ALA Midwinter: Council

In Dallas for ALAMW12

I’m going to break up my ALA report into two posts centered around my two main responsibilities at Midwinter: ALA Council and LITA Board of Directors. This is the Council post. I’d only been to Dallas to visit with family before, so this was my first significant visit to downtown Dallas. The thing that surprised me most (but really shouldn’t have) was how it wasn’t particularly walkable. This hotel was just across the street from the convention center, but once I left the building, it was still a 20 minute walk to get there!

But on to Council: this was a quiet meeting. When you’re on council you have three main meetings (one of which is scheduled for 4 hours), two evening meetings that are optional but highly recommended, and a number of other events that are a good idea to attend though not expected (such as the candidate’s forum for the upcoming ALA Presidential election). I was struck at this meeting that the three scheduled meetings went more quickly than I would have expected. Some of this is because significant discussion took place in other venues (the evening optional forums), but some of it was because people were focused on getting through the agenda. Several conversations seemed like they could have gone on a bit, but instead the conversation died out and then there was a vote. Here are the major items of news from ALA Midwinter 2012 Council meetings:

  • We had a brief discussion about whether it makes sense to continue having ALA-APA anymore. This is a significant issues, so discussion will continue through Annual.
  • There is a petition at Whitehouse.org to “Ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program.” Please consider signing it! They’re only looking for about 2000 more signatures! You do need to register with the site first, but it is really quick!
  • There is a new digital content working group that is looking into econtent issues. They just convened at Midwinter for the first time.
  • We voted in support of the programmatic priorities for the coming year. They are: diversity; equitable access to information and library services; education and lifelong learning; intellectual freedom; advocacy for libraries and the profession; literacy; organizational excellence; and transforming libraries.
  • We voted on honorary memberships–the highest honor ALA bestows. We also elected new Executive Board members.
  • We got an in-depth report from the ALA Treasurer on the Neal-Schuman acquisition. This was funded out of publishing rather than dues.
  • Membership is down, but is close to 60,000. We can also expect 1000 members or so a year to shift into continuing membership rather than active dues payers. To get this benefit one has to have been an ALA member for 25 years and be retired.
  • ALA is working on a planned giving campaign.
  • The Intellectual Freedom Committee proposed a resolution condemning the removal of educational materials in connection with the elimination of Mexican American Studies classes in the Tucson (AZ) Unified School District. This was one of the issues discussed at length in one of the evening meetings. After surprisingly little discussion on the floor, it passed:

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association:
1. Condemns the suppression of open inquiry and free expression caused by closure of ethnic and cultural studies programs on the basis of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
2. Condemns the confiscation and restriction of access to educational materials associated with ethnic and cultural studies programs.
3. Urges the Arizona legislature to pass HB 2654, “An Act Repealing Sections 15- 111 and 15-112, Arizona Revised Statutes; Relating to School Curriculum.”

  • The ALA Committee on Legislation proposed a resolution opposing the Research Works Act and reaffirming support for the NIH public-access policy and it’s expansion to other federal agencies and departments. They also proposed a resolution on PIPA and SOPA and one on loss of government information. All passed:

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association:

1. Urge the US Congress to reject the Research Works Act, H. R. 3699, because it not only threatens future public access to federally funded research, but also nullifies the public access already provided to NIH peer-reviewed journal manuscripts.
2. Reaffirm its support for the expansion of the NIH public-access policy to other federal agencies and departments.

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association:

1. Urge Congress to reject both the S. 968, PIPA bill int eh US Senate and HR 3261, SOPA bill in the US House of Representatives because they compromise such fundamental rights as free speech, intellectual freedom, and privacy in an attempt to target foreign websites and combat online infringement overseas.
2. Oppose any legislation that compromises ALA’s core principles and stifles the dynamic, innovative potential of the global Internet.

RESOLVED, That the American Library Association:

1. Urge US Congress to restore funding to ensure permanent no-fee public access to aggregated sources of government information.
2. Urge the establishment of a mandated process with adequate notification to include the opportunity for public notice and comment with consultation by librarians, researchers, small businesses and other appropriate stockholders before decisions are made to discontinue access to current or historical information resources when the federal government intimates, significantly modifies, or terminates information products.
3. Urge Congress to require that agencies discontinuing access to current or historical information resources transfer the content and related functionality to the US Government Printing Office or the republic institutions that can ensure continued no-fee digital access to this information.
4. Urge Congress to improve the federal government’s policies and capabilities for making government information available to the public in an open, timely, participatory, and transparent manner.

  • Councilors brought forth a Resolution on Publishers and Practices Which Discriminate Against Library Users. It also passed. I would like to list the resolved clauses, but there was a lot of discussion around the wording and it was changed a bit, and I am unable to find a passed version at this point in time. There was a fair bit of discussion around “discriminate” as well as if we want to oppose “the discriminatory policies” or “any discriminatory policies.” It’s not a perfect resolution, but I voted for it because I do not believe we can just sit by as we have for so long. A good thing that also came of this is: I’m hoping it will spur a colleague into writing a history of the discussion that would be very helpful to us all.

I forget between conferences how much I like serving on Council. It’s tedious, but it’s the big-picture work of the field. It requires keeping tabs on the general work of the profession, but also having detailed knowledge of current issues. I like the process and procedure for getting to decisions and the civilness of the discourse. If anyone has questions about running, let me know!

That’s all for now. More to come tomorrow on LITA Board!