Catching Up with ALA Policy Corps

Applications open for new cohort

November 10, 2021

Headshots of seven members of ALA's Policy Corps from various years' cohorts on red background with "ALA Policy Corps Update" in white text
ALA Policy Corps members (from left): Amanda Kordeliski, Nikki Scarpitti, Ray Pun, Sara Benson, Timothy Vollmer, Hallie Rich, and Steven Yates.

The American Library Association (ALA) Policy Corps aims to increase and sustain ALA’s capacity to advocate on library policy issues. Launched in partnership with 2017–2018 ALA President Jim Neal (now Policy Corps Advisory Group cochair), the program trains cohorts of frontline library advocates across career levels, library types, and regions.

Since the Policy Corps’ founding in 2018, members have been active on a range of issues that have increased their expertise and networks while expanding ALA’s policy advocacy reach. As ALA begins to accept applications for its fourth cohort, here’s an update on members’ recent activities.

Norman, Oklahoma, library busSchool library funding

When the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 was introduced, Amanda Kordeliski, director of libraries and instructional technology at Norman (Okla.) Public Schools, reached out to federal legislators to ensure libraries were included in the funding. She was one of several corps members who worked with ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office (PPAO) staffers to outline ARPA funding opportunities available to school libraries in a March 2021 report. Kordeliski has also shared her new advocacy knowledge with other librarians, educating them on what funding their libraries were eligible for. The advocacy paid off: Kordeliski’s school district received ARPA funds, which it used for summer school and enrichment activities, such as staffing a mobile learning bus.

Broadband webinars

Nikki Scarpitti, director of strategic initiatives and advocacy at Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library, helped launch a digital equity coalition in her county earlier this year and shared its story during a webinar with the ALA Task Force on United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2020, Ray Pun, education and outreach manager at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford (Calif.) University, researched how the digital divide affects communities of color in California’s Central Valley. Pun emphasized the need to help libraries address digital equity concerns in Connect Humanity and Fair Count’s May panel discussion, “Internet Access Is a Racial Justice Issue.”

Copyright advocacy

Balanced copyright, fair use, and digital licensing are among the top policy concerns for ALA and libraries. Sara Benson (assistant professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s School of Information Sciences) and Timothy Vollmer (scholarly communication and copyright librarian at UC Berkeley Library) published an op-ed in the Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship on the possible restrictions on research and teaching activities in the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2020.

In September, Hallie Rich, communications and external relations director at Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, was named an ALA Policy Fellow to continue and develop her advocacy on ebooks, data, and licensing.

Continuing education

While strengthening ALA’s ability to advocate for libraries in numerous policy areas nationwide, Policy Corps members improve their own advocacy skills through trainings, ongoing activities, and workshops throughout their five-year commitment.

Corps members also gain networking opportunities. “The thing for me is the relationships I’ve built with other Policy Corps members,” says Steven Yates, assistant director at University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies in Tuscaloosa. “Each corps member brings a fantastic, unique experience to the table.”

To join the Policy Corps’ team and develop advocacy skills, submit an application by December 1. ALA will host two virtual “office hours” to answer questions on November 16 at 11 a.m. Eastern and November 22 at 1 p.m. Eastern. Finalists will be asked to record and submit a two-minute video presentation on a sample policy issue.