Key Strategies Discussed

A report on the Executive Board's 2012 Midwinter Meeting sessions

March 6, 2012

Keith Michael Fiels

ALA’s Executive Board discussions during the 2012 Midwinter Meeting in Dallas focused on some key Association initiatives.

The ALA Strategic Plan (PDF file) outlines Association goals and objectives and provides a framework for plans, strategies, and initiatives on a day-to-day and year-by-year basis. This past fall, the board met with the leadership of ALA’s 11 divisions as well as round table representatives to begin “fleshing out” the Association’s new strategic goal: “ALA provides leadership in the transformation of libraries and library services in an increasingly global and digital information environment.”

At the fall session, leadership focused on a number of specific dimensions of transformation in libraries of all types: physical space; virtual space; collections (including ebooks); user expectations; community relationships; services; library workforce; and library leadership. Materials from that session are now being incorporated into the Transforming Libraries web portal, which brings together information on sources, research, publications, standards and guidelines, workshops and webinars, conference programs, communities and networking, and partner organizations for each of the transformational areas.

Sari Feldman, director of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Library, and Bob Wolven, digital services librarian at Columbia University in New York City, co-chairs of the new ALA Digital Content and Libraries Working Group, discussed the group’s progress and plans. The group has been charged with exploring opportunities and issues related to libraries and digital content as well as various options for expanding access to digital content for libraries and the public.

School Library Advocacy Campaign Task Force Co-Chair Patricia Tumulty discussed that group’s work. It is charged with directing an Association-wide campaign to strengthen support for school libraries at the federal, state, and local levels. The combination of the recession and No Child Left Behind legislation has created new threats to school libraries. The task force is working to help make the case for school libraries and the essential role they play in the lives and success of the 50 million children in American schools. It has also assisted the efforts of school librarian Carl Harvey to secure 25,000 signatures on a petition sent to President Barack Obama in support of school libraries.

As the Spectrum Presidential Initiative nears its goal of raising $1 million for new scholarships, the board talked about its outreach to the library vendor community. Many vendors have not yet made contributions to the drive that has enthusiastic support from the Executive Board, Council, divisions, round tables, chapters, affiliates, caucuses, past presidents, Spectrum alumni, and many individual members. A Gates Foundation matching grant would double the impact of vendor contributions.

Public Library Association(PLA) Executive Director Barb Macikas reported on the division’s work on the Public Access Technology Benchmarks project. The Gates Foundation–funded project will create a series of benchmarks that could be used by public libraries of all sizes to assess their internet and public access computing services, including the critical health, employment, and educational services that are made possible by this access. Proposed benchmarks are expected to be released for testing this spring. PLA will play a central role in providing the face-to-face and online training that will help libraries use the benchmarks effectively.

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KEITH MICHAEL FIELS is executive director of the American Library Association, headquartered in Chicago.


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