#alaac15 #alacouncil All My Councilor Reports

As the Alaska Chapter Councilor, I blogged about ALA Council sessions as a way of reporting back to my members. I’ve listed all my posts for the 2015 Annual Conference below:

Feel free to post questions or comments here.

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#alaac15 #alacouncil III.2 – Guns. Again

The last topic from Council III of the American Library Association (ALA) 2015 Annual Conference I want to cover is the gun violence resolution we ultimately passed over the objections of me and a handful of other Councilors.

The gun violence resolution story started with our ALA Membership meeting on Saturday, 6/27/2015. This is a place where any member may bring a resolution on any topic. People who attend vote on the resolution. If a resolution passes, Council picks it up for possible endorsement.

The membership resolution on gun violence was narrowly voted down at the membership meeting. I was present at the meeting and voted no for the following reasons:

  • I do not see a consensus across membership on the desirability of gun control.
  • The resolution committed ALA to fight for federal gun control laws. I think it has enough on its plate with library/privacy/copyright issues.
  • I felt chapters in Red states would feel the brunt of legislative anger on this issue.

Others thought the resolution went too far in condemning gun owners and/or felt it was too broadly written.

I thought that was the end of it. But the sponsor, a Councilor, brought the resolution to Council. She started by gathering feedback on why it failed. Then she and others rewrote the resolution to narrow it down. Now it would only commit ALA to advocating open carry opt out for libraries. This came after a number of personal accounts of intimidation through open carry.

After reworking, it was brought to us at Council III in the form of CD#45 Resolution on Gun Violence. It was amended a few times to tone down more of the “evil gun owner” rhetoric and to put ALA in the position of assisting state chapters in opposing library open carry.

A member of the Committee on Legislation pointed out that open carry laws were a state issue and that ALA did not have the resources to lobby on a state level. I completely agreed with that. I used my debate time to point out that it should be up to the state chapters whether to take up this issue without input from Big ALA. One of the supporters for the resolution, who spoke before I did, likened a states-right argument to support for segregation back in the 1960s. I politely disagreed.

In the end, only about five of us out of 150ish voted against the resolution, which passed overwhelmingly. When I become aware of a link to the amended resolution, I’ll share it.

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#alaac15 #alacouncil III.1 – THAT’S NOT WHAT WE MEANT!/Recommendations for COL

In my first post on the 2015 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Council III, I focused on what we easily came to agreement on. In this post I’ll talk about a proposed mass surveillance resolution, one of two issues that generated a lot of debate and close votes.

At Council I, we were brought CD#42, Resolution Against Mass Surveillance of the American People. It was a strongly worded resolution that while acknowledging some recent modest reforms called on the US Federal Government to repeal several specific pieces of surveillance legislation. The actions requested mirrored what traditional ALA allies ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation had requested of Congress earlier in June.

After some discussion trying to ascertain whether ALA’s Committee on Legislation (COL) had this resolution as a formal referral, Council formally referred CD#42 to a joint COL/Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC). They promised a response by Council III, if not by Council Forum II.

At Council Forum II, the acting chairs brought a substitute resolution for discussion. The substitute resolution was now titled “RESOLUTION ON THE PASSAGE OF THE USA FREEDOM ACT AND REAFFIRMING ALA’s COMMITMENT TO SURVEILLANCE LAW REFORM” The full text of the substitute resolution can be found on page 6 of CD#20.2-20.3 ALA Committee on Legislation Report to Council 2015 Annual Meeting that they submitted for Council III.

I was appalled and I don’t think I was alone. The only thing that remained of the original resolution was the acknowledgement of the passage USA FREEDOM Act. The original resolution had been a call to action and documented how far we still had to go. The “substitute” spent most of its time praising the courage of Congress members for passing the USA Freedom Act. In other words, the resolution went from a petition for specific actions to an “atta-boy” for Congress. Orally we were told that we working with a number of partners and had to step carefully together. Those partners were not named.

I and at least three others told the acting chairs we could not accept the resolution in its current form. Much discussion ensued but I got the impression that COL had made its last, best offer on the subject.

Council III was the next morning. We received COL’s report mentioned above, which also contained information about activities they had conducted since Midwinter 2015. There was no written explanation in the report for why the resolution had changed, just a recommendation to accept the substitute. The acting chairs of COL and IFC highlighted how much work their committees had put into the substitute, implying that should be good enough for us.

Had they simply listed their reasons for opposing CD#42 and recommended a no vote, OR if they had followed expectations and brought back a resolution that honored the intent of what they were sent but softened its edges and kept its specificity, I might have accepted their report. But getting something back that reversed the intent of what they had been sent? With no substantial explanation?

No way.

My hope was for a quick debate leading to a vote on the substitute, which I hoped would be defeated. Then we could turn to the original resolution and give it a few tweaks, like including stronger thanks for the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act.

But that was not to be. Instead, we wound up amending the COL resolution to append all of the resolved clauses of CD#42 (the original resolution). This led to more confusion, lots of additional discussion and finally to a motion to refer the hybrid resolution back to COL.

I really thought that this was pointless as did a number of other Councilors. After all, COL had the text of both resolutions already and had decided on the language they preferred which was unacceptable to a Council majority. In the end, the Council voted to refer but by a margin narrow enough to force another stand up count. So we ought to get the resolution back by Midwinter 2016.

I recognize the need for an overall Committee on Legislation within ALA. We are a huge organization and we do a lot of lobbying on the federal level. COL and the Washington Office monitor the mood of Congress as well as the different policy pieces of ALA. I get that resolutions needed to be reviewed, vetted and sometimes changed to ensure accurate information is being cited and that we’re not pissing off Members of Congress for no good reason.

I also believe that COL comes off as high-handed and imperial, arrogating to itself the role of the one voice of ALA on legislative issues. I and some other ALA members believe that COL can sometimes give the impression that it’s defending Members of Congress from the riff-raff of ALA members and lefty-Councilors rather than assisting Council in the policy Council wishes to set.

Finally, I believe that COL members don’t wish to be seen this way. If they’d like COL to be seen as a partner rather than ruler of the legislative realm, here are I few things I think they ought to do. I hope that other Councilors and members will chime in with whether these are good ideas and add ideas of their own.

Recommendations for COL:

1) Work with the appropriate ALA units to implement a “pre-referral” process for resolutions. Council I is clearly too late to give COL enough time for a complex resolution. We knew that a resolution on mass surveillance was coming for weeks. There ought to be a process for submitting legislative-themed resolutions to COL prior to each conference. Perhaps a two week cutoff?

2) Offer written explanations of why you oppose certain resolutions. If COL feels that a resolution submitted to them is fatally flawed and must be completely reworked, we in Council deserve a detailed explanation of why this is the case, especially if you’ve located factual errors in the resolution or believe it is impossible to carry out. If you refer to the work of partners, tell us which ones and what they’re doing – as long as these are public partners and actions.

3) Consider issuing a “Recommend a no vote” instead of an unrecognizable “substitute” that has no resemblance to what you were sent. I acknowledge you did put a lot of work into the substitute CD#42. But it was wasted work because you reversed the intent of the original resolution. You could have saved yourselves time and trouble if you had simply said – “COL opposes passage of CD#42 on the following grounds …..” and trusted Council to make an informed decision.

References:

ALA Committee on Legislation – http://www.ala.org/groups/committees/ala/ala-lg

What’s Next for Surveillance Reform After the USA Freedom Act, By Neema Singh Guliani, ACLU Legislative Counsel, JUNE 3, 2015 | 6:15 PM,  https://www.aclu.org/blog/washington-markup/whats-next-surveillance-reform-after-usa-freedom-act
USA Freedom Act Passes: What We Celebrate, What We Mourn, and Where We Go From Here, JUNE 2, 2015 | BY CINDY COHN AND RAINEY REITMAN,  https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/05/usa-freedom-act-passes-what-we-celebrate-what-we-mourn-and-where-we-go-here

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#alaac15 #alacouncil III – Where we agreed

The third Council session of the American Library Association was held during the 2015 Annual Conference on June 30, 2015.  This session featured a number of rare “stand up” votes and highlighted deep divides on how different parts of ALA would like to address legislative issues.

There was so much controversy around two resolutions, I’ll treat them in separate blog posts. Here are things that nearly all of us, including me, agreed to:

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#alaac15 Memorials and Tributes

It is the custom of the Council of the American Library Association to offer tribute and memorial resolutions during every conference. These resolutions are always agreed to as a block. Here are the memorials and tributes we passed at the 2015 Annual Conference:

Memorials:

· Gail A. Schlachter, M-#18 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242172

I knew Gail slightly from her work on Council and on the executive board. She was always friendly and outgoing. We had a nice time trying to find a meeting during the hellishly hot Las Vegas Conference. Many people on Council knew her much better than I did and she will be missed.

· David Cohen, M-#19 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242168

· Charles Benton, M-#20 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242171

· Cynthia D. Clark, M-#21 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242170

· Ruth C. Carter, M-#22 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242169

· William Vernon Jackson, M-#23 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242167

· Elizabeth H. (Betsy) Park, M-#24 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242166

· Floyd C. Dickman, M-#25 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242165

· Cynthia G. Hurd, M-#26 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242215

· Zoia Horn, M-#27 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242241
·
Tributes:
– Jessie Carney Smith, T-#6 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242164

· 25th Anniversary of the Signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), T-#7 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242163

· 35th Anniversary of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), T-#8 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242162

· Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, MD, T-#9 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242213

· 50th Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities, T-#10 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242242

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#alaac15 #alacouncil II – What? We’re done?

Council II of the American Library Association was held on June 29, 2015 and lasted 40 minutes. This despite reading all the names of Councilors and Executive Board members with expiring teams. Here’s a brief summary of the brief meeting:

International Relations Committee (IRC) 10 Mins.
Loida A. Garcia-Febo, chair, ALA CD#18.2
http://connect.ala.org/node/242208

No action items from this report. IRC is sort of ALA’s State Department with sister library associations worldwide.

Committee on Organization (COO) 10 Mins.
Mary E. Rzepczynski, chair, ALA CD#27.1
http://connect.ala.org/node/242210

This report carried one action item for Council, clarified service term of Treasurer on Budget Audit Review Committee (BARC). Passed overwhelmingly I voted yes because it seemed like a good clarification to me.
Freedom to Read Foundation 10 Mins Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., President, ALA CD#22.1 –
http://connect.ala.org/node/242209 – List of good work by the FTRF, of which I’m proud to be a member.

Our one resolution: –

Resolution on Improving Access to Spanish & Bilingual Books for Children in Detention Center, ALA Councilors Denice Adkins and Mike Marlin,
ALA CD#38 Rev. – http://connect.ala.org/node/242211

Was deferred till Council III at the request of the mover so Committee on Legislation (COL) could offer their input. Council III at Annual is only half the length of Council I & II to accommodate the ALA Presidential Inauguration. The inauguration is held early in turn to accommodate people leaving town on afternoon flights to avoid extra hotel charges.

Council III looks to be jam packed as we will be hearing a potentially controversial mass surveillance resolution that may include an attempt to ward off a COL substitute. My guess is that we’ll use every single second of Council III. Stay tuned!

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#alaac15 #alacouncil I – So you want to have a resolution? Rare debate cut off

On June 28, 2015, the Council of the American Library Association met for Council I during the 2015 Annual Conference in San Francisco. Here are some highlights:

ALA Awards Committee Report, 10 Min.
Councilor Eric D. Suess, Chair, ALA Awards Committee,
ALA CD#7 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242184

We accepted the Awards Committee proposal to establish the Ernest A. DiMattia, Jr. Award for Innovation, and Service to Community and Profession.

While I was surprised this new Award proposal generated no discussion at all, I was fine with voting in favor of this new award.  The award came with five years of funding from the DiMattia family. After five years, ALA will evaluate the usefulness of the award.

Constitution and Bylaws Committee 10 Mins.
James (Jim) R. Rettig, chair, ALA CD#25.1 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242188

We considered what I thought were some simple housekeeping changes to the ALA Constitution. Under our Constitution, ALA Council must pass the same exact text twice at consecutive meetings before a Constitutional change may be put to a vote.

Therefore, in order for the Committee’s proposed change to appear on the 2016 ballot, we would have to pass the proposed text at this conference and then at Midwinter in Boston.

The proposal concerns the circumstances under which subdivisions of ALA can affiliate with outside organization. While I thought this looked like housekeeping, a majority of Council appeared to disagree and the resolution was sent back to the Constitution and Bylaws committee for more work.

I voted with the majority to refer since so many Councilors had concerns. It’s better this way.

Adoption of the ALA Strategic Directions 45 Mins.
Barbara K. Stripling, ALA Immediate Past President
ALA CD#37 – http://connect.ala.org/node/239338 (From May 25, 2015), CD_37 not located on Connect in ALA Council Group

The ALA Strategic Plan was months in the making under the guidance of Past Present Barbara Stripling. As a result of so much work and dialog, the Strategic Directions document passed with a few minor textual changes adopted by unanimous consent.

The document features three overarching activities for ALA:

  • Advocacy
  • Information Policy
  • Professional and Leadership Development

I agree with these area of emphasis. I also think it may be difficult to quantify our progress in these area. I also hope that raising Professional and Leadership Development to a key emphasis area will result in some soul searching for how ALA continuing education can be made more affordable for librarians of modest means and who lack institutional support. I strongly believe that ALA’s current workshop/webinar fee structure is too high.
Review of Executive Board Actions since the 2015 Midwinter Meeting, Keith Michael Fiels,
Executive Director and Secretary to the ALA Council,
ALA CD#15.1-15.2 – http://connect.ala.org/node/241158

Implementation of the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting Council Actions, Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director and Secretary to the ALA Council, ALA CD#9.1 – http://connect.ala.org/node/241162

Resolution on the Importance of Sustainable Libraries, 10 Mins.
ALA President Courtney L. Young, ALA CD#36 – http://connect.ala.org/node/241780

This was a resolution that passed OVERWHELMINGLY at the 2015 Virtual Membership Meeting and I was pleased to be on the large Council majority that passed it. Among other things, it directs the ALA Executive Director to consider sustainable options in meeting planning. I personally hope this leads to more virtual meetings, at least on the committee level. It doesn’t mandate those, but one can hope. As long as it doesn’t lead to the elimination of all face to face meetings. However, I don’t think this is a risk within ALA. We love our personal networking too much.
A Resolution Denouncing the Systemic Racism That Motivated The South Carolina Shootings, ALA President Courtney L. Young, ALA CD#43  – http://connect.ala.org/node/242194
As you might imagine, this resolution generated a lot of discussion. In the end it passed overwhelmingly with only a few changes. One change I’d like to highlight is the substitution of “library staff” for librarians. I am grateful to the many Councilors who remind us to be more inclusive when it comes to talking about staff.

I voted yes because I believe systemic racism is a library issue that affects employment and how we serve our patrons. We have a lot of work to do within the Association and within our libraries. Naming racism within our system is a start. I hope that we’ll be listening to library staff of color on things to do next.
Resolution on Libraries and Schools Affected by the Conflict in Gaza and Israel in 2014, 10 Mins. ALA Councilors Jane Glasby and Al Kagan, ALA CD#40, Rev – http://connect.ala.org/node/242196

Aside from an effort (unsuccessful to me) to make this resolution more evenhanded, this was virtual identical to a resolution that we defeated at Midwinter. The discussion seemed to be the same as well. One side brought out atrocities committed by Israel and cited Hamas sources. The other side brought out atrocities committed by Hamas and cited Israeli sources. Both sides cited UN reports but seemed to claim that the same reports supported their side of the story.

It was not only a mostly “he said/she said” style of debate, it seemed like both sides had the very same talking points from Midwinter. For this reason, I joined a slight majority of Councilors in ending debate. This is a rare move. Usually we want (or are willing) to hear from everyone till the mics are empty. This time, we were debating a previously defeated resolution and rehashing the same arguments.

I voted no on the resolution for the same reasons I had at Midwinter – we were unlikely to affect the behavior of either Israel or Hamas by passing the resolution, but we certainly would have inflicted the wrath of the bipartisan zealously pro-Israel group in Congress. I AM willing to offend Congress when I think it is in the interest of US libraries and patrons to do so. I intend to do so on the upcoming mass surveillance resolution. But the combination of no effect in the Middle East combined with certain and white hot anger in Congress at ALA made me a no on this resolution.

Resolution Against Mass Surveillance of the American People 10 Mins. ALA Councilors Al Kagan and Ed Garcia, ALA CD#42 – http://connect.ala.org/node/242197

There was initial confusion about whether this resolution had been referred to the Committee on Legislation (COL) as it calls for Congress to take action. To be doubly sure, Council voted to refer the resolution to joint COL/Intellectual Freedom Committee. Their report on the resolution is expected by Council III, our shortest Council session. This type of thing seems to be unavoidable year after year.

I’ve heard that COL is producing a substitute resolution that may be much more bland and general than the one proposed by Councilors Al Kagan and Ed Garcia. If that’s the case, I will support the original resolution. We’ve been lied to about government spying for years. It is past time to be up front and specific about measures that scoop up our patrons and coworkers in NSA’s vacuum. Even if that costs us support in Congress.

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