participate in summer library reading programs are better equipped to continue their education in the fall when they return to school, demonstrating better vocabulary skills and increased comprehension.