Al Kagan’s report to SRRT on ALA Council, Midwinter Meeting, Seattle ’07
ALA Council Report to SRRT, Midwinter 2007
Greetings once again to SRRT members, old and new. Following up on our previous successes, in Seattle we introduced a resolution aimed at lobbying the Congress to defund the Iraq War. The resolution referenced our past successful resolutions since 2003, which addressed securing Iraqi cultural resources and rebuilding libraries; opposing torture; opposing disinformation, media manipulation and the destruction of public information; and for getting the US military out of Iraq. Unfortunately, after much debate, the resolution failed 98 to 48. Although we had some unlikely supporters speak to it, the Council was just not ready to take this next logical step. Almost everyone we talked with was in favor on a personal level, but there is a disconnect between their personal views and their professional lives. We just have to work harder to connect our issues and break down these barriers to fundamentally change our society.
As I said on the Council floor, one of the nice things about meeting in new places is that we meet new folks who may want to participate in ALA for the first time. Some folks in the Seattle Public Library union crafted an excellent resolution on the reasons for impeaching President George W. Bush. SRRT endorsed it and we took it to the Council. Jonathan Betz-Zall took the lead as Washington State Chapter Councilor. This was a positive development on the one-hand but very disheartening to see the reaction of the Council. To my knowledge, the ALA Council has never precluded debating anything brought before it. Unfortunately in this case, someone came to the microphone to do just that. A councilor asked for a ruling on whether this resolution was appropriate business for ALA. President Burger consulted with the Parliamentarian who advised her to ask the body. When she did, a majority of hands went up and she ruled the item out of order. An immediate rebellion followed. Councilor Bernadine Abbott-Hoduski made an impassioned speech against self-censorship followed by several others including one councilor who said she had not realized what she was doing when she raised her hand. President Burger then overruled herself and we debated the resolution. Progressive councilors were themselves divided on this one. Several, including Bernadine, stated their opinion that tying up the Congress with impeachment was the wrong way to go, and that we needed the Congress to act to try to right some wrongs from the current Administration. In the end, only about ten councilors voted for the resolution.
There were several other important resolutions. The Council voted in support of immigrants (legal or otherwise) by opposing any legislation that infringes on the rights on anyone in the USA to use library resources, programs, and services on the national, state, and local levels. Evidently, many public libraries currently exclude undocumented immigrants from various services. Hopefully, local activists might be empowered to change this situation. Thanks to REFORMA for bringing this to our attention through the Committee on Legislation (COL).
The Council also approved two other items from the COL report. The first urged the Congress to amend the Copyright Act to facilitate use of “orphan works” if the user has made a good faith effort to locate the owners. The other urged governments at all levels to support the role of libraries in providing electronic government and emergency response services.
For the first time in my memory, the Intellectual Freedom Committee did not present any resolutions for consideration. The International Relations Committee had only one non-controversial action item, the appointment of an ALA representative to the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield. The Blue Shield was established in 1996 as an international organization to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by wars and natural disasters. The U.S. Committee was formed in 2006.
There was one other ALA Council resolution of note. Several progressive councilors introduced a resolution to follow-up on ALA’s continuing relationship with the Boy Scouts of America National Council (BSA). ALA Council had resolved at the Midwinter 1999 meeting to cut its formal relationship with the BSA because of their explicit homophobia and discrimination based on religious affiliation. These councilors pointed to a liaison listed on the website of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). The ALSC Councilor defended its practice and said this did not constitute an official relationship. In the end, Council decided to put this on hold until the Council could receive an official response from ALSC, which will happen at the annual meeting in Washington, DC.
Finally, the ALA-APA (Allied Professional Association) easily passed a resolution endorsing a nonbinding minimum salary of not less than $40,000 for professional librarians.
As usual, I will be happy to try to answer any questions.