Straight Answers from Martha Choe

American Libraries, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Straight Answers from Martha Choe


A tremendous leader, "is the way former Washington Governor Gary Locke described Martha Choe, former state coordinator for the Boeing 7E7 Project Management Office and director of the Washington State Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development. Last November, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation lured Choe away from state government to become director of the foundation's Global Libraries Program, which includes the U.S. library program and international initiatives. Since 1998, the U.S. program alone has committed $250 million to install more than 47,000 computers in almost 11,000 libraries in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. American Libraries caught up with Choe at the January ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston. For a complete transcript of the interview, visit www.ala.org/alonline/.

How have you been acclimating yourself?

A lot of the discussion has converged on the importance of advocacy, and making sure that there is the right kind of research and data to equip library supporters to go out and argue the case, as budgets are shrinking and there's more competition for dollars.

Do you see computers, the internet, and librarians tied to economic development? There's a direct relationship. As employers and investors look to where they want to make long-term investments, millions and millions of dollars in many cases, they look for healthy, stable communities with good leadership, and they look for long-term investment and partnership. Libraries are central to the health of communities. I'm not sure that link has been made in as obvious a way as it should be.

What is the challenge to libraries growing in that role? As I look at the budget situation at the state and local level, it's not a pretty picture. It's different than past years in which you would hang on by your fingernails and hope that you'd be okay and the economy would grow and your revenue would increase and you'd be safe.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

How do you know so much about libraries? …

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