One Voice

Using collective power to advocate for libraries and democracy

January 3, 2023

Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada

When faced with unprecedented and seemly insurmountable obstacles in the world and in libraries, I ask myself: What is our professional responsibility to one another to overcome shared challenges? The answer is often to connect to institutions of collective cooperation, like our democratic society and our member-led Association.

One of our greatest strengths is the simple and singular tool of using our united voice. When we unite our voices:

  • We have the volume and power of a choir to amplify messages and make positive changes.
  • Our message is informed by our unique and varied life experiences, our ancestors, and the goals we have for ourselves and communities.
  • We act on our responsibility to uphold ALA’s mission to “provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”
  • We uphold democratic values by providing our communities with opportunities to be well-informed when they vote.

And, when we unite our voices as a profession, we have tools to help members and nonmembers advocate for—and be the voice of—libraries across the country and the world.

Among those helping us channel the power of our member voices are ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office (PPAO) and its member-led committees. PPAO represents us in Washington, D.C., on issues like digital equity, ebook access, and federal funding for library infrastructure and programs.

We are as strong as our voices, and our voices are strong when we use them in unity. Let’s use our voices to advocate for libraries and library workers everywhere.

I saw PPAO’s advocacy efforts at work when I visited Tuscaloosa (Ala.) City Schools and saw certified school librarians providing high-quality books to every student and improving reading proficiency and critical-thinking skills through projects, such as connecting places in the Jim Crow–era Green Book travel guide for African Americans to modern-world locations. The librarians were supported in large part by a recent Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant—funding that PPAO works to keep front of mind among federal lawmakers.

PPAO and its committees also work with state chapters and local libraries on legislation and policy. These issues range from ebook legislation to censorship threats and beyond. They make it easy for us to have our voices heard around library-related issues with advocacy alerts, sample emails, talking points, template letters to the editor, and more. Sign up for PPAO’s alerts on ALA’s Advocacy page.

Additionally, with ALA’s Unite Against Book Bans (UABB) campaign, our voices have become a chorus. As we continue to face an unprecedented number of censorship challenges, the work of the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) alongside its member-led committees and round table never ends. OIF provides confidential one-on-one consultations that have amounted to hundreds of hours of assistance for libraries facing challenges. This help has included political and legal support as well as assistance developing and strengthening library policies.

The chorus must continue with vigor. All who love libraries, reading, and the promise of the Constitution must stand up for our freedom to read. UABB’s campaign toolkit helps everyone do just that with sample social media posts, grassroots organizing tips, and more.

We are as strong as our voices, and our voices are strong when we use them in unity. Please join me as we use our voices to advocate for libraries and library workers everywhere.


Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada

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