As you read this, I am attending ALA Annual in San Francisco. While I normally think about school libraries on the state and national level, being at ALA reminds me to think on a larger scale. ALA Past-President Jim Rettig (2008-2009) talked about the Library Ecosystem. Over the years ALA has taken the concept to heart, but most school librarians are not viewing the library world from this bigger picture.
What Jim Rettig was meant when he coined the phrase, is that libraries should not think of themselves as separate from each other. We should not compete with each other. The success of one type of library is contingent on the success of all types of libraries.
You have only to see the initiatives of the successor ALA past-presidents to see the evidence of ALA recognizing that all types of libraries need to thrive. Inevitably, there has been a focus on working to promote the value of school librarians. ALA as well as AASL will rise to the challenge when there is a major threat to school libraries in a state, and the Washington Office works hard to secure passage of legislation supporting school libraries.
I am completing my term as Chair of AASL Advocacy at the close of ALA Annual. As part of my responsibilities, I am a member of the Advocacy Coordinating Group which is a great example of the Library Ecosystem. There are 22 members, including staff liaison. Both Terri Grief, AASL President and I represent ALA.
Here are some of the divisions and groups represented: Association of College and Research Libraries, Association for Library Services to Children, Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, United for Libraries, Library & Information Technology, Association for Specialized& Cooperative Library Agencies, Public Awareness, Committee on Legislation, International Federation of Library Associations, Library Leadership & Management, Office of Information Technology & Telecommunication Services, Research & Statistics, and Asian/ Pacific American Library Association. That’s quite a broad range of members.
It took me a while to appreciate that every one of them had a stake in Advocacy. You may think at first that we have little in common, but remember the concept of the Library Ecosystem. As Benjamin Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We all hang together, or we all hang separately.”
What emerges is that we find a few messages that apply to all of us. Using three or four messages rather than a barrage of them from different camps ensures that it is heard, and that makes it powerful.
Currently the committee has just drafted the Advocacy Strategic Direction plan. It is our part of the overall ALA Strategic Direction plan. In turn, AASL Advocacy is going to work with it to craft an AASL Advocacy Strategic Direction. ALA is very large and diverse, but by working together we speak with one voice.