ALA has tapped Sara R. Benson and Kent Oliver as senior policy fellows for the Public Policy and Advocacy office to strengthen the association’s involvement in policy discussions related to First Amendment freedoms and intellectual property.
Kent Oliver will mentor, coordinate and partner with members of the ALA Policy Corps to advance ALA’s advocacy on fighting book bans and to strengthen ALA’s Unite Against Book Bans campaign. Additionally, he will work with senior staff of ALA’s PPA Office, OIF, CMO and other units to speak out against book banning and censorship. Oliver recently retired after a decade as director of Nashville Public Library, where he launched the nationally recognized I Read Banned Books campaign. A three-time president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, Oliver is a nationally and internationally known speaker on library issues and challenges, including literacy and the freedom to read. His writings on intellectual freedom and defense of the First Amendment have appeared in publications such as Forbes and The Tennessean. Prior to his tenure at Nashville Public Library, Oliver also managed libraries in Kansas, Missouri and Ohio, where he was awarded the Ohio Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award for Defense of the First Amendment. Oliver hails from Topeka, Kansas, and has an MLIS from Emporia State University.
Lawyer, author, copyright librarian and iSchool professor Sara R. Benson will provide strategic advice to ALA on federal copyright policy and digital licensing policy and advocacy. She will be part of a team focused on crafting ALA’s strategic direction on copyright and licensing for the coming decade. Benson is the Copyright Librarian and an Associate Professor in the Scholarly Communication and Publishing Unit at the University of Illinois Library, and a member of the ALA Policy Corps. She holds a JD from the University of Houston Law Center, an LLM from Boalt Hall School of Law at Berkeley and an MSLIS from the School of Information Science at the University of Illinois. Prior to joining the Library, Benson was a Lecturer at the University of Illinois College of Law for ten years. Benson is the host of the Podcast ©hat (“Copyright Chat”) and author of several books on copyright, and her hometown is Champaign, Illinois.
The ALA Policy Fellows Program serves as a means to draw on nationally recognized researchers, practitioners and policy advocates in library and information services (LIS) or allied areas to strengthen the ALA’s involvement in national policy discussions in a wide range of core LIS and/or other relevant areas such as telecommunications, intellectual property law, computer science, economics and sociology. Fellows work to increase the awareness and level of discourse on issues important to the LIS community by publishing issue papers and articles, and by participating in conference sessions, symposia, workshops, and interviews.
The ALA Policy Corps program develops a cadre of experts with deep and sustained knowledge of national public policies in areas key to ALA’s strategic goals. Working with policy experts and ALA’s vast advocacy network, Policy Corps members engage with federal policymakers and decisionmakers on issues ranging from copyright to broadband access and digital equity to federal funding for libraries.