Aspen Institute Launches Dialogue On Public Libraries

June 27, 2013

Contact: Amy Garmer
Communications and Society Program
The Aspen Institute
202-736-5818 |

The Aspen Institute announces working group to shape vision for public libraries.

Washington, DC, June 27, 2013 – The Aspen Institute announced today a new multi-year initiative to explore, develop and champion new ways of thinking about U.S. public libraries.

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will begin with a working group gathering in August 2013 convening leaders from the library field, executives from businesses and officials from various levels of government, community development visionaries and education experts to create a common vision for public libraries.

Public libraries in the U.S. are at a crossroads. As trusted institutions, libraries serve their communities by improving digital skills, helping people access online information in new ways, providing a space for learning at every age, and connecting people to jobs, educational opportunities and critical community services. Yet, despite these benefits, libraries face ongoing challenges with budget cuts and the need to adapt in an increasingly digital society.

“Libraries have always been a great equalizer in American society, serving as gateways to knowledge that have helped form the building blocks of our democracy,” said Charles Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program. “We look forward to working with leaders in the field to ensure that public libraries remain relevant to the needs of our current and future generations as they have throughout our history.”

Following the Aspen Institute model, the Dialogue will gather a diverse group of leaders for an invitation-only meeting in August where they will consider solutions to ensure public libraries are at the forefront of serving communities for years to come.

Leaders from both large and small library systems, the American Library Association, and other key library institutions are important voices in the working group to ensure the vision includes the latest thinking from the field.

The working group includes:

Akhtar Badshah
Senior Director, Microsoft Citizenship and Public Affairs

Susan Benton
President and CEO
Urban Libraries Council

John Seely Brown
Deloitte Center for the Edge 

Jonathan Chambers
Office of Strategic Planning & Policy Analysis
Federal Communications Commission

Dan Cohen
Executive Director
Digital Public Library of America 

Karl Dean
City of Nashville, TN

Jessica Dorr
Deputy Director, Global Libraries Program
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

David Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
National Archives and Records Administration

Charles Firestone
Executive Director
Communications and Society Program
Aspen Institute

Amy Garmer
Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries
Communications and Society Program
Aspen Institute

Tessie Guillermo
President and CEO

Tomeka Hart
Vice President
African-American Community Partnerships
Teach For America

Susan Hildreth
Institute of Museum and Library Services 

Renee Hobbs
Professor and Founding Director
Harrington School of Communication and Media
University of Rhode Island 

Reed Hundt
REH Advisors 

Norman Jacknis
Metropolitan New York Library Council 
and Director, IBSG Public Sector Group, Cisco Systems

Deborah Jacobs
Director, Global Libraries Program
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

Beth Jefferson
Co-Founder and CEO

Linda Johnson
President and CEO
Brooklyn Public Library 

Joshua Kauffman
Design Director
Quantified Self 

Craig LaMay (rapporteur)
Associate Professor
Medill School of Journalism
Northwestern University 

Anthony Marx
President and CEO
New York Public Library 

Madeline McIntosh
President and COO
Penguin Random House 

Bret Perkins
Vice President, External & Government Affairs
Comcast Corporation 

Lee Rainie
Pew Research Center Internet Project 

Graham Richard
Chief Executive Officer
Advanced Energy Economy 

Gloria Rubio-Cortés
National Civic League 

Andrew Sliwinski
Product Lead and CTO 

Pam Sandlian Smith
AnyThink Libraries 

Maureen Sullivan
Past President
American Library Association 

John Szabo
City Librarian
Los Angeles Public Library 

Susana Vasquez
Executive Director
LISC Chicago 

Amy Webb
Chief Executive Officer
Webbmedia Group

Staff and Consultants:

Allyson Boucher
Spitfire Strategies 

David Devlin-Foltz
Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program
Aspen Institute

Ian Smalley
Project Manager
Communications and Society Program
Aspen Institute

(List updated July 29th.)

The working group is just one of many ways that people can offer input and ideas into the vision. Over the next year, the Aspen Institute and select working group members will attend meetings and conferences and host online feedback sessions to ensure the vision includes diverse perspectives from across the library field and beyond. The conversations held throughout this year will result in a report that outlines the common vision for public libraries and makes recommendations that will spark ongoing conversations in the coming years. 

Learn more about the Dialogue on Public Libraries at

The Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program,, addresses the societal impact of communications and information technologies, and provides a multi-disciplinary venue for considered judgment on communications policy issues.


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