Meet the 2020 ALA Policy Corps

April 28, 2020

In late March, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the eight members of this year’s Policy Corps, now in its third year. Policy Corps members advocate for national public policy that advances the interests of libraries and librarians.

“ALA is proud to welcome our third cohort of Policy Corps members,” said ALA President Wanda Kay Brown in a March 25 statement. “As the number of Policy Corps members grows, so does the power and strength of our overall network for library advocacy across all library types. As our libraries—and the nation—struggle to respond to the current COVID-19 crisis, we know our advocacy for libraries and our values will be even more critical in the months of economic shock and recovery that will certainly follow.”

Meet this year’s Policy Corps class, eight individuals who represent different library types and experiences.

Sara BensonSara Benson

Copyright librarian and assistant professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Benson’s research focuses on the sociopolitical impact of copyright in the US and abroad. Her advocacy goals include changes to the law that would help librarians provide greater access to copyrighted works for research, scholarship, and personal use. Benson communicates regularly with her elected officials and the US Copyright Office, and she hopes her time in Policy Corps will teach her new advocacy techniques.

Sonya DurneySonya Durney

Scholarly communication research and teaching librarian, University of New England in Biddeford, Maine

Libraries and advocacy are longtime interests for Durney. In addition to her MLIS, she has a bachelor’s degree in political science and is working toward a PhD in public policy—library advocacy will even be the topic of her dissertation. She’s also an alum of the ALA Leadership Institute and hopes her time in Policy Corps connects her to colleagues who are passionate about libraries and can serve as a sounding board for ideas.

Sonnet IrelandSonnet Ireland

Branch manager, St. Tammany Parish Library in Covington, Louisiana

Ireland’s expertise is in information literacy, net neutrality, and privacy issues. She recently expanded her advocacy work toward making a difference for library staff and patrons with disabilities. “It’s clear we are more effective when we work together,” she says. “It is an honor to be chosen, and I hope to make Louisiana libraries proud.”

Amanda KordeliskiAmanda Kordeliski

Librarian, Norman (Okla.) North High School

A longtime school librarian, Kordeliski serves on the board of the Oklahoma Library Association and has been chair of its Oklahoma School Librarians division for the past two years. She says her experiences with state organizations have made her a passionate voice for libraries, and she hopes her time in Policy Corps will provide expertise on becoming a more effective advocate and encouraging others to join advocacy efforts.

Erin MacFarlaneErin MacFarlane

Customer experience administrator, Maricopa County (Ariz.) Library District

MacFarlane’s team supports librarians and frontline staff at a large public library, providing them resources to do their jobs well. She serves as the legislative committee chair for the Arizona Library Association and feels Policy Corps will broaden her advocacy knowledge at the national level.

Nikki ScarpittiNikki Scarpitti

Director of strategic initiatives and advocacy, Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library

Scarpitti has 15 years of lobbying experience at the local, state, and federal levels for both libraries and health care. She has served as chair of ALA’s Subcommittee on Grassroots Advocacy for the past two years. She hopes Policy Corps will provide a new and meaningful way for her to help advocate for libraries and deepen her knowledge of critical library policy issues.

Valerie TagoeValerie Tagoe

Media specialist, Wilmer-Hutchins High School in Dallas

Tagoe has been a school librarian for 14 years and a part-time public librarian for one year. Cuts in school librarian positions in her district spurred her involvement with the Dallas Association of School Librarians and the Texas Library Association Legislative Committee. She wants to put her Policy Corps knowledge into immediate action in her hometown and throughout Texas.

Timothy VollmerTimothy Vollmer

Scholarly communication and copyright librarian, University of California, Berkeley

Vollmer helps researchers navigate the scholarly publishing, intellectual property, and information policy landscapes. He says he’s impressed by the dedication and commitment of Policy Corps members and wants to contribute to public policy projects, become a more supportive advocate for libraries and library workers, and set an example for others to get involved.

The Policy Corps program was launched in 2017 an operated through 2019 as a collaboration of the American Association of School Librarians, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Public Library Association, United for Libraries, ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office, and former ALA President Jim Neal.

With the pandemic disrupting work and travel, corps members began their orientation and training via virtual sessions in April. The typical first year of engagement would include two face-to-face residencies in Washington, D.C.; regular webinars and online meetings; participation in National Library Legislative Day; individual and small-group activities, including scenario planning, presenting on policy-related issues at state and national library conferences, and speaking on D.C.-based policy panels; and ongoing readings and networking. In-person activities will resume when it is safe to do so.


Dewey Decibel Podcast: Becoming a Library Advocate

Episode 26 looks at the ALA Policy Corps