“The Relationship Between NYLA and ALA”

September, 2001


Mitch Freedman Remarks


The ALA Handbook of Organization opens with the question, “What is ALA?”  I believe that the answer given -- that ALA is “the voice of America’s libraries and the people who depend on them” -- is only part of the story.  ALA is also the voice of its members -- the 61,000 dedicated librarians, support staff, and others who work in and on behalf of libraries -- and of its Chapters and Affiliates.  ALA speaks and works on behalf of this large and diverse population, but more importantly, ALA is informed by their intelligence, fueled by their energy and committed to their concerns.


While ALA is the voice heard at the national and international level, the Association relies on its 57 state, regional, and provincial Chapters to be its "grass roots" voice.  No ALA initiative can be fully successful without the support of Chapter members who carry our message to state, local, and regional librarians, to state and local government officials, and to our communities of users.  ALA also needs to hear in a systematic way about the issues and concerns that local libraries and librarians face, and Chapter leaders are a major conduit for that information to ALA.


NYLA members and staff have been leaders in working with ALA in critical areas such as legislative advocacy, recruitment to the profession, intellectual freedom, and information literacy. These issues continue to dominate our agendas as we face the challenges posed by the Children’s Internet Protection Act, UCITA, the graying of the profession, and the growing digital divide.  Perhaps more than at any time in recent memory, we must work together to educate our elected officials on issues of vital importance, to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, and to acquire the funding and resources to enable us to continue to provide full and free access to information to all members of our virtual and physical communities. 


In addition to these pressing concerns, there are other areas where NYLA and ALA can and should work together to achieve our mutual goals.  During my presidency, I will focus on strategies to improve the salaries of library workers and to achieve pay equity.  While the Association cannot negotiate local salaries, we can work to empower individuals and groups so that they can advocate for themselves, both individually and collectively.  I will be creating a task force to work with me on this initiative, and I encourage NYLA members to lend their voices to this effort. If you are interested, complete the volunteer form at:


The Campaign for America’s Libraries, which ALA launched to the public during National Library Week 2001, offers an exciting opportunity for libraries everywhere to speak loudly and clearly about the value of libraries and librarians in the 21st century.  The campaign is a five-year educational initiative designed to showcase the unique and vital roles played by public, school, academic and special libraries.  The Campaign for America's Libraries is now in all 50 states and has participation from public, school, academic and specialized libraries nationwide in communities large and small.  The campaign has even gone global.  During the 2001 IFLA Conference held in Boston last August, ALA and IFLA unveiled The Campaign for the World's Libraries, an international public education effort (with its own special logo) based on the U.S. campaign. 


In New York State, trained presenters who have gone through ALA's Library Advocacy Now! train-the-trainer program are available to make presentations on the campaign and the importance of speaking up and speaking out for libraries.  The Westchester Library System was one of the first library systems in the country to create an advocates organization and to offer this training.  I encourage NYLA and all of our member libraries to host training sessions and see what's new @ your library.  For more information, you can contact the ALA Public Information Office at 1-866-4-LIBRARY or send an email to:


Neither NYLA nor ALA can accomplish its goals without a sound membership base.  A joint NYLA/ALA student membership initiative launched in February 2001 enables New York library and information services students to join both NYLA and ALA for only $25 -- the price of one membership.  Making it easier for new members to join both the state and the national organization early in their careers is just good sense, and will serve both associations well into the future.


As ALA President-Elect and a fellow NYLA member, I wish you all the best.  I know that NYLA, ALA, and New York’s libraries will continue to lead and respond so ably to the needs of our users, especially in moments of crisis, such as the sad time at which this article was written.


I look forward to working closely with NYLA, my own state Chapter, during my presidency.  I will of course be at the NYLA 2002 conference to speak about ALA’s initiatives and activities, and to listen to the concerns of the NYLA membership.  I have created a page on my web site to hear your feedback and comments:  I urge you to call or email me, to volunteer, and to join ALA in speaking for and to America’s libraries.