Two biggest challenges for public libraries?
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 at 09:37PM
Sara Kelly Johns

One of the sets of questions I have had to answer as a candidate for the ALA presidency was for the PLA blog. Here is my answer; what other ideas should we consider?


The two most critical challenges to public libraries today are: adequate funding

and technology’s demands.

Adequate funding – It is critical for a strong and successful public library to receive adequate funding. We all know the economy has gone sour. That puts libraries in direct competition with all other government services. We need to create a strong core of advocates to speak loudly for us through conscious, deliberate and continuous marketing and public relations. Libraries, librarians and trustees need to be forceful in their efforts to secure adequate operating revenues. It may mean placing a proposition on a ballot for a first time, lobbying with elected officials, and/or organizing grassroots campaigns for support. ALA and PLA have been in the forefront of working with librarians and trustees on advocacy. We must strengthen our efforts as professional leaders and as the professional organization for all librarians. We need to tell our stories about successes using libraries, the “people’s university.”  ALA and PLA need to be able to get down to the grassroots - through regionalized programs, webinars, interactive learning via our websites, whatever delivery method we can utilize. We need to make it easy for all libraries to access the needed information to secure their needed funding.

Technology – Technology is a challenge that is both exciting and frustrating. Libraries struggle to keep up with in-house needs and user demands. Insufficient bandwidth issues are increasing as users place more demands on library service. New applications give us pause – RSS feeds, blogs, Facebook and Twitter and whatever’s next place – and place increased demands on staff. We must address basic computer needs as well as services like Millennials and teens who want reference answers texted to them. ALA and PLA can create organizational synergy so that each division can create meaningful professional development, with LITA and LLAMA and other divisions to provide common solutions. There are tremendous opportunities for cooperation and I believe it’s time to work collectively to especially keeping libraries at the forefront with technology. The expertise is there and ALA and PLA can deliver it.

Article originally appeared on Sara Kelly Johns' From Inside Out Blog (
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