ONE VOICE: Building a Strong Library Ecosystem

Editor’s note: We welcome this guest post from COLA Library Ecosystem Subcommittee Co-Chairs Dorcas Hand and Sara Kelly Johns.

ALA as an association is an ecosystem that speaks with one voice in support of the many voices in its membership, voices that include all of our divisions and round tables. Members of ACRL contribute to this voice; at the same time they depend on the interrelationships among the divisions, round tables, interest groups and active members. All ALA members know that we are stronger together, yet it is often easier to look at issues and work from the division, round table, or interest group perspective rather than the larger ecosystem view.

One of the initial catalysts for the Steering Committee on Organizational Effectiveness(SCOE)/Forward Together was a sense that the association is too fragmented with many members finding it easier to remain in their own silo. The COLA Ecosystem initiative offers advantages for ALA and its divisions and round tables as well as the larger community. Stronger communication across divisions and groups can easily lead to stronger communication beyond ALA. This can support state ecosystems to potentially build more responsive relationships with legislators when the “ask” is consolidated collaboratively among all library types.

Definition from the ALA ONE VOICE toolkit: A library ecosystem is the interconnected network of all types of libraries, library workers, volunteers, and associations that provide and facilitate library services for community members; families; K-20 learners; college and university communities; local, state and federal legislatures and government offices; businesses; nonprofits; and other organizations with specific information needs. A patron of one library is the potential patron of any other library at a different time of life or location. No library exists independent of the library ecosystem. When we stand together in mutual support using common messaging themes that demonstrate this interconnectedness, every library is stronger.

At state and local levels, it is especially effective to build strong coalitions among associations and library organizations to advocate for the entire library ecosystem. The ALA Ecosystem Task Force developed the ONE VOICE toolkit to support building these local and state coalitions as well as to build stronger relationships within ALA – think of it as ONE VOICE for MY STATE. The Task Force’s introductory webinar on October 29: Who Are the People In Your Ecosystem? introduced the toolkit and provided examples of strong library ecosystem work.

WIth ACRL’s continuing emphasis and support for diversity, equity and inclusion for and amongst library professionals, we know that student success also benefits from diverse representation in our institutions. We can further our DEI goals to benefit library staff and student success through joint advocacy with School, Public and Special libraries.

ACRL members can benefit from Ecosystem efforts, and can support other library types through Ecosystem efforts that work to strengthen public support, legislative or otherwise. We hope you will take time to explore the full ONE VOICE Toolkit as you consider how ACRL can apply its ideas to collaborate within ALA and how to encourage your members to take the ideas home for use at the state and local level. ALA can work towards ONE VOICE internally at the same time we offer ONE VOICE tools for our state affiliates. State affiliate and library organization needs may differ from national goals, but ONE VOICE tools can support both.

Please join the public Connect Space for the State Ecosystem Initiative (ALA login required) to receive new information as we move forward. Also, please follow #ALAOneVoice and #ALAecosystem on social media. And please reach out to the subcommittee with any questions or suggestions – we cannot address issues of which we are unaware.

Dorcas Hand
Sara Kelly Johns
Co-Chairs, COLA Library Ecosystem Subcommittee