The New ALA Strategic Directions

Advocacy, Information Policy, and Professional and Leadership Development

October 30, 2015

Keith Michael Fiels

In June, the ALA Council adopted a new strategic plan for the American Library Association. Building on our long standing commitment to our mission and core values, the new plan outlines three strategic directions—advocacy, information policy, and professional and leadership development—that will provide a sharper focus and increase our impact as an Association over the next three to five years.

It begins with our core values. These statements define our deepest aspirations and how we approach our work together. They are:

  • extending and expanding library services in the US and around the world
  • promoting all types of libraries—academic, public, school, and special
  • supporting all librarians, library staff, trustees and other individuals and groups working to improve library services
  • providing member service
  • fostering an open, inclusive, and collaborative environment
  • promoting ethics, professionalism and integrity
  • advancing excellence and innovation
  • protecting intellectual freedom
  • encouraging social responsibility and the public good

At the next level are eight key action areas, refined over time by Council as our programmatic priorities, that have defined the broad scope of our work and where we seek to have impact:

  1. advocacy for libraries and the profession
  2. diversity
  3. education and lifelong learning
  4. equitable access to information and library services
  5. intellectual freedom
  6. literacy
  7. organizational excellence
  8. transforming libraries

Within this broad framework, new strategic directions have been identified as areas of intense focus for the next three to five years. For each of these strategic directions, there are goals that articulate the outcomes we would like to achieve and answer the question: “what would success look like?”


ALA works with libraries, the broader library community and members of the public to advocate for the value of libraries and for public support for libraries of all types at the local, state, federal, and international level. This work includes a broad continuum of activities, including raising public awareness of the value of libraries, training and supporting library advocates, advancing legislation and policies that support information and library services in all types of libraries, and effectively responding to specific opportunities and threats.

Some examples of our advocacy goals include:

  • a deep public understanding of the value and impact of libraries of all types on the communities they serve, the broad range of services offered by libraries, and the indispensable role of the librarian and library staff in providing these services
  • a nationwide network of library advocates for libraries of all types
  • libraries funded with staff and resources to meet the needs of their communities
  • a wide range of partners and stakeholders supporting our library advocacy goals

Some of the strategies that will help us accomplish these goals:

  • a sustained national advocacy campaign to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by librarians and libraries of all types
  • resources and training to keep library advocates informed and engaged
  • a growing network of library advocates at the local, state, national and international levels
  • research documenting the value, outcomes and impacts of libraries
  • exploring funding, organizational and governance structures and their impact on libraries of all types in order to ensure the sustainability and future of libraries
  • identifying advocacy best practices, using research and evidence to increase support and funding for libraries of all types
  • working with partners and stakeholders to achieve advocacy goals for all types of libraries

Information Policy

Information policy includes local, state, national and international laws, regulations, court decisions, doctrines, and other decision-making and practices related to information creation, storage, access, preservation, communication, accessibility, and dissemination.

Diverse policy areas include intellectual freedom, privacy, civil liberties, telecommunications, funding for education and research programs, funding for libraries, copyright and licensing, open access, government information, and literacy. Here, our efforts empower people to use libraries and information-based resources to improve their lives and communities and to advance important societal goals, such as employment, education, entrepreneurship, equity, personal empowerment, community engagement, the creation of new knowledge, literacy, and civic participation.

Some examples of our information policy goals:

  • ALA is among the first tier of groups that governments and other organizations turn to and trust on information policy issues
  • treaties (and other international statements), legislation, regulation, court cases, corporate policies, and other important information policy outcomes incorporate ALA positions

Some strategies that will help us achieve these goals:

  • articulate positions and strategies for each information policy issue based on our values and priorities
  • develop information policy messaging and mechanisms to effectively communicate with all relevant audiences
  • create effective coalitions to take action in addressing information policy issues

Professional and Leadership Development

Professional and leadership development of all who work in libraries is essential to high-quality professional practice and the future of libraries and information services. ALA provides professional development opportunities appropriate to all levels of experience and expertise in multiple formats and venues. ALA also maintains strong but flexible accreditation standards and processes, increases diversity and inclusion within the field, helps members set and meet professional and leadership development goals, and aligns leadership development and continuing education with the best thinking about the changing information environment.

Some examples of our goals:

  • all library staff and trustees have the education and training they need to be successful
  • it is easy for members to get involved in ALA
  • association-wide mentoring engages emerging leaders and supports diversity
  • paths to leadership within the Association are clear, and people at all levels are helped to be library leaders
  • the MLIS curriculum addresses changing 21st-century library and information services and community needs
  • libraries are viewed as exciting places that offer various career paths

Some strategies that will help us achieve those goals:

  • develop a centralized online space to search and discover all ALA learning options in all formats, all topic areas, all levels and all ALA sources
  • articulate clear education tracks and streams of content for continuing education, along with formal mechanisms to recognize achievement
  • foster an understanding of the role of engagement within the Association in professional and leadership development
  • offer increased opportunities for informal, collaborative, and peer-to-peer, member-to-member learning at face-to-face events and in online spaces
  • develop an Association-wide mentoring/ peer-to-peer network to engage emerging leaders and support diversity and inclusion
  • enhance recruitment and retention for diversity across the profession
  • focus on changing practice in a rapidly evolving environment; adjust competency statements, standards, and content to the skills and knowledge needed in libraries as they continuously evolve
  • work with graduate programs in library and information science to rethink and reenergize curricula and accreditation in connection with changing workforce skill requirements

For each of the strategic directions, key member groups have been involved in the creation of an implementation plan, which details objectives for strategy and specific tactics to achieve these objectives. As we move forward, these plans will be updated on an ongoing basis as part of a continuous process of assessment and evaluation, and will be reflected in the Association’s annual action plan and budget. Our ultimate goal: a stronger and more welcoming Association, a stronger library community and stronger libraries serving the needs—and improving the lives—of all our users.

Learn more about ALA’s new strategic directions online.


Joseph Janes

The Fee Library

Are subscription libraries seeing a rebirth? If Seattle is any indicator, it appears so

ALA Midwinter 2016 logo

Making the Most of Midwinter 2016

Meeting must-dos for Boston, January 8–12, 2016