Wednesday, February 4, 2015

COSLA Update

I came back this week having spent a couple of days with the other state chiefs at a mid-winter meeting hosted at the Newberry Library in Chicago.  The Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) gathers throughout the year for various meetings, aligning them with other library community gatherings.  This weekend was the ALA Mid-Winter meeting.  After two days of discussions I am more pleased than ever with the direction of COSLA and how it is positioning itself as an organization to lead library transformation.

As a member of the COSLA Board of Directors, I had the privilege of discussing the organization plan in greater depth, taking stock of what we have accomplished in the first year of this five year plan, and setting a focus for the upcoming year. 

Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) logo
In its plan, COSLA has set as strategic goals the need to strengthen both the state library agency as well as the library field more generally.  It intends to accomplish these goals by improving the knowledge, skills, and leadership capacity of agency staff, sharing expertise across states, and equipping agency staff with the capacity to make the case for sustainable funding for the state library agency.  It also plans to engage in national library projects, promote supportive federal policies and sustainable library funding, and for strategic partnerships beyond the library field to benefit all libraries.

One key example of leveraging strategic partnerships was on the issue of the E-rate reform process this past year.  By collaborating with others in the library community as well as with K-12 organizations, COSLA sent strong messages around the value of libraries in an information age.  The FCC listened to these messages and even cited commentary from many state library agencies including Maine, Kentucky, and Wisconsin in their orders.

COSLA has also been the ignition for another cross-state effort focused on continuing education, something called the CE Forum. Using a blended learning approach that leverages both virtual and face-to-face learning venues, the state library agency staff with responsibilities for continuing education have coordinated their planning and delivery in common. This approach allows states to avoid "reinventing the wheel" on certain general topics of shared interest.  This has the dual effect of saving time and money while also enhancing the overall quality of the CE products.

It is with efforts like these that COSLA intends to move ahead a national library agenda.  I am honored to be a part of the organization and look forward to many good things to come in the years ahead.

Written by: Kurt Kiefer, Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Libraries and Technology