April 20, 2014

Conference Presentation Pulled Web After Vendor Protests, But Opinion Is OK

By LJ Staff

A widely circulated message on librarians’ electronic mailing lists has raised questions about whether participants at library conferences can talk frankly about vendors or post certain files to web pages hosted by entities of the American Library Association (ALA). In a letter to fellow section chairs, Mary A. Hollerich, chair of the Reference and User Services Association’s Management and Operation User Services Section (MOUSS), recounted that the MOUSS Catalog Use Committee (CUC) sponsored a program at the ALA Annual Conference in Toronto. One presenter spoke critically about Ex Libris’s MetaLib product. Ex Libris representatives were “extremely unhappy” with the presentation, Hollerich wrote, and asked to write a rebuttal to the presentation. ALA legal counsel, Hollerich noted, told “RUSA staff that we may not sponsor conference programs or post presentations on the ALA web site that discuss a specific product or vendor–either positively or negatively.” Thus the presentation was pulled from the CUC web site. Mary W. Ghikas, ALA’s senior associate executive director, responded, “There is no prohibition, de facto or de jure, of discussing individual vendors at ALA programs or in ALA publications, as long as the discussion is based on data and evidence advanced. Incorrect facts can lead to a claim of business defamation against the speaker and, in some cases, the sponsor of the forum (e.g., ALA). RUSA withdrew the presentation from the web site because of a dispute over facts.”

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