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Statement from the ARL President: The US Inauguration and the Importance of Research Libraries in the Democratic Process

photo of Statue of Liberty and crowd of people on Ellis Island
image CC0 by Avi Werde

The inauguration of the president of the United States is a quadrennial reminder of the important tradition of peaceful transition of power in a democracy. As Association of Research Libraries (ARL) members and the world watch, we are reminded of the value of a stable democracy and an informed public. Led by ARL’s mission, vision, and guiding principles, the role of research libraries in this process is to remain leaders, collaborators, and facilitators in the research enterprise. This includes prioritizing the collective advancement of research and learning in our societies, advocating for barrier-free access to information, and prioritizing anti-racism, diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in all that we do.

We have witnessed the importance of strong democratic institutions and how they play a vital role in maintaining an informed public. ARL is proud to count leading US federal libraries and archives among our membership:  Library of Congress, National Agricultural Library, National Archives and Records Administration, National Library of Medicine, and Smithsonian Libraries and Archives.  These and other ARL member institutions in or around the DC Beltway are especially engaged in the democratic process. Additionally, many ARL members are among the more than 1,000 federal depository libraries in the United States, and participate in the Canadian Depository Services Program, committed to preserving and making accessible government information to their communities. These deep connections and relationships further demonstrate the importance of research libraries in the democratic process.

Next week’s inauguration is an opportunity to reexamine the needs of society and magnify research libraries’ leadership in evidence-based, thoughtful, and responsive action. With this in mind, ARL looks forward to continuing our long-standing commitment as collaborative partners and to championing transformative action to advance the research enterprise and strengthen democracy.

John P. Culshaw,
President, Association of Research Libraries


About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise; advances diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.