[Libs-Or] INFORMATION: Stretching into the future with a national dialogue on public libraries

Diedre Conkling diedre08 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 31 11:39:49 PDT 2013


Stretching into the future with a national dialogue on public libraries
Posted on July 30, 2013 by Larra Clark

There has been a lot of talk about the future of libraries. Anyone
attending the ALA Annual Conference <http://www.ala.org/annual> in Chicago,
for instance, could find about 100 sessions referencing the future and
ranging from the Committee on the Future of University Libraries to "The
Future is Now: Rural Libraries as Innovation Incubators."

But this conversation becomes *far* more meaningful for libraries and the
communities we serve when it takes place outside of Library Land, which is
one reason I'm excited about the Aspen Institute's Dialogue on Public
later this week (August 3-5). With funding from the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, Aspen will convene leaders from libraries, but also
executives from businesses (including publishing, technology and
telecommunications), non-profits (such as the National Civic League),
education experts, researchers, and officials from various levels of
government. ALA Immediate Past President Maureen Sullivan will be there, as
will Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library

The multi-year effort will explore and champion new ways of thinking about
U.S. public libraries. The working group will consider solutions to ensure
public libraries are at the forefront of serving communities for years to
come. Then, over the coming year, Aspen and select working group members
will seek other engagement opportunities to ensure the vision includes
diverse perspectives from across the library field and beyond. The
conversations will result in a report that outlines the vision and makes
recommendations that will spark ongoing conversations in subsequent years.

"Libraries have always been a great equalizer in American society, serving
as gateways to knowledge that have helped form the building blocks of our
democracy," said Charles Firestone, executive director of the Aspen
Institute Communications and Society Program. "We look forward to working
with leaders in the field to ensure that public libraries remain relevant
to the needs of our current and future generations as they have throughout
our history."

Whew. That's a tall order. It's a good thing Aspen has decades of
experience convening conversations like the Knight Commission on the
Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy <http://www.knightcomm.org/>.
I've long been a fan of Aspen's work, and am pleased that ALA Office for
Information Technology Policy's (OITP) policy brief on Confronting the
Future <http://www.ala.org/offices/oitp/publications/policybriefs> and
Libraries'* digital supplement "Digital Content: What's
are on the reading list for the dialogue, along with new data from the Pew
Internet Project<http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2013/01/22/library-services/>.
You can read along<http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/communications-society/our-work/dialogue-public-libraries>and
even join the conversation via the Twitter hashtag #libraryvision, if
you like.

The project meshes well with OITP's Program for America's Libraries in the
21st Century <http://www.ala.org/offices/oitp/programs/al21c> (AL21C),
begun five years ago, as well as our larger role advocating for policy that
supports efforts of libraries to ensure access to electronic information as
part of upholding the public's right to a free and open information society.

OITP's focus is more outward than inward--less about what libraries are
doing at the cutting edge (although we are also interested in
too) and more about what is happening in the world that demands attention
and even new library models and services. How can the ALA look into the
telescope and help libraries reach the frontier more quickly and
effectively? And how can we translate the rapid changes taking place in
libraries into our national policy and advocacy efforts? This will be the
focus of our own major initiative to undertake a systematic assessment of
our work, engage new partners, try new approaches, and overall increase our
capacity so that we may improve the strategic position of libraries through
our policymaking and communications efforts. We have a high likelihood of
grant funding to support this effort and hope to launch before the end the

Recently my yoga instructor encouraged all of us to find the space balanced
at the edge of ease and effort to move our practice forward. We don't want
to hurt ourselves, but we must challenge ourselves to reach a little
further than what is in our comfort zone.

It's an amazing time to be working in libraries, and I look forward to the
dialogue and engagement ahead as we find new strategies and collaborators
to forge ahead on behalf of our communities


*Diedre Conkling**
Lincoln County Library District
P.O. Box 2027
Newport, OR 97365
Phone & Fax: 541-265-3066
Work email**: **diedre at lincolncolibrarydist.org*<diedre at lincolncolibrarydist.org>
Home email: **diedre08 at gmail.com* <diedre08 at gmail.com>

 "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change
your attitude."--Maya Angelou
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