I think John Berry (“Money Talks,” Blatant Berry, LJ 7/13, p. 10) gets it right when he concludes, “I need to find a way to put whatever money I can first behind the values in which I believe and only then into investments I feel will bring the greatest return.”
The American Library Association (ALA) as an organization is not doing that, and it is not alone. The hegemony of blind market dogmatism into all aspects of our lives drives us to subvert all other values to it. The ALA Endowment trustees report to which Berry refers was not only narrowly conceived around financial return on investment, it obfuscated the facts….
The authors of the report try to discredit the one report they cite by suggesting that the authors may have had a conflict of interest. Note they didn’t refer to their own consultants (Merrill Lynch) with any concerns, even though Merrill Lynch has been found guilty of numerous bad practices and illegalities. Aperio Group’s report, which the trustees quote as indicating the risk divestment from fossil fuels “would be relatively minor,” in fact, calculated the portfolio risk of total fossil fuel divestment as 0.01%, while divesting from only the “Filthy Fifteen” fossil fuel companies would have a portfolio risk of 0.0006%!!!
They ignore a growing body of research that finds companies that aim to be socially and environmentally responsible are safer and of equal or better performance (e.g., S. Prakash Sethi, “Investing in Socially Responsible Companies is a Must for Public Pension Funds—Because There Is No Better Alternative,” Journal of Business Ethics, 56 (2): 99-129. 2005).
More responsible organizations are aligning their mission and values with their investment decisions—see Hampshire College, F.B. Heron Foundation, U.N. Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), etc. ALA’s approach, like too many universities and other institutional investors, looks a little like a well-documented exchange of a couple centuries back for 30 pieces of silver. Thanks for shining some light on this disheartening practice.
ALA should sign the global Principles of Responsible Investment and live up to them.
—Terry Link, Political Science & Public Policy Libn., Michigan State Univ., East Lansing
John Berry was disgruntled with the ALA trustees decision not to change their holdings to renewable energies (“Money Talks,” Blatant Berry, LJ 7/13, p. 10). His argument was that an “endowment fund that belongs to a library organization ought to at least adhere, as a matter of policy, to the fundamental core value of that association…. to protect and defend the uninterrupted flow of free information.”
The trustees asked for information about the performance of renewable energies and decided, armed with that free information, that it wasn’t in the best financial interest of the group to make changes at this time. I applaud ALA for not allowing itself to be swayed by a political or social agenda. As a traditionally liberal organization, I am pleased that ALA looked at this from a place of fiscal responsibility.
We, as librarians, have a fiscal responsibility to spend our tax monies, or in this case membership dues, wisely; invest wisely in those things that we know have longevity and value. If, in the future, renewable energy becomes something that is a smart investment, then I will applaud the move.
This has nothing to do with the flow of free information and everything to do with fiscal wisdom.
—Lola E. Snyder, Outreach Coord./Book Bus, Evansville Vanderburgh P.L. IN
I was pleased to see that in “Giving the People What They Want” (Library by Design, Spring 2013, p. 22), about Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), Sarah Bayliss mentioned the community opposition mounted regarding the library board’s efforts to sell Telling Mansion, the current home of the South Euclid–Lyndhurst branch of CCPL….
Telling Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and is an Ohio Landmark. According to CCPL’s own figures, it will cost $5 million to renovate Telling and $12.6 million to build a new library.
You noted our petition. We have filed an injunction and are still in litigation; we want Telling taken off the market.
The CCPL board and [library director]Sari Feldman and other CCPL staff like to trivialize our concerns as sentimental attachment. That is certainly part of it and what’s wrong with that? Beauty and history are important aspects of architecture.
But emotion is only part of the issue. There is the unnecessary expense of $7.6 million and the fact the library is currently next door to the high school and the plan is to move it about 1.5 miles away. CCPL also moved its Mayfield branch from next door to a high school to about two miles away. No bus goes by the new Mayfield library. So social justice is also at play.
From a broader perspective, selling Telling is transferring public wealth to the private sector….
People love their public libraries. Sometimes that love is unrequited….
—Fran Mentch, Cleveland Heights