ALA Midwinter 2016 was my fifth meeting as Alaska’s Chapter Councilor. It was the first ALA where I (and seemingly a third of Council) contended with colds. It was also the first ALA I’ve been at where all three of our formal Council sessions ended in less than an hour.
So I’ve decided to do one blog post covering highlights of all three sessions of Council. Nearly all documents from MW have now been posted to http://www.ala.org/aboutala/council-documents-midwinter-and-annual-conference-2016
Council I – Sunday 1/10/2016
Review of Executive Board Actions Since the 2015
Annual Conference, Keith Michael Fiels,
ALA Executive Director and ALA Secretary of Council,
Implementation of the 2015 ALA Annual Conference
Council Actions, Keith Michael Fiels,
ALA Executive Director and ALA Secretary of Council,
ALA CD#9_121415-inf and ALA’s Green Efforts, CD#9.1_121815_inf
On a personal note, I liked that ALA did away with plastic badge holders for this conference. Read the implementation report for other measures towards greater sustainability.
Resolution Against Islamophobia, ALA CD#32_1716_act 10
Councilors Christian Zabriskie and Lauren Comito
Because Muslim patrons and staff alike have faced abuse simply for being Muslim, the movers of this resolution felt that a statement from ALA would be helpful. I and the rest of Council agreed and the resolution passed unanimously. I encourage you to read the entire resolution. Here are the resolved clauses:
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:
- recognizes the positive impact that Muslims have made in libraries and library science;
- recognizes the contributions that Muslims have made to information and knowledge in regards to the sciences, mathematics, philosophy, medicine and geography;
- stands with our colleagues, community members and users in speaking out against Islamophobia;
- deplores the hate speech being directed at Muslims from every level of society; and
- issues a public statement condemning Islamophobia and standing with our Muslim colleagues and users.
Council II – Monday 1/11/2016
Agenda (Word Doc)
Council II was short in part because both scheduled resolutions (conference accessibility and renaming “Illegal Aliens” to “Undocumented Immigrants” were pulled from the floor by their movers in response to feedback given at the previous night’s Council Forum. Both resolutions would return at Council III.
Policy Monitoring Committee CD#17
ALA Councilor Vicky Crone, Chair, ALA
This report contained two action items of a bookkeeping nature, which were accepted unanimously. The ALA Policy Monitoring Committee’s duty is to put approved documents and resolutions into the proper places in the ALA Policy Manual. It makes no policy of its own.
Constitution and Bylaws Committee CD#25
James R. Rettig, Chair,
This report had a single action item. To approve the ALA affiliation of the Joint Council of Librarians of Color. It passed unanimously with no discussion.
This report had two action items. See report for details.
Item I – Name change for OLOS – Passed unanimously
Item 2 – GSLIS dean or director slot on accredition cmte – passed unanimously
I regarded both these action items as housekeeping, so voted yes.
International Relations Committee CD#18
Leslie B. Burger, Chair,
This report had no formal action items, though Chair Burger asked us to publicize the fact that the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) conference is in the United States this year. If you’d like to meet colleagues from around the world but find it difficult to leave the country, consider going to this conference in Columbus Ohio from August 13-19, 2016.
Freedom to Read Foundation Report CD#22
Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., FTRF President
President Jefferson briefly highlighted several cases that Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) is involved in, including a few surveillance cases. He also highlighted FTRF’s role in education through the Krug fund and introduced Jamie LaRue, new FTRF Executive Director.
FTRF sees several developing issues in the coming year: diversity, expression on college campuses, anti-islam and national security.
FY2017 Programmatic Priorities CD#13.1
Mario M. Gonzalez, ALA Treasurer
Although developed elsewhere with input from across ALA, Council is asked to provide formal approval of programmatic priorities used to develop the ALA Budget. This year’s approved programmatic priorities are:
- Advocacy for Libraries and the Profession
- Education and Lifelong Learning
- Equitable Access to Information and Library Services
- Intellectual Freedom
- Organizational Excellence
- Transforming Libraries
These priorities were accepted unanimously, as they usually are. I voted yes because it was a group effort and I found nothing objectionable about these priorities. I think ALA has more to do in the area of “Education and Lifelong Learning” for its members.
Council III – Tuesday 1/12/2016
Agenda (Not latest copy, but includes all but resolutions)
- Shereen Marx
- Kuang-Hwei (Janet) Lee-Smeltzer
- Richard C. Fyffe
- Billy Charles Beal
- Allene Farmer Hayes
- Linda Waddle
Kent Slade, Chair
This report gave us the news that our new ALA Executive Board Members are John DeSantis, Karen Downing and Andrew Pace. Congratulations to our new board members and thanks to all candidates for running!
Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) CD#19
Pamela R. Klipsch, Chair,
IFC’s report carried two action items:
19.2 – User Generated Content in Library Discovery Systems
Voted yes – good job by IFC
19.1 – RESOLUTION FOR RESTORING CIVIL LIBERTIES AND OPPOSING MASS SURVEILLANCE
This was the return of two resolutions that had been jammed together in a train wreck at Annual 2015. I strenuously fought against returning the resolution to the committee I thought had gutted it in the first place. But I was wrong to do so. It wound up going to joint working group drawn from the Intellectual Freedom Committee, Committee on Legislation, AND the Social Responsibilities Roundtable. The result was a meaningful resolution that all could vote for in good conscience. It passed unanimously and I was happy to vote yes.
In addition to these two action items, IFC announced a new publication called “In Libris Libertas” which will replace the Intellectual Freedom Newsletter. Submissions are welcome. They also announced the availability of several archived intellectual freedom webinars. See full report for details.
Committee on Legislation (COL) CD#20
Ann Dutton Ewbank, Chair,
Chair Ewbank began her presentation for thanking everyone in their efforts to ensure that the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has provisions to support school libraries. ALA’s District Dispatch had a 12/2/2015 article describing the benefits of ESSA for school libraries.
With the surveillance resolution having been taken care of with the IFC report, COL only had one action items for us:
CD#20.2 – RESOLUTION HONORING JAMES H. BILLINGTON, LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS EMERITUS, JANUARY 2016
The full resolution can be read on page 8 of the Word file of the report. Among other things, I found the resolved problematic:
Extends its deepest appreciation to James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress Emeritus, for his extraordinary service to Congress, libraries and the public and for his nearly three decades of achievement.
I won’t deny that Dr. Billington has had some achievements at the Library of Congress and the ALA resolution correctly honors him for his role in American Memory (1990) and Thomas (1994). But “deepest appreciation” and “extraordinary service” are not appropriate words for a leader whose tenure led to continuous objective criticism of his management, reports of LC employees cheering upon his retirement announcement and that our deeply divided Congress agreed that future Librarians of Congress must be term limited.
I chose not to bring this up on the Council floor because while I believe COL was overgenerous in their praise for Dr. Billington, one has to choose one’s fights wisely and a few informal sounding outs of colleagues led me to believe fighting this relatively harmless (if somewhat fawning and misguided) resolution would be futile and be seen as ungracious. So I stayed silent but voted no. By a colleague’s count, mine was one of just a few hands that kept this tribute from being unanimous.
CD 31 went through several changes as a result to heavy feedback during Council forums. The last version established a Conference Accessibility Task Force with the following charge:
1. Collect data from ALA Members and conference attendees with disabilities;
2. Establish methods for reviewing and addressing accessibility grievances;
3. Draft guidelines for review of contracts to ensure ADA and WCAG compliance;
4. Research best practices for accessibility training and makes a recommendation for implementation;
5. Report progress to Council during the ALA Annual Conference 2016 and ALA Midwinter 2017 and;
6. Make a final report to Council with recommendations during ALA Annual Conference 2017 in Chicago
Mostly supportive discussion. Passed nearly unanimously. I voted yes because there have been complaints about various accessibility issues during Conference that are not consistently addressed. I think establishing a task force is the bare minimum ALA can do.
This resolution asks the Library of Congress to reconsider their denial of a request to change the “Illegal Aliens” subject heading to “Undocumented Immigrants.”
Aside from a move that increases human dignity, the switch would align the Library of Congress with other national libraries like the National Library of Education and the National Library of Medicine, which use the term “Undocumented Immigrants” in their subject headings.
Discussion was universally positive. All but a very few voted in favor of this resolution, as did I.
This resolution asked all chapters and subunits of ALA to join Big ALA in carrying out the “2015 Advocacy Implementation Plan” in hopes that speaking with one voice will help everyone’s advocacy efforts.
I was not able to find the final version online, but a Council colleague found a draft version from April 2015. I abstained at the vote because while I felt what we were being asked to do was vague I didn’t feel like casting a vote against advocacy. Once I’ve refreshed my memory on the plan, I may have a different opinion. I will also be taking it to the Alaska Library Association E-Council for consideration.
And that’s what I did at my last Midwinter as Alaska’s Chapter Councilor. My final meeting as Alaska’s Chapter Councilor will be at Annual in Orlando.