One Cisgender White Male’s Experience of ALA Code of Conduct

I’m on my way home from the 2014 ALA Midwinter, the first one subject to ALA’s Conference Code of Conduct. For the record, here’s my experience:

  • I had lots of fun, even though as an ALA Council member I often had days that started at 8:30am and ended at 10pm. I wasn’t in meetings that WHOLE time, but I wasn’t staying at a conference hotel and, so crashing in my hotel room between events wasn’t an option.
  • I did not feel like my free speech was impeded. Ask any member of Council or the people I dined with. I did not have any trouble expressing myself.

Did I offer any offense? Maybe, but I won’t know unless you tell me. And I’m open to that.

There were two places where I felt awkward, but in both cases the problem was mine and the remedy would have have been simple – ASK:

1) There was a female friend that I hadn’t seen in years and we approached each other it seemed like we couldn’t quite decide whether we should hug or shake hands and we wound up doing neither. But the the rest of the evening with her and our mutual friends went really, really well. And I (or her) could have taken responsibility and asked, “hug or hand shake?” Both of us have done both with both genders.

2) A female colleague and I got out of a late meeting and needed to get cabs headed in separate directions. As is my practice, mostly with women but also for anyone who really seemed tired or sick, I gave the first cab to my female friend so she wouldn’t have to wait alone in the dark. She asked me if I was sure, and after seeing that I was, got in the cab.

After the cab pulled away, I wondered if I was being paternalistic. I *think* I would have been ok if she told me to take the first cab and I know I wouldn’t have pushed. But if it had been daytime, I would have taken the first cab unless the other person seemed very out of sorts. So I am being realistic or paternalistic? Again, this could have been addressed if I had asked “Do you feel safe waiting for another cab by yourself?” and respecting whatever answer I had gotten. In this case, the Code of Conduct was a guide to my thinking rather than a barrier.

Anyway, that was my experience with the ALA Code of Conduct. Again, if you’re at Annual and troubled by something I do, let me know. Chances are good I’m on autopilot and will respond to a course correction.

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