Political activities

Q. I am a high-school senior working on a school project in which we must write an extensive paper on a special interest group of our choice. I've always been interested in being a librarian, so I chose the American Library Association. Your website has been helpful, but I don't see any information on the ALA interaction (or impact) on recent congressional or presidential elections. Where should I be looking?

A. There's a good reason that you have been unable to find any record of our impact on congressional or presidential elections: because of our 501(c)3 status as a not-for-profit educational organization, we are strictly prohibited from participating in partisan politics of any kind. See Election Year Do's and Don'ts for a full discussion of the limitations. That said, however, know that we do work to influence legislation at many levels of government, both directly and indirectly.

Our Washington Office was established in 1945 to represent libraries on Capitol Hill, and now consists of the Office of Government Relations (OGR) and the Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP). The Washington Office also builds coalitions and partnerships with Washington-based representatives of other groups with interests similar to the library community. Among the issues we are currently tracking are funding, broadband implementation, and copyright.

Our Office for Library Advocacy, established in 2008, works collaboratively with other parts of the American Library Association and state library organizations to coordinate advocacy efforts, mostly at the state and local levels, and to prepare resource materials for use by librarians needing to speak out for libraries. The Office works to mobilize well-trained spokespeople at the state and local levels who are prepared to speak out on behalf of libraries, train others to speak out, to help develop a local network of advocates, and to support local efforts to improve libraries of all types. In recent months, much of the work on advocacy and legislation has been working to ensure adequate funding for libraries.

You can take part in our activities by learning how to advocate for the library services you value. Look at the resources in "Advocacy University," and then talk to your local librarian about how you can help.