Library Association Launches Policy Corps to Help Advance Industry Interests
With an aim to equip individuals with the expertise they need to effectively advance the interests of the library community, the American Library Association created the ALA Policy Corps.
The American Library Association does advocacy work in a number of areas, including copyright and intellectual property, privacy, research funding, school libraries, and network neutrality. But with a new initiative called ALA Policy Corps, it hopes to better advance the library community’s interests on these issues.
“We need to develop a group of individuals that has a deep, deep knowledge of a policy area,” said ALA President Jim Neal, adding that these individuals need to “keep up-to-date on that policy area because we are going to be called upon—as we have been—to have representatives sit on panels in Washington during congressional hearings, to meet and be interviewed by the national press, to be a part of high-level forums with other organizations. … We need to have individuals who not only have the knowledge, but who also have the chutzpah and skills to work at that level.”
ALA is currently accepting applications, and its selection committee will choose 10 to 12 professionals for its inaugural Policy Corps cohort. This cohort will develop expertise in a selected policy area, through a curriculum, several online experiences, a Washington, DC, workshop, and during ALA’s legislative days in May. Yet another committee will do an assessment of the Policy Corps, asking questions like, “How do we know if this has been effective? How will we change it—modify it—for future years, to see if it’s something we’ll continue?”
ALA is also coordinating with other groups in these efforts, including the American Association of School Librarians, Association of College & Research Libraries, Public Library Association, and United for Libraries, among others.
The Policy Corps is part of ALA’s larger Policy Revolution! Initiative, which according to Neal “was a multiyear effort to identify the most important policy issues of interest to the library community. … It outlines the strategies that the library community should embrace to be more effective in advancing their policy interests.”
Neal also said that the Policy Corps doesn’t replace ALA’s large-scale national advocacy work, but rather comes alongside it.
“The Policy Corps will mean that the library community will be better positioned to play in those various significant policy arenas, to make sure that we’ve got individuals that have an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish as a library community; that understand the intricacies and details and nuances of a policy area; and that know how to interact in an effective way,” Neal said.
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