This year 12 library and information professionals were selected to participate in the inaugural ALA Policy Corps, which aims to develop a cohort of advocates for libraries and librarians. Of those 12, three are ALCTS members. During the week of National Library Legislative Day, we are featuring ALCTS members of the Policy Corps. Today we’re speaking with Qiana Johnson, Collection & Organizational Data Analysis Librarian, Northwestern University Libraries, Illinois.
What motivated you to apply to be a member of the Policy Corps?
I wanted the opportunity and training to be able to effectively advocate for libraries and their staffs to government officials and others—whether for funding or policies and laws that are beneficial to libraries and our patrons. I also felt that being a member of the Policy Corps could be an opportunity to educate others about the value of libraries and potential partnerships we can enter into.
What is your past advocacy experience? What policy issues are near and dear to your heart?
I am very new to advocacy, but I look forward to getting started. One of the policy issues that I am most interested in is libraries’ key role in education and learning at all levels. Libraries support lifelong learning starting with school libraries on through public libraries offering coding classes, business development assistance, and access to health information. Another policy issue I’m interested in is privacy—helping the public to understand what information they are sharing and is being collected about them. I also wanted to be part of the conversations among involved parties about the data that is being collected, why it’s being collected, and how it’s being safeguarded. We must hold this conversation in a variety of arenas, including within libraries to discuss what data we and our vendors are collecting about patrons.
What policy issue did you focus on as part of your application?
For my video, I was asked to focus on advocating for the protection of net neutrality through the Open Internet Order. I gave two sample scenarios. In the first, a high school student is conducting research at their local public library where the library’s internet service provider (ISP) is providing faster access to commercial content than to education sites. The student would eventually be able to get access to the information they needed, but is adversely impacted by the throttled transmission. In the second scenario, university professors are conducting research on the safety of a particular chemical, and they are trying to conduct the broadest search possible. Unknown to them, however, is the ISP has entered into a contract with a particular publisher and is privileging that publisher’s content. These two examples show the possible impact the removal of net neutrality would have on library patrons and the larger community.
What policy issues do you think will be most important for ALCTS members to advocate for over the next 5 years? What strategies can ALCTS members use to advocate for these issues?
I think net neutrality will be an important issue for ALCTS members, especially because it can affect how well, if at all, our patrons can access some of a library’s resources. Net neutrality has a significant impact on our patrons’ ability to access to information. Another important issue will be continued federal funding for libraries. Grants through the IMLS help libraries to increase access to their collections through digitizing, preservation, and extended access.