Recently, I was asked "How would you suport a national agenda for libraries in the current political climate?" Here is my response:
I am a librarian of action. The proposed budget elimination of IMLS, cuts to NEH and NEA, and library funding coming from other sources such as the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, would directly impact real people from our communities including women, children, first-generation college students, job seekers, newcomers, and persons with disabilities. They visit our libraries with their families every day. Services provided by all types of libraries would be decimated. I will stand up to those threatening our core values and the elimination of library services. We, our great team of almost 56,000 ALA members will rally for libraries together along with millions of library friends and advocates across this country.
My Vision for ALA includes an association that will be the leading voice advocating for libraries and library users while maintaining our core values. ALA will have a place and a voice at the decision makers’ table, particularly for those in our communities with no voice. We will amplify their concerns to Congress, at the state house, in city councils, and school boards. ALA will build coalitions with like-minded partners sharing our values. ALA will advance our concerns through actions conveyed by pillars of ALA’s Strategic Plan: Advocacy, Information Policies, Professional and Leadership Development, and Diversity and Inclusion.
Together we can bring change. I am bringing my passion for our communities and my experience advocating for libraries. I have spoken at events and discussed public policy at the United Nations with Member States (countries), with Congressmen in Washington DC, given testimony in my city at NYC City Hall, advocated for libraries at the NY State Senate, and also on the streets and sidewalks of NYC. I am comfortable advocating for our freedoms and core values everywhere.
Together, working with ALA members we can build capacity for advocacy through education. Replicating online advocacy events I have coordinated with teams in partnership with REFORMA, Office for Library Advocacy, and the ALA Washington Office to provide library services to all in the community will be key to build capacity for advocacy through education. I am also bringing my experience training librarians in different regions of the world including Asia, Africa, and Latin America & the Caribbean on advocacy, human rights, and the right of everyone to access information, and freedom of speech.
The ALA Boot Camp presented by the offices of Library Advocacy and Intellectual Freedom represents an opportunity to reach ALA chapters and members advocating for libraries at state level. We need to expand this model that can help us to build capacity for advocacy through education.
Every library worker is an advocate. Together, we can bring change advocating for services for all in our communities, equity, diversity, inclusion, information policies, funding, awareness about the value of libraries, and position librarians as leaders. We must use multiple online and in-person platforms to advocate for libraries and grow advocate leaders.
A successful advocacy model we can replicate is the advocacy plan we followed when advocating for access to information and libraries at the United Nations (under the goal of Peace, Justice and Strong Societies/ Rule of Law). I worked with a global team from different regions of the globe. They were advocating for libraries with elected officials in their country (local level) while other colleagues and I were representing libraries at the United Nations, meeting with consults, elected officials, and in contact with the coordinator from the USA government to advance library concerns on national and international agendas. Efforts from colleagues at local levels were coordinated together with our efforts at the U.N. This was the best strategy to tackle both, national, and local officers.
Additionally, the strategy included meetings, letters, and communication with U.N. Member States, partnering with NGOs and civil society, presentation of informative panels at global library and non-library conferences including events at the U.N., and publication of articles highlighting the value of libraries on global and national media such as The Guardian. As a result of this work, which covered various years and included a global team of library advocates, access to information was included in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals which is the document countries from the world will use to guide their development efforts. This is the first time Access to information was included in a document by the U.N., this was a huge and historic win for libraries. Countries will dedicate resources, infrastructure, and finances to implement the SDGs including access to information! Our library team was able to present a strong case to include access to information on the global and national agenda. I am very glad to have collaborated with a dedicated team to make it happen.
Partnerships with national and global organizations are going to strengthen our efforts against draconian executive orders and budget cuts. Building coalitions with like-minded national and global organizations sharing our values was a central part of our strategy. It included human rights organizations, academic associations, ethnic organizations, and national and global NGOs. We can replicate this successful model. Our core values will guide ALA to adopt public policy and to build broader coalitions with national and global value-sharing partners.
I believe, together, our great ALA team can fight for libraries to keep them open, recruit and retain our library and information workers, and restore budgets.