From 2002–2010, the Improving Literacy through School Libraries program under the U.S. Department of Education was the primary source for federal funding of school libraries. However, in recent years, the president and U.S. Congress have either consolidated or zero-funded this program to the point that it was not funded at all in fiscal 2011 or fiscal 2012. In 2011, Senator Jack Reed (D,-R.I) recognized that school libraries needed a direct funding source in the federal budget and redirected the money—through report language in the fiscal 2012 Appropriations Bill—to the U.S. Department of Education for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program.
In fiscal 2012, which was the first year of this redirected money, the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program was appropriated at $28.6 million. By law, at least half this money ($14.3 million) must be allocated to a competitive grant program for underserved school libraries. The remaining money is allocated to competitive grants for national nonprofit organizations that work to improve childhood literacy. The first grants from this program were announced September 28, 2012.
More than 350 librarians and library supporters convened in Washington, D.C., April 22–24, 2012, to attend National Library Legislative Day. Activities began with preconference sessions—also known as “new participant training”—hosted by the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations (United for Libraries) and the Washington Office. Advocacy Associates representative Stephanie Vance facilitated the session with ALA Grassroots Coordinator Ted Wegner and ALA Office of Government Relations (OGR) Director Lynne Bradley. More than 50 attendees got tips on the right things to say and do in meetings with a member of Congress and strategies to build and maintain advocacy efforts at home.
In January, grassroots advocates effectively stopped two Congressional bills: the Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). ALA took a strong stance in opposition to these bills, and OGR constructed the PIPA, SOPA and OPEN [Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade] Act Quick Reference Guide. On January 18, 2012, also known as Internet Blackout Day, several popular websites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Flickr protested the two congressional bills by holding a day-long protest, during which the websites temporarily blocked access to their content. In addition, shortly after the bills were introduced, OGR issued a “legislation action alert” to ALA members asking them to contact their representatives to express opposition to them. In October 2012, a court ruled that the HathiTrust Digital Library’s use of digitized works is a fair use permitted under the U.S. copyright law. The ruling allows HathiTrust to continue serving scholars and the print-disabled, and also provides helpful guidance on how future library services can comply with copyright law.
In July, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA)—comprising ALA, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and the Association of Research Libraries—filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of petitioner Supap Kirtsaeng in the case Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons. Wiley, a publisher of textbooks and other materials, claims Kirtsaeng infringed its copyrights by reselling cheaper foreign editions of Wiley textbooks in the U.S. that his family lawfully purchased abroad. The LCA believes an adverse decision in this case could affect libraries’ right to lend books and other materials manufactured abroad.
In October, the Association of American Publishers announced they had reached a settlement in their lawsuit filed in 2005 against Google, Inc. The lawsuit was brought by authors who alleged that Google violated copyright by scanning books to create Google Book Search, a search tool similar to its Internet search engine). Since the settlement only applies to the five publishers, questions remain since the orphaned works situation (when copyright holders cannot be identified or located) is not yet resolved within Google Books.
ALA launched Mobile Commons, a new advocacy tool that will allow library supporters to receive text message alerts from OGR. Advocates can sign up for the text alerts from the Washington Office to receive up-to-date information on advocacy alerts and events by texting “library” to 877877. The opt-in service will allow ALA to communicate advocacy messages in a quick and effective fashion using an innovative texting and calling feature. Advocacy subscribers have the option of calling legislators to discuss particular issues toll-free through Mobile Commons. The text messages will provide subscribers with talking points on issues before automatically transferring the advocates to the offices of their legislators.
On February 9, 2012, bills were introduced with bipartisan support aimed at improving access to federally funded research. In the House, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was introduced by Rep. Mike Doyle (D.-Pa.) and referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In the Senate, a bill by the same name was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) and then referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. FRPAA legislation is the antidote to the anti-open access Research Works Act introduced in December 2011 by Rep. Darrell Issa (D.-Calif.). In a somewhat unusual development on February 27, Elsevier publicly announced it was retracting support for the Research Works Act—essentially rendering the bill dead. Additional information is available on the ALA website. In May, the Washington Office participated in the research panel “Knowledge and Innovation: Understanding Public Access to Research,” hosted by the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation in Washington, D.C. The discussion focused on increasing public access to federally-funded research.
The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), along with the Public Library Association (PLA), continues its work as a member of the Public Access Technology Benchmarks coalition. OITP and PLA joined with other library and government leaders to develop a series of public-access technology benchmarks for public libraries. With $2.8 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with the Urban Libraries Council as the project lead and facilitator, the coalition will develop guidelines that define quality technology services at libraries.
OITP released two reports: “E-content: The Digital Dialogue” and “Restoring Contemplation: How Disconnecting Bolsters the Knowledge Economy,” as well as a backgrounder that shares some highlights from the newest Pew Research Center report on “Libraries, Patrons, and E-books.” OITP also outlined some possible messaging and local angles for leveraging this new research with local media and decision makers.
On March 16, ALA President Molly Raphael presented Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D.-Calif.) with the James Madison Award. Lofgren received the award during the National Freedom of Information Day Conference held at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. for her efforts against SOPA—legislation that would require Internet service providers to police users’ activities in an attempt to combat online infringement overseas. Recognizing the potential harm that SOPA could have on First Amendment rights, intellectual freedom, and privacy, Lofgren fought tirelessly to oppose the bill.
OITP hosted a webinar in October 2011 on the policy brief “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library,” which presented a range of possible responses as contrasting visions: physical vs. virtual library, individual vs. community focus, portal vs. archive service, collection vs. creative approach. An archived version of the webinar is available on District Dispatch, the blog of ALA’s Washington Office.
OGR offered six webinars in 2012: “The Legislative Process and You: How it Works and How to Make a Difference,” “National Library Legislative Day: What to Know before You Go,” “Funding Cuts Got You Down? 10 Insider Tactics for Impacting the Funding Debate (for the Better!),” “Using D.C. Insider Secrets to Save Your Library,” “They’ve Got to See it to Believe It: Getting Decision Makers Into Your Library,” and “Education, Advocacy and Lobbying—Oh My!: What’s Allowed (and What’s Not) When Reaching out to Elected Officials.”
Winston Tabb, dean of libraries and museums at Johns Hopkins University, was the 2012 recipient of the the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award: In Support of Users’ Rights. Sponsored by OITP and the ALA Copyright Advisory Subcommittee, the award recognizes Tabb’s decades-long support for balanced copyright law, advancement of library and user copyright exceptions worldwide, and commitment to an international copyright law to support the information needs of people with print disabilities.
OITP released two digital supplements to American Libraries magazine: “E-content: The Digital Dialogue” and “E-books: Making New Connections.” In August 2012, ALA released “E-book Business Models for Public Libraries,” a report that describes general features and attributes of the current e-book environment and outlines constraints and restrictions of current business models. Additionally, the report suggests opportunities for publishers to showcase content through public libraries. The report was created by the ALA Digital Content & Libraries Working Group (DCWG). In September, ALA took an aggressive messaging approach by releasing an open letter from President Maureen Sullivan to America’s publishers denouncing the refusal of several large trade publishers to sell e-books to libraries. Sullivan led an ALA delegation to New York City to meet with publishers to discuss the many concerns of the library community about e-book publishing. Uppermost in their minds were the e-book concerns that have come from ALA members across the country—especially about pricing and availability and the slow pace of progress in finding solutions.
The DCWG has been very active in the e-book arena. In addition to co-releasing a report on the pricing of e-books, the group released “E-books and Libraries: An Economic Perspective,” a report that was commissioned by ALA that explores and explains some of the economic underpinnings for the pricing of e-books. In August 2012, OITP Program Director Carrie Russell was a guest panelist on NationalPublic Radio’s Diane Rehm Show; DCWG member Vailey Oehlke also participated in this session, which focused on e-books and library lending.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded PLA a $291,000 grant to develop an online collection of digital literacy resources that will be accessible to libraries, patrons, and community-based organizations. The grant will fund handouts, the development of training curricula in English and Spanish, and library patron skills assessments. PLA will partner with the OITP and the chief officers of state library agencies to generate the online digital literacy resource collection.
ALA released “Complete Copyright for K–12 Librarians and Educators,” a copyright law guidebook specifically written for teachers and librarians. The book addresses the challenges that school librarians and teachers face concerning copyright-protected print and online materials at schools and outside the traditional educational environment. The book, which includes original illustrations by cartoonist Jessica Abel, explores complex situations often encountered in classrooms, such as the use of copyrighted material for school assignments, library operations, and extracurricular activities, as well as on the Web.