Librarians Head for the Hill to Rally for Reading
ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., attracts 26,000 enthusiastic professionals.
Posted Tue, 07/27/2010 - 15:10
Librarians and their supporters spoke loudly and clearly about the value of libraries during the American Library Association’s 2010 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., June 24–29.
On Library Advocacy Day, June 29, some 2,000 librarians and library supporters registered for a rally at Upper Senate Park, according to Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA’s Washington Office, which organized the demonstration. The rally featured such speakers as young-adult author Lauren Myracle, U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ALA President Camila Alire, and ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels.
Following the rally, ALA members and supporters met with members of Congress and their staffs to drive home the needs and concerns of the libraries in their communities facing local budget shortages at a time of increased library use. They urged funding for the Library Services and Technology Act at $300 million for FY2011, funding for Improving Literacy Through School Libraries at $100 million, as well as support for net neutrality and the Access to 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.
Nearly 20,000 conference attendees participated in more than 2,400 sessions and meetings during the Annual Conference. Attendance figures were: 19,513 registrants and 6,688 exhibitors, for a total of 26,201. In 2009, the Annual Conference in Chicago drew 22,762 attendees and 6,179 exhibitors, for a total of 28,941. And in 2008, the Anaheim, California, conference attracted 16,295 attendees and 5,752 exhibitors, for a total of 22,047.
Securing the future of libraries through advocacy was a central theme of this year’s conference. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan met with the board of directors of ALA’s American Association of School Librarians and elected leaders from state school library organizations affiliated with AASL. Cassandra Barnett, AASL president, opened the informal session with a statement emphasizing how school libraries and school librarians have taken the lead in the implementation of the five key priorities set out in “A Blue Print for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.” Secretary Duncan praised libraries and librarians for their achievements. He emphasized the need for school librarians to actively push Congress for the passage of the jobs bill. “Use your loud librarian voices” for lobbying, he said.
Perhaps anticipating Duncan’s words, librarians at the Annual Conference focused on ways to get their messages across. Advocacy was also the focus of two key programs developed by Camila Alire and her task force, “Surviving in a Tough Economy: An Advocacy Institute Workshop” and the “Frontline Advocacy Train the Trainer Program.”
A joint program sponsored by AASL and the Association for Library Service to Children, “Grassroots 2.0: New Technologies,” brought together three experts on delivering effective library messages to legislators. Curtis R. Rogers of the South Carolina State Library presented a slideshow of social media resources that librarians can use to promote the library and engage lawmakers. Jonathan Godfrey, communications director for the House Judiciary Committee, said that the United States is up against the worst economy in 70 years. “Libraries don’t automatically get a free pass because they take care of children,” he said. “You need to scratch and claw for every bit of federal funding to keep your branches open and librarians employed.” Stephanie D. Vance of Advocacy Associates, a consultant to the ALA Washington Office, emphasized the importance of building coalitions. “Identify coalitions that will most influence your member of Congress,” she said. “For example, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) loves bicycles. He listens to cyclists. Get some librarians who ride bikes to deliver your message.”
Another issue central to today’s libraries was addressed when the Intellectual Freedom Committee and Committee on Legislation presented “Privacy, Libraries, and the Law,” which, among other things, examined how social networking websites (especially Facebook) are changing our understanding of privacy, as well as new threats to privacy such as data mining and data brokers.
The challenge of balancing religious freedom and intellectual freedom provided the basis for a program cosponsored by ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Association of American Publishers, “Blasphemy! When Religious Values Clash with Intellectual Freedom Values.”
A panel discussion titled “Reaching Latino Teens through Multiple Literacies: A Program for School and Public Librarians,” sponsored by the Public Library Association and the Reforma Children and Young Adult Services Committee, discussed the strategies and programs three librarians have used to reach out to and increase the literacy of Latino teenagers in their communities.