The ALA Annual Conference in Chicago proved to be another fantastic and interesting time. When I began serving as ALA Councilor in January, former ALA Councilor Steve Butzel told me about the learning curve to participating in the complex workings of the council. He was right. I have included a photo in this report of the council room to give you an idea of the size of council meetings.
I have included what I view as the highlights of the council meetings over the four days of the conference. Each resolution that was voted on by council and a few other interesting bits are listed below. Please let me know if you have questions or would like details regarding anything described here or any issue involving ALA.
At Saturday’s ALA Council and Executive Board Member Information Session, incoming ALA President, Barbara Stripling highlighted her initiative, “a Declaration for the Right to Libraries.” She will be kicking off this national signing campaign in Nashville in early August. The idea behind the campaign is to have legislators, community leaders, and the general public reaffirm their belief that libraries are the center of communities. Virtual and physical signatures will be counted. There is more information here http://www.ala.org/advocacy/declaration-right-libraries.
Council was asked to sign a large copy of the declaration. This could be easily done on the local level at library events with your patrons, trustees, and local politicians. A toolkit will be available to libraries at a later date.
At our first council meeting, we watched a pre-recorded video message to librarians from President Obama regarding the Affordable Care Act and the importance of getting librarians trained to help people get information . On October 1, 2013, people without insurance may be looking to public libraries for assistance. The hope is that libraries will partner with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to get information out to the public. Jackie Garner from the Dept. of Health and Human Services shared that Healthcare.gov is a good place for librarians to start. President Obama reminding us that 85% of Americans will not have to do anything under the Affordable Care Act.
ALA has more information for librarians here: http://www.ala.org/tools/affordable-care-act
Report of the Digital Content and Libraries Working Group
Highlights: All of the big six publishers are engaged with libraries across the country. Not all in an ideal way, but all actively. Questions still remain including whether libraries will be able to get real ownership of e-books and whether publishers will get to a more reasonable price point. The group is starting to focus on preservation issues, but will continue to work on improving the relationship between libraries and publishers.
The working group recommends that librarians read the June 2013, e-content supplement of American Libraries along with looking at the Authors for Library E-Books campaign. http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/a4le
Resolutions that came before Council during the Council Sessions at the Annual Meeting
Resolution in Support of Whistleblower Edward Snowden
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA): recognizes Edward Snowden as a whistleblower who, in releasing information that documents government attacks on privacy, free speech, and freedom of association, has performed a valuable service in launching a national dialogue about transparency, domestic surveillance, and overclassification.
The resolution passed. I voted against the resolution.
I was concerned about the naming of Edward Snowden individually as I am not yet confident in his motivations and felt uncomfortable voting to a resolution offering the association’s full support of Snowden. I am in support of discussion on the issues of privacy and free speech, but haven’t yet decided that Snowden is the one to be commended. However, this resolution would not make it to the end of the conference. Others were also concerned about the language commending Snowden. This resolution was ultimately replaced by another resolution. More details are provided below.
Resolution Reaffirming ALA’s Commitment to Basic Literacy
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:reaffirms and supports the principle that lifelong literacy is a basic right for all individuals in our society and is essential to the welfare of the nation;reaffirms the core value of basic literacy as foundational for people of all ages and is the building block for developing other literacies; encourages appropriate ALA units and Divisions to actively participate in the Association’s Literacy Assembly; and urges appropriate ALA units and libraries of all types to make basic literacy a high priority by incorporating literacy initiatives into programs and services for all users.
The resolution passed. I voted for the resolution.
Lots of conversation on something that seemed fairly obvious and perhaps not particularly necessary, but benign.
Declaration for the Right to Libraries Resolution
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:
1. Endorses the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.
2. Urges that the American Library Association work to support and engage libraries and communities across the country in signing the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.
The text of the Declaration is available at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/Declaration.pdf
Many councilors spoke in support of this resolution — another bit of a no brainier.
Resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution on Digitization of US Government Documents referred to committee.
Resolution on Prayer in ALA Meetings
Resolved, that the American Library Association adopt as policy the following statement:
The American Library Association, as a secular institution in a country that is increasingly diverse religiously, refrains from having public prayers during its meetings. Moments of silence may be observed during meetings.
Council approved the resolution. I voted in favor of the resolution.
Council next considered the Resolution in Support of Whistleblower Bradley Manning. A motion was made to refer the resolution to the Committee on Legislation and the Intellectual Freedom Committee. The motion to refer was approved.
Resolution on Library Service in a Community in a Disaster.
Resolved that the American Library Association on behalf of its members:
1. Acknowledges that many libraries across the country have provided library and emergency services in disasters including storms, fires, earthquakes and floods and applauds those actions;
2. Recognizes the significant contributions of libraries and library staff who have provided effective emergency response/recovery services, and responded to the needs of their communities following hurricanes Sandy and Irene in ways that go above and beyond the regular call of duty;
3. Sends a letter acknowledging the work and contributions of libraries and library staff to the State Chapters in the affected states to be passed on to the appropriate parties and ensure that such a letter is sent whenever libraries lead community recovery.
The resolution passed. I voted for the resolution.
Resolution on Divestment of Holdings in Fossil Fuel Companies.
Resolved that the American Library Association, on behalf of its members, begin divesting in the fossil fuel industry by excluding our three holdings in the “Filthy Fifteen” named in the Endowment Trustees’ Information Report to BARC that have “little or no significant negative impact” in the short term on ALA.
The resolution was defeated. I voted for the resolution. The resolution failed 56-82.
Council next considered a motion to move Council Document #39 to be reconsidered and referred to the Intellectual Freedom Committee and Committee on Legislation. This document was the Resolution in Support of Whistleblower Edward Snowden that had been passed at the council session on Saturday. The motion was approved. At Council III on Tuesday morning, the Committee on Legislation and the Intellectual Freedom Committee presented the folllowing replacement resolution,
Resolution on the Need for Reforms for the Intelligence Community to Support Privacy, Open Government, Government Transparency, and Accountability.
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA):
1. Reaffirms its unwavering support for the fundamental principles that are the foundation of our free and democratic society, including a system of public accountability, government transparency, and oversight that supports peoples right to know about and participate in our government;
2. In light of present revelations related to NSA’s surveillance activities conducted pursuant to orders issued by the Foreign Intelligent Surveillance Court (FISC) under Sections 215 and 702 of the USA PATRIOT Act the American Library Association calls upon the U.S. Congress, President Obama, and the Courts to reform our nation’s climate of secrecy, overclassification, and secret law regarding national security and surveillance, to align with these democratic principles;
3. Urges the U.S. Congress and President Obama to provide authentic protections that prevent government intimidation and criminal prosecution of government employees and private contractors who make lawful disclosures of wrong doing in the intelligence community;
4. Calls upon the public to engage in and our members to lead public dialogues discussing the right to privacy, open government and balancing civil liberties and national security;
5. Encourages the public to support bills and other proposals that both secure and protect our rights to privacy, free expression and free association and promote a more open, transparent government and be further resolved, that
6. Expresses its thanks and appreciation to the members of Congress who work to protect our privacy and civil liberties
A motion to amend the resolution by striking the word “lawful” from #3 passed. Council passed the resolution as amended. I voted yes. I believe this was a much stronger resolution than the original.
Resolution Urging Congress to Designate the Government Printing Office as the Lead Agency to Manage the Lifecycle of Digital United States Government Information
Resolved that the American Library Association (ALA):
1. urges Congress to designate the Government Printing Office the lead agency to develop a United States federal government-wide strategy for managing the lifecycle of digital government publications, documents, information, and web sites;
2. urges Congress to authorize the Government Printing Office to develop and administer standards and procedures for the United States federal government which include rules for dismantling sites and archiving web content, including the preservation of all pertinent data protocols, documentation, and software programs for evaluating and manipulating the content for permanent public access;
3. urges Congress require that the Government Printing Office consult with the United States federal publishing agencies, the National Libraries, and professional library and archiving groups in the development of these standards and procedures;
4. urges Congress provide the Government Printing Office sufficient funding to handle the archiving of web content, to perform its duties on an ongoing basis and additional funding as necessary to fully assist agencies when they are forced to decommission a web site.
Council passed resolution.
Resolution Supporting Librarians Sued for Doing Their Professional Duty
Resolved, that the American Library Association
Most strongly urges publishers to refrain from actions such as filing libel suits when in disagreement with librarians who have publicly shared their professional opinions and instead to rely upon the free exchange of views in the marketplace of ideas to defend their interests as publishers.
Council passed the resolution. I voted in favor of the resolution.
Council next considered the Resolution to Decrease Printing for Council Meetings.
Resolved, that the American Library Association, on behalf of its members:
Requests that the ALA Executive Director develop and implement an opt-in program for Councilors to elect to receive electronic-only Council documents and reduce the number of regularly printed copies of documents.
After some discussion concerning the availability of reliable wi-fi at council sessions, the resolution passed. I voted yes.
I have not included the reports presented by various committees to council. For those who are interested, I can email copies of any committees reports to you. They are all eventually available at ala.org as well. However, outgoing ALA treasurer, Jim Neal had some recommendations for the organization in his report which are worth offering here as presented. As of May 2013, ALA has a projected deficit of $1.9 million. There have been budget adjustments including a delay to the budgeted 1% adjustment to base salary for staff and a continuation of not filling vacant positions (33 since 2008). He requested approval of the ALA FY2014 Budgetary Ceiling of $63,944,617. Council approved the FY2014 Budgetary Ceiling.
Jim’s recommendations for the organization are:
1. Implement budget reductions more strategically and less opportunistically
2. Align resources with its vision, mission and strategic plan
3. Refresh thinking about the relationships between ALA and its divisions
4. Stop relying on revenue generated by its traditional business
5. Improve organizational productivity
6. Move to more program and project based budgeting processes
7. Understand that a robust investment strategy is essential
8. Move to more e-participation
9. Generate and launch new initiatives in manageable fashion
10. Focus on membership retention and recruitment
11. Develop business plans grounded in research, analysis, and assessment
12. Identify trends
13. Maintain a commitment to rigorous financial controls
14. Advance a program of ALA staff compensation increases
15. Always present the fiscal truth to members
16. Focus on member value and member engagement
Not bad ideas to consider.
And finally, total conference attendance was an impressive 26362 (including exhibitors.)
Please do let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding the work of ALA and the ALA Council.
NH ALA Councilor, 2013-2015
Lebanon Public Libraries