Washington Office Update, part 1

January 16, 2010

The Washington Office covered a number of topics in its Midwinter update. Due to a scheduled interview on the MCCA/ALA Haiti Relief Fund, I was able to attend the first hour only; Pamela Goodes will be writing about topics discussed after I left.

Patriot Act

“It’s back, and it’s not real great news, said Lynne Bradley, director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations. While Section 215, which allows searches of library records, was set to expire on December 31, Congress passed a 2-month extension so it sunsets on February 28. Bradley said that while ALA would prefer the section to sunset completely, that is considered extremely unlikely. The House and Senate have each produced a version of the bill. Of the two, she said ALA prefers the House version. “It does have some slight improvement to the legal standards for obtaining Section 215 and some slight improvement to the standards for obtaining National Security Letters.”

Bradley said Congressional leadership is expected to meet Tuesday or Wednesday about the Patriot Act reauthorization, and when they set deadlines, the Washington Office will “pull out all the stops on advocacy.”


The Washington Office saw positive news in some late-breaking developments related to broadband funding. Alan Inouye, director of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, said that the second round of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grants will feature significant changes in Comprehensive Community Infrastructure Program grants, which will explicitly prioritize “community anchors”, a category that includes libraries and schools. “We’re really excited about that change. It’s going to really help our community,” Inoye said.

Carrie McGuire, director of the OITP Program on Networks, recommended librarians interested in applying for funding through stimulus grants check OITP’s Know Your Stimulus site daily. “Every scrap of information we find will be going on that website,” she said, including research resources, case studies and profiles of projects that have won grants, and webinars on the program.

Open Access/Public Access

ALA and ACRL filed comments to the U.S. Office for Science and Technology Policy January 12 supporting increased access to federally funded research. “We filed early intentionally so that others in the library community can take a look at and endorse them or use them as a model for their own comments,” said Corey Williams, assistant director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations. She recommended libraries submit comments that incorporate specific examples from their own libraries. 

Open Government

Jessica McGilvray, assistant director of the Office of Government Relations, said that government agencies are getting a lot of leeway in how to implement open government within their agencies, but all are being asked to offer data usable by communities around the country. She recommended the Office for Science and Technology Policy’s blog, as an excellent source for information about open government and what the government is doing.

Miriam Nisbet, head of the four-month-old Office of Government Information Services, discussed that office’s mandate to provide mediation services to resolve Freedom of Information Act disputes, as well as to review FOIA compliance by executive branch agencies and to help government make records available so fewer people have to resort to FOIA.

Google Book Search

Corey Williams, assistant director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations, announced that the parties in the Google Book Search settlement have submitted an amended settlement agreement, and the judge has scheduled a final fairness hearing for February 18. ALA, ACRL, and the Association of Research Libraries have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice encouraging that department to vigorously oversee the settlement.


Finally, a choice quote from Lynne Bradley about the need for advocacy: “If you want good news, you’re going to have to be louder and stronger and have much sharper elbows.”