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The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries would not have been possible without the generous support and funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the foundation’s Global Libraries Program, led by Deborah Jacobs, director, and Jessica Dorr, deputy director. These two leaders, whose commitment to strengthening public libraries is recognized in the United States and around the world, provided invaluable guidance and insight to the Dialogue throughout its activities to date.

This report is the first from the Dialogue on Public Libraries. Members of the Dialogue’s Working Group met twice to examine the evolving roles of public libraries in the United States in light of significant technological, economic and social trends. The first meeting took place at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Meadows conference center in Aspen, Colorado, August 3–6, 2013. Salman Khan, Founder of Khan Academy, and Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, joined the working group to discuss the public library role in the new education ecosystem. The second gathering took place at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., November 5–6, 2013. The engagement and contributions of Working Group participants have helped illuminate ways that communities can leverage investments in libraries to build stronger civic ecologies and forge new partnerships for achieving local and national goals. The Appendix to this report identifies all the Working Group members who shared their valuable insights. We thank them all for their contributions.

Throughout the past year, the Dialogue on Public Libraries also convened roundtable focus group and preview sessions with board members and other thought leaders from the Public Library Association (PLA), Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), the American Library Association (ALA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Participants in these gatherings provided illuminating insights into opportunities and challenges inherent in the vision. They also provided invaluable venues to test, develop and refine the themes and future vision for libraries. A list of the participants in these sessions and other informal advisors to the Dialogue appears in the Appendix, and we thank these associations, their leaders and participating members for their support and ongoing engagement.

While it is impossible to record the names of all whose ideas have been captured in this report, a list of our informal advisors appears in the Appendix. I would like to acknowledge in particular Karen Archer Perry, principal consultant for Clarion Collaborative, who collaborated on the initial idea of a library project at the Aspen Institute. Karen played a significant role in the creation of the Dialogue on Public Libraries while serving as senior program officer in the Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Program.

The Dialogue has benefitted from the participation of others in the planning and completion of project activities and this report. These individuals include Allyson Boucher and Maura Zehr of Spitfire Strategies, and Aspen Institute colleagues David Devlin-Foltz, Susanna Dilliplane, Robert Medina and Angbeen Saleem of the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program (APEP). The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program staff managed all aspects of the project with utmost professionalism. Our C&S Program team includes Ian Smalley, who served as senior project manager for the Dialogue; Tricia Kelly, assistant director; Rachel Pohl, program associate; Ariana Abadian-Heifetz, program associate; and Sarah Eppehimer, senior project manager, and Jackie Orwick, consultant, who have brought the report to life online at our website.

This report is the culmination of a year- long effort and involved many hands. Craig LaMay, associate professor and interim associate journalism dean at Northwestern University’s Medill School, served as conference rapporteur for the two working group meetings and wrote an early draft. We are grateful for his work capturing the initial ideas for the vision; Craig’s analysis and writing are reflected in this final report.

As the year progressed, the Dialogue received additional writing and editing support from Bob Rothman and Christine Becker, as well as individual working group members. The final report is a synthesis of many contributions. Any omissions and errors contained in this report are the sole responsibility of the report’s final author, the director of the Dialogue.

Finally, I am deeply grateful to Maureen Sullivan, past president of the American Library Association, Susan Benton, president of the Urban Libraries Council and Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Each has worn many hats in this project from its inception: participant, consultant, moderator, partner, mentor, advocate and friend. With their deep well of knowledge, keen intuition and vision for what it will take to raise every library to great new heights, Maureen, Susan and Susan have provided invaluable leadership and support, and I thank them.

Amy K. Garmer, Director
Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries

Formal Advisors to the Dialogue
To assist in its study and deliberations, the Aspen Institute Dialogue conducted outreach and engagement discussions with key library leadership groups and with local government administrative leaders. The Dialogue is grateful to the following individuals who offered input on one or more occasions.

MARCH 13, 2014
Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries at PLA 2014 Conference
Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Carolyn Anthony, Director, Skokie Public Library (Illinois)
  • Brian Ashley, Director - Libraries, Arts Council England
  • Brian Auger, Director, Somerset County Library System (New Jersey)
  • Andrea Berstler, Executive Director, Wicomico Public Library (Maryland)
  • Clara Bohrer, Director, West Bloomfield Township Public Library (Michigan)
  • James Cooper, Library Director, Salt Lake County Library Services (Utah)
  • Sara Dallas, Director, Southern Adirondack Library System (New York)
  • Karen Danczak-Lyons, Director, Evanston Public Library (Illinois)
  • Mary Hastler, Director, Harford County Public Library (Maryland)
  • Denise Rae Lyons, Director of Library Development, South Carolina State Library
  • Maura Marx, Deputy Director for Library Services, Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Sydney McCoy, Branch Administrator, Frederick County Public Libraries (Maryland)
  • Andrew Medlar, Assistant Commissioner for Collections, Chicago Public Library
  • Gina Millsap, Chief Executive Officer, Topeka Shawnee County Public Library (Kansas)
  • Larry Neal, Library Director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library (Michigan)
  • Vailey Oehlke, Director, Multnomah County Library (Oregon)
  • Karyn Prechtel, Deputy Director, Pima County Public Library (Arizona)
  • Bridget Quinn-Carey, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Queens Library (New York)
  • Jan Sanders, Director, Pasadena Public Library (California)
  • Rivkah Sass, Director, Sacramento Public Library (California)
  • Manya Shorr, Assistant Director, Omaha Public Library (Nebraska)
  • Greta Southard, Director, Boone County Public Library (Kentucky)
  • Felton Thomas, Director, Cleveland Public Library (Ohio)
  • Jay Turner, Director, Continuing Education, Georgia Public Library Service
  • Marcia Warner, Library Director, Grand Rapids Public Library (Michigan)

APRIL 22, 2014
Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries ARSL Discussion
Conference Call

  • Tameca Beckett, Youth Services Librarian, Laurel Public Library (Delaware)
  • Donna Brice, Director, Eastern Lancaster County Library (Pennsylvania)
  • Kieran Hixon, Technology Consultant, Colorado State Library
  • Jet Kofoot, Library Consultant, Iowa Library Services, North Central District
  • Carla Lehn, Library Development Services, California State Library
  • Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development, Washington State Library
  • Gail Sheldon, Director, Somerset County Library System (Maryland)
  • Cal Shepard, State Librarian, State Library of North Carolina
  • Mary Stenger, Director, Southern Area Library (West Virginia)

MAY 8, 2014
Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries
Meeting with Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)
Washington, D.C.

  • Stacey Aldrich, Deputy Secretary of Education and Commissioner for Libraries, Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • Tim Cherubini, Executive Director, COSLA
  • Sarah Chesemore, President, The Chesemore Group, Inc.
  • Ann Joslin, State Librarian, Idaho Commission for Libraries
  • Susan McVey, Director, Oklahoma Department of Libraries
  • Wayne Onkst, State Librarian & Commissioner, Kentucky Department for Libraries & Archives
  • Lamar Veatch, State Librarian, Georgia Public Library Service
  • Kendall Wiggin, State Librarian, State of Connecticut

SEPTEMBER 14, 2014
Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries at ICMA Annual Conference
Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Carolyn Anthony, Director, Skokie Public Library, Skokie, Illinois
  • Michael Baker, Deputy Village Manager, Village of Downers Grove, Illinois
  • Jane Brautigam, City Manager, City of Boulder, Colorado
  • Ron Carlee, City Manager, City of Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Larra Clark, Director, Program on Networks, and Associate Director, Program on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century, ALA Washington Office
  • Chris Coudriet, County Manager, County of New Hanover, Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Donald Crawford, City Manager, City of Owosso, Michigan
  • Charles Duggan Jr., City Manager, City of Auburn, Alabama
  • Rod Gould, City Manager, City of Santa Monica, California
  • Bob Harrison, City Administrator, City of Issaquah, Washington
  • Susan Hildreth, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Lee Keesler, Chief Executive Officer, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Robert Kiely Jr., City Manager, City of Lake Forest, Illinois
  • Dwight McInvaill, Director, Georgetown County Library, Georgetown, South Carolina
  • Larry Neal, Library Director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, Clinton Township, Michigan
  • Stephen Parry, Chief Executive, Gore District Council, Southland New Zealand
  • Amy Paul, Corporate Vice President, Management Partners, Inc.
  • Charles Penny, City Manager, City of Rocky Mount, North Carolina
  • Robert Shalett, Director of Communications, Urban Libraries Council
  • Cal Shepard, State Librarian, State Library of North Carolina
  • Bonnie Svrcek, Deputy City Manager, City of Lynchburg, Virginia
  • David Swindell, Director, Center for Urban Innovation, Arizona State University
  • Karen Thoreson, President, Alliance for Innovation
  • Michael Willis, General Manager, Shellharbour City Council, New South Wales, Australia
  • Victoria Yarbrough, Leisure and Library Services Director, City of Sierra Vista, Arizonaz

Informal Advisors to the Dialogue
Dialogue staff made informal inquiries of many library professionals and practitioner experts during the course of deliberations over the past year. The Dialogue is grateful to the following individuals who offered perspective, insights or other assistance on one or more occasions.

  • Clarence Anthony, Executive Director, National League of Cities
  • The Honorable Rushern Baker, County Executive, Prince Georges County (Maryland)
  • Brian Bannon, Commissioner, Chicago Public Library
  • Mamie Bittner, Director of Communications and Government Affairs, Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Peter Brantley, Director, Digital Library Applications, New York Public Library
  • Jill Canono, Leadership Development, State Library & Archives of Florida
  • Nan Carmack, Director, Campbell County (Virginia) Public Library System
  • Steve Casburn, ILS Coordinator, Multnomah County (Oregon) Library
  • Kevin Clark, CEO and Founding Partner, EduPresence
  • Bill Densmore, Principal, Densmore Associates
  • Bob Farwell, Director, Otis Public Library (Norwich, CT)
  • Keith Fiels, Executive Director, American Library Association
  • Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director, DC Public Libraries
  • Angela Goodrich, Strategic Initiatives/Program Development Executive, Urban Libraries Council
  • Michael Griffin, Executive Director, County Executives of America
  • Valerie Gross, President & CEO, Howard County (Maryland) Public Library System
  • Tim Gunn, Lead Project Consultant, America’s Music, Tribeca Film Institute
  • Parker Hamilton, Director, Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Libraries
  • Ryan Harrington, Vice President, Artist Programs, Tribeca Film Institute
  • Corinne Hill, Director, Chattanooga Public Library
  • Chrystie Hill, Community Relations Director, OCLC
  • Jamie Hollier, Co-CEO, Anneal
  • Alan Inouye, Director, Office of Information Technology Policy, ALA Washington Office
  • Beth Janson, Executive Director, Tribeca Film Institute
  • Amy Johnson, Bureau of Library Development, Division of Library and Information Services, Florida Department of State
  • Chris Jowaisas, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Patrick Kennedy, Co-founder and President, BiblioCommons
  • Wendy Knapp, Associate Director of Statewide Services, Indiana State Library
  • Jason Kucsma, Executive Director, Metropolitan New York Library Council
  • Blair Levin, Fellow, The Aspen Institute
  • Linda Lord, Maine State Librarian
  • Barb Macikas, Executive Director, Public Library Association
  • Carlos Manjarraz, Director of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Jonathan Marino, Director, Content & Strategy, The MapStory Foundation
  • Jorge Martinez, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Sharon Morris, Director of Library Development and Innovation, Colorado State Library
  • Kent Oliver, Library Director, Nashville Public Library
  • John Palfrey, Head of School, Phillips Academy
  • Karen Archer Perry, Principal Consultant, Clarion Collaborative
  • Siobhan Reardon, Director, Free Library (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Judith Ring, Director, State Library & Archives of Florida
  • Dr. Bobby Roberts, Director, Central Arkansas Library System
  • Andrea Saenz, First Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Public Library
  • Raymond Santiago, Director, Miami-Dade (Florida) Public Library
  • Emily Sheketoff, Director, ALA Washington Office
  • Ray Smith, Chief Learning Officer and Founding Partner, EduPresence
  • Barbara Stripling, Past President, American Library Association
  • Janet Topolsky, Director, Community Strategies Group, The Aspen Institute
  • Christopher Tucker, Chairman and CEO, The MapStory Foundation
  • Bob White, Deputy Director, Region 2000 Local Government Council (VA)
  • John Windhausen, Director, SHLB Coalition
  • Josh Wyner, Executive Director, Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, The Aspen Institute

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