#alaac14 ALA Council III

Dear Readers,

Here is my much delayed report on ALA Council III, which took place on Tuesday, 7/1/2014, 7:45am-9:15am. Despite the short time schedule for us, we had a full agenda. This session had a considerable amount of drama that started even before the session actually started.

Before I go into that, let’s talk about what was non-controversial. We adopted a set of memorials and quietly offered our respects as the following names were read aloud:

We also easily passed a tribute:

75th Anniversary of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), T-#2.

We also heard and in some cases acted on a number of reports:

A full listing of actions taken by Council during all sessions of the 2014 Annual Conference has been posted to the ALA Council website. Actions by by Council since 2008 can be found at http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/council/council_actions.

Now for the drama, which centered around the report of the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) CD#19.3-19.17, which was presented by Chair Douglas Archer.

The bulk of IFC’s report was a bundle of 14 revised interpretations to the Library Bill of Rights that were to be inserted into the ninth edition of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Manual.

Lest you think I’m going to rant about being presented with 14 bundled documents to approve in a short Council, you should know two things:

  1. Council was provided notice on their listserv when the draft interpretations were made available on ALA Connect back in April.
  2. Chair Doug Archer gave us a heads up a day or so before that he intended to bring the 14 interpretations as a bundle in Council III. While I was uneasy at the time about voting on the package as a bundle, I held my peace at that forum. I kinda wish I hadn’t, but that’s water under the bridge.

I did read the interpretations back in April. For the most part, I think IFC should be commended for the work they did in putting them together.  But I was troubled by the interpretation on Labeling and Rating Systems. I also commented at the time, though in reviewing what I said, I did not offer what would be my core concern at Conference – that the Interpretation treated remote users of a library different from in-library patrons. Specifically in-library patrons could see ratings on packages, but someone accessing the library’s catalog from home or in another system library could not discover what a item was rated as.

I strongly believe in equal treatment in information. What I do remember expressing at the Council Forum where Chairman Archer announced the presentation of the Interpretations as a bundle was that the interpretation on labeling ought to be amended so that either a rating label could be removed and not shown to in-library patrons, or preferably that IF A RATING APPEARED ON THE PACKAGE, that fact should be noted in the bibliographic record. But as the interpretation stood, in-house users could not avoid seeing an item’s rating but remote users could not discover it through the catalog.

After sleeping on things, I resolved that even though Council III was a shortened session, I would try sponsoring a resolution to split the labeling interpretation off the package and send it back to IFC for more work. I asked for a second sponsor as required. Five people stepped forward. I also got a few e-mails insisting I was trying to lead ALA down the road to censorship and that libraries would be forced to insert all sorts of idiosyncratic rating systems into the bibliographic record. My replies that such demands could be thwarted by citing cataloging practice that only ratings actually printed on the item are entered into the bibliographic record fell on deaf ears, in my view.

This was actually the day before Council III. Along the way I’d find out that while the Interpretation on Labeling and Rating Systems had its troubling language for decades, ALA’s cataloging bodies had detailed instructions for entering ratings that appeared on a package in their Resource, Description and Access (RDA) rules. There’s even a MARC field (521) for this type of information. So not only was the labeling interpretation treating users differently depending on whether they happened to be in the library, but this interpretation clearly did not reflect an organizational consensus on what should be in a bibliographic record.

Evening came and I got an e-mail from Doug Archer asking if I’d meet with him before the final Council Forum which took place the night before Council III. I did meet with him and we had a frank and cordial conversation — considerably more cordial than some of my other interactions with some other current and former IFC members. He gave me reasons I found acceptable to stand down from my resolution to split the Labeling interpretation. As some of my would be cosponsors filed in, I let them know of my decision. The forum then had a lively discussion of the Labeling interpretation and from the people in the room, it was clear to me the document did NOT reflect a consensus within ALA.

Now it was the morning of Council III. Things moved along smoothly until the IFC report. Andrew Pace, one of the people I had approached about my resolution to split the Labeling interpretation, presented one of his own to do just that. Much discussion, some fairly heated on both sides, ensued.

Based on some of the talk and implications made by some of the opponents of referral, I wound up voting to refer the labeling Interpretation back to IFC. I felt it was important that IFC understand there was no real consensus for their view in Council.

The motion to refer failed 65 Yes, 70 No. But you have to understand that in normal circumstances, Council normally votes overwhelmingly one way or another. Close votes are NOT the norm. I commend Andrew for forcing a debate that clearly indicated Council’s discomfort with the document. As a result, Chairman Archer has promised a revisit of the labeling interpretation. It won’t be in time for the ninth edition of the Intellectual Freedom Manual, but after Council approves it will go on the web site and be put in the 10th edition. I look forward to seeing what they come up with. As long as the treat in-house and remote users equally and show some sign they’ve consulted with ALA’s cataloging committees, I will be happy to move it forward.

And that’s the way I thought the Council sessions went in the 2014 Annual Conference of the American Library Association.


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#alaac14 ALA Council II

ALA Council II took place in Las Vegas at the LVH/Westgate hotel on Monday, June 30, 2014 at 8:30am. Once again we ended early, not fully realizing what awaited us in Council III.

One of traditions of ALA is the “Recognition of Retiring Councilors and Executive Board Members” that normally takes place at Council II at Annual. The ALA President reads the names of people with expiring terms. After Council they get a certificate honoring their service and take a group photograph. I mostly approve of this practice but found it odd that re-elected members of Council were also recognized as retiring members. Things have been done this way for decades in ALA. Although I find the practice of reading the names of the re-elected along with actual departing Council members odd, it’s not worth fighting over.

Along with the recognition of retiring Councilors, we received the following reports:

  • Policy Monitoring Committee (PMC) – ALA Councilor William (Bill) L. Turner, ALA CD#17.1
  • Committee on Organization (COO) – James (Jim) R. Rettig, chair, ALA CD#27.1 – This committee had two action items for Council to vote on separately. Item 1, which required ALA bodies to report to the Executive Director twice a year and Item 2, which established a sunsetting clause for Membership Interest Groups. Both items seemed uncontroversial to me, but Item 1 was subjected to a surprising amount of debate before it finally passed. The second item got more discussion than I was expecting but it too passed. I voted for both action items because of the increased accountability they offered.
  • Freedom to Read Foundation – Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., President, ALA CD#22.1

After receiving these reports, we started to consider the one resolution brought to Council II:

Resolution on Granting the District of Columbia Government Budget Autonomy to Allow City Services, including Libraries, to Remain Open during a Federal Government Shutdown, Councilors Christopher Corrigan and Jennifer Boettcher, ALA CD#45

Christopher Corrigan is the District of Columbia Chapter Councilor. Like me, he is finishing up his first year on ALA Council. He is a very earnest Councilor and was worried about his first resolution though he had done all of his homework. He brought his draft resolution to the Rules committee who helped him find every relevant ALA body that might conceivably have an opinion on his resolution. This is extremely important to do to the best of a Councilor’s ability. Otherwise your resolution will get referred to the relevant bodies, not to be heard from for six months to a year. You REALLY want to consult them first. Usually for good reasons.

He had to be reminded to slow down some in his presentation, but did a great job of making his case that he wasn’t asking ALA to urge extra funding or statehood for DC. He and the DC ALA Chapter simply wanted ALA to endorse the idea that the District of Columbia ought to be allowed to spend their locally collected tax dollars as any other city in the nation is allowed to do. He also brought statistics that showed the impact of library closures on DC.

Partly because Councilor Corrigan’s excellent preparation and partly because this resolution was obviously library related, his resolution garnered many favorable comments before being overwhelmingly approved. I voted in favor as did all but one or two Councilors.

And then after a few announcements we were done early.

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#alaac14 ALA Council I – Reports and Supporting Air Force Libraries

The 2014 Annual Conference of the American Library Association (ALA) ended on July 1, 2014. I didn’t do writeups during conference because the hotel I was staying at, LVH/Westgate did not offer free in-room wifi and I was unwilling to pay $15/day PER DEVICE for it.  Why haven’t I written anything since? I have a whole set of lame and semi-lame excuses I can offer if you care enough to comment or message me. Otherwise, I’ll just apologize and move on.

Council I took place on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 8:30am. We ended early.

We started off with a video greeting from Chairman Wheeler of the FCC. He thanked ALA for their support of e-rate reform and pledged more support for rolling out better wifi in libraries and schools. It was a very positive video and showed that the Chairman had a good grasp of library issues. I wish I could link to it, but it does not appear to be posted online. Since Council I, the FCC approved e-rate reform by a 3-2 vote. ALA applauds this move, as do I.

Most of the actual business of Council I focused on hearing reports. Some of the reports we heard included:

Presidential Task Force on Electronic Communication for the ALA Council, John C. Sandstrom, Chair, ALA CD#10 – We voted to accept the recommendations, with a few tweaks. I’m hopeful these new measures will give more access to more members of Council. – This report has not yet been posted to the 2014 Council documents page, but I hope it will be soon. If you’re really interested, let me know and I can send you a copy.

Review of Executive Board Actions Since the 2014 Midwinter Meeting, Keith Michael Fiels, Executive Director and Secretary to the ALA Council, ALA CD#15.1 - This report has not yet been posted to the 2014 Council documents page, but I hope it will be soon. If you’re really interested, let me know and I can send you a copy.

Implementation of the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting Council Actions, Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director and Secretary to the ALA Council, ALA CD#9.1 - This report has not yet been posted to the 2014 Council documents page, but I hope it will be soon. If you’re really interested, let me know and I can send you a copy.

Digital Content and Libraries Working Group Sari Feldman and Robert Wolven, Co-Chairs, ALA CD#30.1 - Simon & Schuster will now sell full catalog to all libraries. CT State Library is leading a statewide ebooks project. – Sari Feldman is now ALA President Elect. She and Robert Wolven have stepped down as co-chairs, but the group will continue to work under the leadership of current DCWG member Erika Linke (Associate Dean of Libraries, Carnegie Mellon University) and PLA President Carolyn Anthony (Director, Skokie (Illinois) Public Library) as incoming DCWG co-chairs. It is my hope they will continue the constructive work the DCWG has done so far.

After the reports, we considered the resolution:

Resolution in Support of Stable Funding for Air Force Libraries ALA Councilors Vicky Crone and Larry Romans, ALA CD#43 - I spoke in favor of this resolution as a former Air Force intern librarian (Lackland AFB and Tyndall AFB). My fellow Councilor Karen Schneider spoke eloquently as a former Air Force patron. She pointed out that many servicemembers in training were not allowed off the base to use the public libraries. Several others spoke in favor. None were against, though a few questioned why were were singling out the Air Force for support. The resolution passed overwhelmingly and I voted in favor. We need to support the people we insist on repeatedly putting in harm’s way.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, we ended early and we were thankful. Little did we know of the controversy to come.

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#alaac14 #godort Conference Update from ALA

Here’s a PDF status update on the American Library Association Annual Conference. In addition to conference happenings it has some basic facts on ALA membership on page 6 of the PDF file. I was sad to see that membership in my favorite roundtable, the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) fell from 785 in 2013 to 740 in 2014.

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#alaac14 Conference Tips Roundup

In my preparations for the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas, I have run across several resources that will be helpful not just to ALA attendees, but to conference goers in general and visitors to Las Vegas in particular:

Local Las Vegas Information from Association for Library Service to Children

Regardless of your reasons for visiting Las Vegas, you are going to want to listen to the children’s librarians. They’ve put together unbiased information on:

  • Making the Most of Your Budget
  • Getting Around Town (Including how to avoid the scenic route when taxi-ing)
  • Handling the Weather
  • Staying Safe and Other Miscellaneous Information (Including Beware the Card Slappers)

My favorite tip mostly because of its conflict with the usual librarian stereotype is:

Drinks: The easiest way to get cheap drinks? Gamble! Cocktail waitresses will bring around drinks the entire time you’re gambling for absolutely free whether you’re playing high stakes poker or the penny slots. You just have to be sure to tip them each time or they’ll suddenly disappear but otherwise the drinks will keep on comin’. There are cheap drinks and food options at happy hours at the restaurants around town as well. Every place has their own times for happy hour so you’ll have to call around to see but generally it’s between 3-5pm. Some restaurants even have midnight or late night specials which include cheap food and drinks. This website populates happy hour and late night locations based on zip codes, names of the place or keywords.


Conference & Travel Packing & Survival Tips by Bobbi Newman

Bobbi Newman is a frequent speaker and international traveler. You ought to listen to what she has to say. This post focuses on what to pack to make your life easier at conferences. Also offers tips on networking and health.  She also has links to a number of other conference veterans.

I haven’t yet picked up a portable cell phone charger, but it’s on my list. Especially since I don’t seem to be getting great battery life out of my Samsung Galaxy III.


Getting the Most Out of Your ALA Experience with Keanu Reeves

PC Sweeney, director of EveryLibrary California, emphasize the social and networking aspects of professional conferences, illustrated with stills from Keanu Reeves movies. While I’m not quite on board with:

If you’re sleeping, you’re conferencing wrong. You can sleep when you get back to the reference desk.

He offers a lot of solid networking tips. He was also convincing enough that I signed up for the EveryLibrary After Party.

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ALA Interpretation of Copyright for Code of Ethics – Needs More Balance Towards Users

The video above is my touchstone for vague and worthless criticism. Yet I’m afraid what I have to say here may be too vague to be helpful, yet time is growing short so I will offer some thoughts on the American Library Association’s Draft Interpretation of Copyright for the ALA Code of Ethics.

Article 4 of the Code of Ethics reads:

We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.

I’ve got no problem with that. What concerns me about the interpretation is that it seems somewhat tilted in favor of copyright holders despite mentioning fair use and advocacy efforts. I want it to be more balanced, but I’m not sure how to get there. Hence my linking to the “Amadeus” clip above.

A big chunk of my concerns is raised by paragraphs three and four:

Article IV of the Code of Ethics states that librarians “respect copyright law and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.” Therefore, librarians should remain informed about copyright developments, particularly those that can limit or restrict exceptions for users.  Librarians are and should be the copyright consultants for their user community. This requires a solid understanding of the purpose of the law and some basics, and through this understanding, good judgment, and fairness, and exercise exceptions to their full extent, in particular, the fair use exception. The importance of fair use to library services and the public we serve cannot be understated—its flexibility allows for user privileges in unanticipated situations, destined to occur in times of change. [1]

Moreover, libraries and their parent institutions have a responsibility to maintain policies and procedures that are consistent with current copyright law and institutional mission. More than simply respecting the rights of copyright owners, such policies and procedures should encourage and enable the optimal availability of copyrighted materials for library users through the full employment of the available exceptions within copyright law. Library staff should be regularly trained to consistently recognize and observe the limits of copyright, understand their rights and those of their users, and be ready to educate or properly refer users with questions pertaining to copyright.

- See more at: http://connect.ala.org/node/223944#sthash.VMBV52YK.dpuf

While a giving a nod to both sides of the issue, it seems to place an emphasis on recognizing limits and never exceeding them. There’s no mention of building awareness of public domain materials (including many government documents) that can be used freely nor of alternative licensing schemes like Creative Commons that makes more current content usable without compromising commercial potential. My personal sense of these two paragraphs is that if something can’t be used under copyright law, it shouldn’t be. That may be true for that particular item, but if librarians can steer people to something that can be remixed and reused, then it is their responsibility to offer that option.

Two other things bother me about this Interpretation. One is the conflation of creators with rights-holders in paragraph two

In turn, creators make these works available to the public through sales or other means. The economic incentive provided to creators is a limited, statutory monopoly. Only creators can sell or otherwise vend their works. – See more at: http://connect.ala.org/node/223944#sthash.VMBV52YK.dpuf

There are a large number of situations where creators of a work are not the rights holders for the work. A few are:

  • People who create works for hire
  • Authors who have to transfer their copyright to a journal as a condition of being published
  • New authors who sell their copyright at a flat fee to be published

By conflating creators with rights holders, I think ALA is upholding a stereotype that copyright is what secures the livelihood of small time authors and musicians in the same way that Congress sells farm subsidies as a way to support family farmers. In both cases, the lion’s share of the benefit goes to large corporations who have done little of the actual work themselves.

I am not saying that we librarians should be ignoring copyright, but I believe we need to be precise about who current copyright law is benefiting.

My last issue with the interpretation is with paragraph five talking about copyright in the digital age:

Digital technology, networks, and content are ubiquitous.  The public expects to have access content at any time. Libraries are equally demanding in their expectation—they expect to acquire or access content for their users and serve their information needs.  Today’s digital content is made available by rights holders to libraries and the average consumer through licenses agreement—often non-negotiable—rather than the carefully crafted copyright law that Congress provides.  Acquiring or accessing content by license agreement can, and often does, limit user rights realized in the analog world. – See more at: http://connect.ala.org/node/223944#sthash.VMBV52YK.dpuf

I like the part about licensing, though I think it could be clearer if it enumerated some of the specific rights routinely taken away through licensing. But I think the part about the demands of libraries is misleading and there ought to be an explicit sentence about how publishers have demanded rights in the digital world they never had in the analog world. Here I have more useful criticism than – “it doesn’t feel right – rewrite it.” I would change:

Digital technology, networks, and content are ubiquitous.  The public expects to have access content at any time. Libraries are equally demanding in their expectation—they expect to acquire or access content for their users and serve their information needs.


Digital technology, networks, and content are ubiquitous and have radically altered the expectations of the public and publishers.  The public expects to have access to any content at any time. Publishers are equally demanding in their expectation – they expect to control and charge for every use of their material. They want to make the First Sale Doctrine a dead letter in the digital world. Libraries, by contrast have mostly been stable in their expectations —they want to continue the work of lending to users and to other libraries in the digital world that they could lawfully do in paper.

I hope that these comments have been helpful. If you would like to read and comment on the draft, visit http://connect.ala.org/node/223944. An e-mail address is available there if you are not a member of ALA Connect. I will also pass along any comments made here.

I’m also willing to listen if your view of this interpretation is different from mine.



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Two new pages that might be useful to you

Attention ALA and govdoc geeks! I’ve added two pages that while they’re mostly for me, might be useful to you:

In both cases, these are lists of links I found myself looking for a lot and my various browser bookmarks did not satisfy me.

Unless you are really interested in the inner workings of ALA or the Federal Depository Library Program, these links may not do much for you.

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