page image

About the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is a multi-stakeholder forum to explore and champion new thinking on U.S. public libraries, with the goal of fostering concrete actions to support and transform public libraries for a more diverse, mobile and connected society. It focuses on the impact of the digital revolution on access to information, knowledge and the conduct of daily life. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, the Dialogue seeks to shape and advance a renewed national vision for public libraries in the 21st century.

With the assistance of thought leaders from business, technology, education, government, the nonprofit sector and libraries, the Dialogue on Public Libraries considers the changing role of public libraries and seeks to articulate a renewed vision for the vital role they serve as community platforms to advance educational and other opportunities in a knowledge-based society. The Dialogue is a catalyst for identifying ways in which communities can leverage investments in these essential public institutions to develop richer information ecologies, build stronger communities and forge new partnerships for achieving local and national goals. Through its working group convenings, outreach and engagement with diverse stakeholders, commissioned papers, published report and other activities, the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries seeks to ensure that public libraries remain as accessible and relevant to the needs of current and future generations as they have for previous generations of Americans.

About the Communications and Society Program

The Communications and Society Program is an active venue for framing policies and developing recommendations in the information and communications fields.  We provide a multi-disciplinary space where veteran and emerging decision-makers can develop new approaches and suggestions for communications policy.  The Program enables global leaders and experts to explore new concepts, exchange insights, develop meaningful networks, and find personal growth, all for the betterment of society. 

The Program’s projects range across many areas of information, communications and media policy.  Our activities focus on issues of open and innovative governance, public diplomacy, institutional innovation, broadband and spectrum management, as well as the future of content, issues of race and diversity, and the free flow of digital goods, services and ideas across borders.

Most conferences employ the signature Aspen Institute seminar format: approximately 25 leaders from diverse disciplines and perspectives engaged in roundtable dialogue, moderated with the goal of driving the agenda to specific conclusions and recommendations.  The program distributes our conference reports and other materials to key policymakers, opinion leaders and the public in the United States and around the world.  We also use the internet and social media to inform and ignite broader conversations that foster greater participation in the democratic process.

The Program’s Executive Director is Charles M. Firestone.  He has served in this capacity since 1989 and also as Executive Vice President of the Aspen Institute.  Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Mr. Firestone was a communications attorney and law professor who has argued cases before the United States Supreme Court.  He is a former director of the UCLA Communications Law Program, first president of the Los Angeles Board of Telecommunications Commissioners, and an appellate attorney for the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.