ALA, Libraries and the Internet Economy: Partnering for Mutual Success
December 6th, 2016
One of my highlights of last month was attending “Here Comes Everybody: Boosting Economic Opportunity in the New Administration,” a policy hackathon held at the Washington, D.C. offices of Google, and co-hosted by ALA/American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the Internet Association.
The event was detailed in the recent ALA post “Partnering with Tech: Event brainstorms how libraries and the internet industry can collaborate to boost economic growth.” I was invited by my friend Alan Inouye, the ALA OITP Director, and met a number of interesting people, especially from Booz Allen Hamilton, several of whom participated in the hackathon. Booz Allen also had the winning policy proposal, in which each of the ten entrants from a variety of organizations presented, as noted by the ALA post, a “two-minute pitch in response to the original question: What proposals and partnerships should libraries and the internet industry initiate to enable opportunity for everybody?”
The chair was ALA President Julie B. Todaro, the first to come from a community college; she is Dean of Library Services at Austin (Texas) Community College. The panelists were ALA President-Elect James Neal, the Internet Association’s Chief Economist Christopher Hooton and Yelp’s Director of Government Relations Laurent Crenshaw. The moderator was Ali Breland, a tech reporter for The Hill.
The multidisciplinary nature of the panelists, hackathon participants and guests underscored the challenges and opportunities for libraries and librarians of all types (public, academic, school, special/corporate/ organizational/government, etc.) now and in the future. The fate of libraries, internet organizations and businesses, online and information-based companies, nonprofit organizations and more are all interconnected and intertwined. Libraries are increasingly dependent on digital assets, while still maintaining responsibility for print materials, books and otherwise. It’s a mistake to assume that everyone has high quality, broadband internet access, or to assume everyone knows how to interact with online information. Partnerships, alliances and shared projects will increase in importance.
The hackathon provided considerable food for thought as I prepare for teaching again next summer at the Catholic University of America Department of Library and Information Science, where I began teaching 20 years ago. Alan Inouye has participated a number of times in the symposium I hold each year for my class, and has been instrumental in having ALA Google Policy Fellows participate as well. Libraries of all types will be challenged in the coming months and years as never before to prove their contributions to society. Partnering for success is the most viable option.