New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

From the President

by Barbara Stripling, NYLA President

Collective Impact.  Two simple words that, when taken together, signify a responsibility and an opportunity for our library community.  We are living in a time of divisiveness, with divergent political stances dominating our national and local conversations.  But libraries are not about divisions.  Our solid mission is to provide equitable and inclusive access to resources, services, and programs that represent multiple voices and points of view.  We engage with our library communities (school, public academic, and special), reaching beyond the walls of our libraries both physically and virtually.  We design our programs and services to enable our library users to fulfill their own and their community’s aspirations.  We teach our users how to find and use valid and accurate information to make decisions, discover, learn, exchange ideas, and participate actively in community life.  

It would be nice to sit back and reflect on the successful transformation of the mission of libraries – from focusing on the library itself to empowering our community members through our libraries.  In this time of divisiveness, however, we must step up to a larger responsibility.  We must take actions to be positive and unifying forces within our communities.  

We do not have to assume this responsibility alone.  We have a strong library community in New York and an effective unifying force for libraries in our state association, NYLA.  When we work together as a library community to address common issues, we will be able to amplify our individual actions and reap the strongest outcomes.  This unified effort to make a difference is what defines Collective Impact.  NYLA members have already stepped up to lead collective impact efforts.  I will point to a few examples that are currently underway, but there are certainly numerous other initiatives that are positively impacting libraries and communities across the state.

  1. NYLA’s sustainability initiative has become a national model for libraries of all types.  
  2. An Academic Library Summit is being developed by a small group of NYLA members to bring together representatives from organizations and coalitions that support academic libraries and address issues that New York State academic libraries are facing.
  3. School library leaders have coalesced around changing certification requirements and supporting legislation to require certified librarians in every NYS school.  
  4. Everyday Advocacy Task Force members are developing an everyday advocacy guide.  
  5. NYLA Council has committed to finding ways to strengthen the diversity of our profession.  
  6. A large number of library supporters across the state are reaching out to their legislative representatives (both state and national) to support increased state funding for libraries and continued full funding for IMLS.  
  7. NYLA and our member librarians are building new coalitions and strong relationships with New York State legislators.

Indeed, we need to celebrate and join those initiatives.  I believe we also have a mandate to develop new approaches to strengthening our communities through our libraries.  Each of us must take responsibility to assess the needs and priorities of our library communities, build positive relationships throughout our communities, and implement inclusive programs and services that serve everyone in the community.  We can each decide our priorities, and then join with other NYLA members to work out solutions and new approaches together.  The choices we make now will determine the future of our libraries and contribute to a much-needed climate of civil discourse and civic participation in all of our library communities.  The time to commit to Collective Impact is now.