From the President: June 2014
Sara Kelly Johns, NYLA President
Are Libraries Still Relevant Today? NYLA Thinks ALL Libraries Are!
After returning from the Empire Collaborations’ week-long combined academic library conference’s first day, I found a link to an Op-Ed piece on the relevance of libraries from my local newspaper. This was written not by a librarian, but Paul Grasso, the president and CEO of The Development Corporation in Clinton County (where I was raised). Paul is a former colleague, not a librarian; I knew I would want to see this. To me, this post is priceless.
Why? Our LOUD librarian voices, made louder by the collective voice of NYLA are part of effective advocacy. We must show up on social media, at Library Legislative Day, in person or virtually, at politicians’ town meetings and school board meetings. However, it is crucial for all librarians to develop advocates who are not librarians. These are the people who can speak for us, sometime even more effectively.
Think about who you know and who they know. Give them facts, data and stories about libraries. When library system employee Dawn Recore knew that a person with community influence, Paul Grasso, loves libraries, she sent him a link to a recent Pew study on libraries. He took the time to write the aforementioned Op-Ed piece to share his insights. Dawn tapped the energy of a true library advocate. An advocate created by years of library use, who understands that libraries remain relevant. You can do this too.
In his editorial, Grasso stated, “The world in which libraries operate is changing rapidly and the libraries that respond to those changes are the ones that will remain relevant. The good news is that libraries are adaptive and have always responded and evolved in response to community needs.” YES. He “gets it” and his feelings about libraries are supported by data, the Pew research report that influenced his piece.
When I read his words, I had just heard ALA President Dr. Barbara Stripling’s inspiring speech at the conference, “Libraries are Here to Stay.” In her speech, Stripling cited the reasons why libraries are centers of learning and discovery, create a learning based society, provide opportunities for creation and are bridges to the future, and are places of construction not consumption.
On the drive from the conference, I reflected on the role NYLA plays with the transformation of libraries and the role of libraries as we evolve to meet
community needs. NYLA works tirelessly on legislative issues on your behalf. I was pleased to announce to the academic librarian conference that Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology has introduced Assembly bill A. 9699. This bill seeks to modify education law to require a certified school librarian in every school in New York State, and been advanced on to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. This is HUGE for all types of libraries, at a time when public libraries are having to provide services to student who should be getting the services from their school libraries. Academic librarians deserve to have students arrive at their schools knowing how to use library resources in their buildings as well as virtually.
As a one house bill, A.9699 will not be able to be signed into law during this Legislative session. Before the start of the next session, NYLA will be working with SSL, SLSA, NYSUT, NYSSBA, and others to develop a revised bill with the consensus support required to secure a sponsor in the NYS Senate. It will take action by all of us to make this happen, though it will be a long-term effort. It is not going to happen this year or perhaps even next year.
NYLA helps us to be smarter as we advocate. There will be NYLA “Legislative Alert” e-mails and Facebook and Twitter notices to coordinate the best action for this and other library legislation. That’s when our educated voices need to be LOUD and we need to pass that information on to our personal group of advocates. Their voices ring really loud.
In the report from the May ALA library summit available on ALA Connect, “Libraries From Now On: ALA Summit on the Future of Libraries,“ Coordinator and report author Nancy Bolt reports that: “We should not confuse librarian interest and passion with users’ passions and needs. Four participants specifically said that librarians should become ‘embedded’ in the community, actively participating in community organizations to achieve community goals, and bringing in new voices and different people. Tied into this theme is the concept of the library as a community hub, a ‘public square,’ a ‘space’ for people to come together to build community.”
How does NYLA help librarians lead those changes? You have the opportunities to participate in topical, timely, and fun conferences, regional institutes, symposia, workshops, pre-conferences, and more, organized by the Association, Sections and Roundtables. NYLA participation widens and diversifies your networks-- exhibitors, authors, speakers; and friends old and new. Your personal learning in today’s society is made richer through those conferences and networks.
Yes, we can transform our practice and our libraries. This takes time and work. NYLA makes it easier for you to do that with the professional development, the networking, the tools, the data, and the facts we provide. Yes, like Dawn Recore of the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System, we can share information about the excitement of libraries with our supporters. And libraries are more relevant every day.