Understanding the New Office for Information Technology Policy

Article excerpt

Two months is not a long time to establish a new office, define its place within ALA, prepare for a physical move, set up a local area network, and set out an agenda for the future. Nevertheless, Director of the Office for Information Technology Policy Andrew Magpantay will probably tell you quite cheerfully that he didn't have much choice. With this summer's 67% vote for a dues increase widely interpreted as a vote of confidence in ALA Goal 2000, there are great expectations for the Washington Office. And with the help of Carol Henderson, director of the Washington Office, it looks as if Magpantay will have accomplished these things and more by the end of August. The office plans to be in its new quarters, ready for action, by Labor Day.

American Libraries will have more to report on that move and the renaissance of interest in the Washington Office in upcoming issues. In the meantime, we present an outline of the report Magpantay and Henderson made to several groups, including the ALA Executive Board, at Annual Conference this summer. It lays out the broad goals and objectives of the OITP and defines its relationship to the Washington Office and ALA Goal 2000. What cannot be communicated here, unfortunately, is the impression of energy generated by Magpantay and the slide show he presented. Slight of build, fast-talking, and animated, Magpantay seemingly talks with one hand in his pocket only to discharge the energy centered somewhere inside his head. Remember, this presentation was made just two weeks after he had taken up his post.

Expanding ALA's Washington presence

Henderson and Magpantay began their presentation by placing their new activities in the context of ALA Goal 2000. Central to this blueprint for change is an expansion of the library profession's presence in Washington, with the aim of having ALA associated with advocacy for the public's right to a free and open information society. The Goal 2000 shorthand for this right is "intellectual participation," implying not only access but a role in decisionmaking.

Washington Office and OITP

These two offices constitute ALA's Washington presence. They forward ALA Goal 2000 and they implement ALA's legislative and public policy goals. In their presentation, Henderson and Magpantay said that the mission of the Washington Office is to "follow and influence policy issues, legislation, and regulations of importance to the library field and its publics." They said that the role of the OITP is to "promote development of utilization of electronic access to information as a means of ensuring the public s right to a free and open information society."

OITP and ALA

The OITP is part of the Washington Office; Andrew Magpantay reports to Carol Henderson. The OITP will provide technical assessments and analytical support to the Washington Office's government relations staff and lobbyists, but will not be engaged in any official lobbying activities. It will also be involved in programs and activities to further develop policies in line with ALA Goal 2000.

In addition, the OITP will be working with all ALA units, divisions, and round tables to share information on policy initiatives and gather information on technology developments in the field. It will be looking to these other parts of ALA to help educate and share information with the profession through their programs and publications.

OITP responsibilities

Magpantay collected the responsibilities of the OITP into two major categories:

* Provide policy analysis and development in support of

the Washington Office's legislative efforts with respect to

the National Information Infrastructure (NII) and related

areas

* Act as a public policy advocate for libraries in the area

of information technology

OITP's strategic direction

While admitting that his office was new, and that over time ideas on how the OITP would best serve the Association would evolve, Magpantay was nevertheless able to outline several areas of strategic focus for the office as this process develops:

* Current intellectual property and NII issues

* The evolving use of information technology

* State issues in the areas of information technology and

public access

In addition, he saw the OITP as developing its relationship with the Association and the public by offering:

* Improved communication with members, policy

players, and the media on information technology and

issues of public access

* Research support for ALA policies and positions

Report on staffing changes

The staffing changes brought about by the implementation of Goal 2000 and supported by the dues increase added up to six new positions, plus one and a half on contract, for the Washington Office, and five new positions for the OITP. …