ALA Council III – New Award and Daniel’s Series of Unexpected Events

The news out of ALA Council III that likely matters most to the greatest number of people is yes, the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity is real. No, I don’t know how to get onto the jury. But I will pass that along when I know. Information about the award will eventually be posted to ALA’s Awards page.

Now, for the rest of Council III:

Memorials, Tributes and Testimonials,
Barbara K. Stripling, ALA President

We had a moment of silence as ALA President Barbara Stripling read the names of those who had left us since the last conference and who had a memorial resolution written for them:

Memorials

  • Augusta “Gussie” Clark, M-#1
  • Major Owens, M-#2
  • Nasser Sharify, M-#3
  • Bohdan Stephan Wynar, M-#4 (Word Document)

Then we acknowledged the following tributes:

  • Resolution Honoring Giovanni’s Room Bookstore and Owner Ed Hermance, T-#1
  • Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV for His Support of America’s Libraries (CD 20.4/T-#2)

As noted in my last post, I will never object to a tribute or memorial unless there is strong evidence the individual acted strongly against the interest of ALA or libraries in general.

Reports of ALA/Council Committees

Report of the Election Tellers, ALA CD#11.2

This report was to give us the result of the election of ALA’s Executive Board. Board members have staggered terms and some are elected each year at Midwinter. Our new Executive Board members are:

Mike Marlin was elected to fill out the unexpired term of Sylvia K. Norton, recently appointed executive director of the ALA American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The others were elected to a three-year term. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating our new Executive Board members.

Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC)
J. Douglas Archer, Chair, ALA CD#19-19.2

ALA committee reports sometimes have resolutions in them. These get debated and voted on by Council. They also usually represent hours of work by the relevant committees. Despite this, Council does not always treat committee resolutions as inviolate.

In this session, Chair Douglas Author asked us to consider the joint IFC/COL resolution,  CD 19.1 / 20.1 Resolution on Curbing Government Surveillance and Restoring Civil Liberties.

This resolution’s resolves originally stated:

Resolved, that the American Library Association:

1. calls upon Congress to pass legislation supporting the reforms embodied in H.R. 3361/S.1599 as introduced, and upon the President to sign such legislation; and

2. commends Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman James Sensenbrenner for sponsoring the USA FREEDOM Act, the 143 legislators in the Senate and the House who have co-sponsored it, and the 85 organizations that have endorsed it, as of January 27, 2014.

Councilor at Large Bernie Margolis called for the resolution to be divided because the two paragraphs do very different things.

Resolutions may be divided if Council consents and we did so. I don’t know Councilor Margolis’ motives, but I was very happy for the split as the Committee on Legislation has been lecturing us on how resolutions are policy statements and mentioning specific names weakens them. If I see such “commends” paragraphs in future resolutions, I will also ask them to be split and move that they be turned into a tribute resolution. Unless someone beats me to it.

As only a few people could be found to support a nationwide dragnet of surveillance, little discussion ensued and we voted on each part.

I voted YES on paragraph 1 because systematic relentless spying is bad and the USA Freedom Act is a step away from this. A teeny, tiny baby step that may well be ignored like other laws, but a step.

I voted ABSTAIN on paragraph 2 because we weren’t offered an opportunity to make paragraph 2 a tribute resolution. So I wasn’t going to vote yes, but because I was open to a tribute resolution, I wasn’t going to vote no.

The next resolution from the IFC committee report was
CD 19.2 Resolution on Expanding Federal Whistleblower Protection.

This resolution urges Congress to amend the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 to extend existing legal protections for whistleblowers to employees of all national security and intelligence agencies, and to non-federal employees working for civilian contractors.

Were this already in place, Edward Snowden would have had legal avenues to share his concerns over the extent of NSA surveillance. It also seems like a good idea because the number of government contractors dwarfs the number of actual government employees.

While ALA seems determined not to name ANY whistleblowers lately, protecting whistleBLOWING enjoyed wide support. I voted with a large majority to approve this resolution. Whistleblowing touches on both privacy and access to information. As such I find it appropriate material for ALA.

In non-resolution news, the Intellectual Freedom Committee is expanding. It will now include three members of the Committee on Legislation as the two committees seem to be working in similar areas these days. The committee is also updating their Intellectual Freedom Manual.

Committee on Legislation (COL)
Vivian R. Wynn, Chair, ALA CD#20-20.4

The COL report had a resolution I deeply cared about because I used to have a day job as a government documents librarian. The resolution was 20.3 Resolution on Maintaining Government Websites During a Government Shutdown. The “resolves” section is on page two of the COL report.

The resolution had been worked on for a while and I do want to thank COL for bringing it forward. The final committee draft was brought to us the night before in Council Forum II. I wished I’d expressed some of my uneasiness then – particularly that the resolution appeared to be absolving libraries of any responsible for managing information during a shutdown, but also that the last sentence in Resolve 1 (bolding mine) read:

continued access by the public to essential information on agency websites is an “excepted” activity that would warrant the retention of personnel or the obligation of funds to assure access;

appeared to imply that government webmasters COULD go without pay during a shutdown. I didn’t think we should ask them to do this without libraries making a committee to do their part (LOCKSS, Internet Archive, printouts of key documents, etc).

Talking to Coral Sheldon-Hess, at-Large from Alaska, I found that she had additional concerns with the first paragraph. By the time I got home from Council Forum II, I decided to make an amendment, contacted Coral via Twitter and got her to agree to be a cosponsor and wrote colleagues (admittedly at midnight) about my intention to offer an amendment. I also referred them to Jim A. Jacob’s  Free Government Information post on the difference between e-government and government information and why libraries have a vital role in preserving the latter.

As I’m thinking “TL:DR” with every passing line, I will spare you the full parliamentary maneuvering and discussion points. Suffice it to say:

  • My amendment resulted in MUCH more debate than I had anticipated.
  • This is an understandbly emotional issue for federal and military employees past and present.
  • Most librarians do not support indentured servitude.
  • At one point, debate turned into a motion to refer the entire resolution back to COL. This greatly distressed me and I spoke against it.
  • The vote to refer failed, but by the smallest margin I had seen at any of the three council sessions. We literally had to stand and be counted.
  • My amendment quickly failed after that.
  • Lauren Comito offered a one word amendment that addressed nearly all of my concerns but not Coral’s. Lauren suggest we put “paid” in front of personnel. With all but a few counselors voting in favor, the amendment carried and I was very grateful.
  • The resolution as a whole passed with my support but not Coral’s. I respect her vote and we’re still friends.

My key takeaway from this is that I need to attend meetings of COL and GODORT leg whenever I can. I might still feel the need to offer floor amendments, but trying to have more influence earlier on is a good idea.

After the resolution passed we had announcements and adjourned. I thought I was going to be berated by Councilors for adding about a half hour to the session, but the people who sought me out tended to compliment me for my willingness to speak up and ask questions.

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