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1615 New Hampshire Ave, NW Telephone 202 628 8410 Washington Office

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USA

ALAAmericanLibraryAssociation
July 18, 2008

Republican National Committee


Platform Drafting Committee
310 First St., SE
Washington, DC 20003

"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this
republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest
consideration."
-Andrew Carnegie

"If the founding fathers came back to this country in this day and age, one of the things that
would just thrill would be our public library system. . . Now there is a library in every town,
every city, everywhere in the country. [The library] is the pure expression of democracy. . . .
It is open to everybody and it's all free. No other country in the world has anything like our
public library system. . . . If you get down about the state of American culture, just
remember there are still more public libraries in this country than there are McDonalds."

-David McCullough

Dear Committee Members:

The grassroots focus of the Republican Party Platform in this election year is highly commendable.
Broad outreach to the American public demonstrates a dedication to the founding principles of
democracy, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and civil rights. The library
community thanks the tireless work of the committee and we hope you will consider how these
fundamental American principles are central to libraries as you refine the party’s Platform. We
believe these principles embody the ideals of a free, democratic society and must be promoted by
the new Administration.

• A Core Value: Access to Information

Access to information is a core value of the library community. Libraries are major sources
of information and, more generally, they serve as guardians of the public’s access to
information. Americans must be ensured access to the information they need – regardless
of age, education, ethnicity, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers.

Providing public access to information must be affordable to libraries. Public access to key
segments of information (e.g., federal government) should be made available to the
general public at no cost. Public information should flow unencumbered by digital rights
management or unnecessary complexity; and software tools should be accessible,
especially to audiences with specialized needs. Additionally, publicly funded research
(e.g., National Institute of Health funded journal articles) should be made available to the
public free of charge. Quality access to information is fundamental to an informed society
and empowered citizenry.

• Widespread and Affordable Broadband

Widespread and affordable broadband is essential to ensuring ongoing economic


competitiveness, leading-edge educational programs, effective access to government
information, and every other important need in society. Broadband is the technological
backbone of the knowledge economy and society. However, the United States is lagging
behind many other countries in broadband deployment. ALA concludes that a national
broadband policy and the corresponding urgent initiatives are needed to return America to
the top tier of nations in this crucial technology.

Libraries serve as a major Internet access point for many of our citizens – particularly for
those in rural or less-affluent areas. Yet libraries often have great difficulty in obtaining
broadband service because of cost. The E-rate program provides greatly needed financial
support to these libraries – without which many libraries could not obtain broadband
service. Strengthening and simplifying the E-rate program would help more libraries across
the nation obtain badly needed assistance.

• Protecting Privacy

For libraries to flourish as centers for unencumbered access to information, librarians must
stand behind their patrons’ right to privacy and freedom of inquiry. Users should feel
comfortable in using library materials and services and secure in the knowledge that their
choice to utilize them is not monitored. ALA has consistently stated that while librarians
fully support the efforts of law enforcement in legitimate investigations, those efforts must
be balanced against the right to privacy.

As ALA’s resolution on the use of National Security Letters states, “the freedom of thought
is the most basic of all freedoms and is inextricably linked to freedom of inquiry; and
freedom of inquiry can be preserved only in a society in which privacy rights are rigorously
protected.”

We stand by that belief and will continue to fight for the right to privacy for all Americans.

• The School Library’s Vital Role in Education

Historically regarded as the cornerstone of the school community, school libraries are no
longer limited to books and reference materials. Instead, they have become sophisticated
21st century learning environments offering a full range of print and electronic resources
that provide equal learning opportunities for all students, regardless of the socio-economic
or education levels of the community. School libraries can only be effective when they are
staffed by school library media specialists trained to collaborate with teachers, working
toward the mutual goal of enriching students with information that matters to them both in
the classroom and in the real world.

Since 1965, more than 60 studies have affirmed the link between school library media
specialists and student achievement. Across the United States, research has shown that
students in schools with good school libraries learn more, get better grades, and score
higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries.

School libraries and school library media specialists must be a part of any legislation that
impacts our country’s schools.

• Education Is Central to Internet Safety

Safe computing has become one of today’s most important Internet issues, especially for
parents. ALA has long held that education and parental involvement are the best tools to
keep kids safe online and to ensure that they can make the right decisions. Libraries and
schools are venues where children learn essential information literacy skills that go far
beyond computer instruction and web searching.

Preemptive blocking of social networking and other similar websites prevents librarians and
instructors from teaching students the safe way to use these services.

The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world
with some 66,000 members, primarily school, public, academic, and some special librarians, but
also trustees, publishers, and friends of libraries. The Association provides leadership for the
development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession
of librarianship to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. For more on ALA,
please visit www.ala.org.

Thank you for your time and we at the American Library Association look forward to working with
you to further develop the Republican Party Platform.

Sincerely,

Jim Rettig
President, American Library Association