#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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