American Library Association (ALA) has announced that ALA President Barbara Stripling unveiled the “Declaration for the Right to Libraries” on Monday during a signing ceremony at Nashville Public Library, the first in a series of official signing events the ALA plans to host across the country in the coming months.
The ALA considers the document the cornerstone document of Stripling’s presidential initiative, “Libraries Change Lives,” which is designed to build sustained public support for America’s libraries of all types—school, public, academic and special.
“Libraries provide services that inspire and empower their users to change their lives through education,” says Stripling in the announcement. “The Declaration will serve as an advocacy tool to help communities take action and illustrate the value of their libraries and library staff. Our hope is that library supporters will take advantage of this tool and present collected signatures to local leaders and legislators throughout the year.”
Kent Oliver, director of the Nashville Public Library, as well as Nashville library leaders and community members, joined Stripling at the event. All were among the first to sign the “Declaration,” which is intended to serve as a strong public statement about the value of libraries as institutions that empower individuals, strengthen families, build communities, and protect our right to know.
Signings are being organized at libraries and other locations throughout the nation. The petitions will be presented to Congress by library supporters during National Library Legislative Day activities from May 5 to 6, 2014. Online signing of the Declaration will be made available later this summer.
There is a clear link between the quality of school library programs and academic achievement, the ALA says in its announcement, noting that more than 60 studies in 19 states show students in schools with school library programs staffed by qualified school librarians learn more, have higher academic achievement levels, and score higher on standardized tests than their peers in schools without such library programs.
The ALA also notes that public libraries are also critically important in our communities. According to the ALA’s “Public Library Funding and Technology Access Study,” an estimated 300,000 people a day receive job-seeking help at public libraries, and more than 65 percent of libraries are the only source of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities.
In the next year, libraries of all types will hold signing ceremonies, during which community members can visibly declare their right to have vibrant libraries in their communities.