July 24, 2014

Feedback: Letters to LJ, February 15, 2014 Issue

“Shame on ALA for becoming one of the most hypocritical organizations…. Speech codes are the moral equivalent of book banning”

ALA hypocrisy

Okay, let me see if I’ve got this right. Banning books is bad, but banning certain types of speech at American Library Association (ALA) conferences is okay (Andromeda Yelton, “Why ALA Needs a Code of Conduct”)?

Shame on ALA for becoming one of the most hypocritical organizations in the world. Speech codes are the moral equivalent of book banning.

—Jeffrey Beall, Assoc. Prof., Scholarly Initiatives Libn., Auraria Lib., Univ. of Colorado, Denver

ALA needs that code

I’m not sure why this is so difficult for people, mainly men, to grasp, but no one is banning you from saying or doing anything (Andromeda Yelton, “Why ALA Needs a Code of Conduct”).

What the CoC does is put in place tools so if you choose to say inappropriate things to me, touch me, harass me, or anything else without my explicit consent, I can and will use the tools at hand to make sure that you are served the consequences of your actions.

So, yes, please feel free to throw disparaging comments my way, but freedom of speech does not protect you from freedom of consequence.

I also do not know why, again, mainly men feel that a person’s right to safety in any context gets superseded by their demands for some incorrect notion of “freedom.” I don’t think “freedom of speech” means what you think it means (or what it even means legally). If you want to trot out the tired argument, as Will Manley did, that people like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, et. al., would not be allowed at ALA conferences, let me remind you that by purchasing a ticket to their shows, you, the viewer, are consenting to the show itself. You have a choice of whether or not you want to hear what these comedians/entertainers, etc., have to say. Comparing the works of these fine men to everyday harassment is not even remotely close or could even be parallel as there is no consent or implicit agreement or choice in what is being thrown my or anyone else’s way.

And please tell me what it is you are so dying to say that is going to be “banned” under the CoC? Really, enlighten me in what situation you find yourself that your professional manner is going to be under attack that you cannot say anything at all without the CoC being slapped on you.

I’m waiting.

—Lisa Rabey, Systems & Digital Libn., Grand Rapids, MI

Join an ALA committee

I’m not quite sure what to make of Cheryl LaGuardia’s remark about serving on an American Library Association (ALA) committee (“Why Would I Go to ALA?,” Not Dead Yet).

Many of us look at it more as serving on a divisional committee for the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) or the Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA), which is closer to our personal interests. She suggests that getting engaged as a committee member is somehow a poor use of time and a less than worthwhile reason to attend an ALA conference.

Yet committee participation serves many of the reasons LaGuardia lists. Being on a committee is a great way to meet new colleagues with similar interests. You can learn when you participate in your committee’s programming. You can network through your committee. Not every ALA engagement opportunity should be thrown in with serving on ALA Council (if that’s your example of ALA committee work). You could join an ACRL interest group or discussion group—not quite as formal as a section committee but offering many opportunities for conference engagement. If LaGuardia’s remark was intended to knock ALA committee participation, I’d encourage librarians to take a different perspective. It’s not for everyone, but I’d say, “Don’t knock it until you try it” (and if you did and it wasn’t that great, try taking more of a leadership role to make it better for others).

I’d also encourage a slightly different view from “doing some kind of presentation [that] will get you noticed.” It might, but I’d hope presenters will have more of an “it’s not about me getting noticed, it’s about contributing to a much better ALA experience…whether I get noticed or not.” But I agree that there are lots of great resources out there—some of which LaGuardia points to—and they can help with the preparation process. Just go into it with the right mind-set and things should go well.

—Steven Bell, Assoc. Univ. Libn., Temple Univ., Philadelphia

Memories of Major

While attending the School of Library Service (alas, now defunct) at Columbia University during the years 1979–80, I had the privilege of meeting Major Owens when he came to speak to one or two of my library science classes (John Berry, “Major Owens,” Blatant Berry, LJ 12/13, p. 10)…. I was only dimly aware of his…activities back then, but…I have read of Owens’s legislative and social efforts. He is a great model…but to know he was “one of us” librarians makes me proud…. Rest in peace, Major Owens.

—Tim Dodge, Reference Libn. Auburn Univ., AL

This article was published in Library Journal's February 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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