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Upcoming Council Controversies!

As you read this, I’m probably wending my way to New Orleans, soon to be miserable in the tropical heat and French Quarter filth. Why, oh why, does ALA ever have to be in places like New Orleans in June?

If you’re going to be in the NOLA, you’ll definitely want to drop by the ALA Membership Meetings for discussions of four hot resolutions being proposed. Three of them no less are about Wikileaks, and the fourth is on an even more controversial topic: self serve hold practices!

One of the resolutions “Supports the rights of WikiLeaks to publish leaked government documents.” This is partly backed by a clause from the Library Bill of rights stating that “Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.”

Is there any right to publish leaked government documents? What rights are these? Where are they located? If there are no such rights, what exactly would the ALA be supporting?

If there is a right to publish leaked government documents, wouldn’t that right count for all such documents? So if Wikileaks got hold of a NOC list or the locations of witnesses under protective custody, would they have a right to publish that?

The resolution also “Commends the efforts of WikiLeaks to expunge from documents names and other material deemed potentially harmful to innocent people,” but that still begs the question. Who’s doing the “deeming”? Why should anyone always trust Julian Assange is the right person to decide what will and will not harm innocent people?

Or for that matter, why trust him to decide who counts as innocent?

The Library Bill of Rights passage isn’t a great support, either. Classifying government documents isn’t the same thing as abridging free expression and the free access to ideas. If everyone had free access to all government information, we’d all be considerably less safe. You don’t have to trust the government much to acknowledge that.

Another resolution calls for the government “to release Pfc. Bradley Manning from pre-trial confinement and drop the charges against him.”

This one seems slightly more sensible, if you consider Manning as a whistleblower rather than a traitor. The comparison usually made is with Daniel Ellsberg. I wonder if it makes a difference that Ellsberg was an analyst at the Rand Corporation, whereas Manning is a U.S. soldier.

I’d bet removing those documents involved some sort of court martial offense, even if it wasn’t a criminal offense as such. Dropping all the charges seems unlikely, and perhaps unjust.

But the really controversial resolution to be discussed is about self serve holds. Who’d have thunk it!

RESOLVED,  That the American Library Association

1. Urges all libraries to reject library practices and procedures for self-pickup holds that place information or requested materials in public view using patron names and/or other personally identifiable information.

2.  Urges all libraries to protect patron identity by adopting the following practices:

·        Provide  patron  privacy through the use of pseudonyms, codes, numbers, or other means that do not require personally identifiable information

·        Obscure the identity of patron requests and its content  through the practice of packaging items with a full sheet of paper, using an envelope or reusable bag to hold the item, or an equivalent option.

Number 2 is the most specific resolution I’ve ever seen. Number 1 should cover it. We get the idea. This is a product of the Intellectual Freedom Committee, who apparently is hard up for things to get annoyed about.

Those library patrons who pick up their self service holds don’t seem to mind, so why should the IFC?

ALA Council resolutions about non-library subjects are always ignored, as we know. If the Council passes a resolution urging Bradley Manning’s release, he’ll probably end up in a Gulag somewhere.  If the Council passes a resolution supporting Wikileaks, it will probably fold the next day.

But you know it’s bad when even librarians ignore resolutions. It’s a worse sign when Councilors announce in advance that even if the resolution is passed, their library will never change its policies.

So it should be fun watching the discussions about all these pointless resolutions. Maybe none of them will make it up for a vote. That way the Council doesn’t have to embarrass librarians again by passing resolutions no one will pay attention to.

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Comments

  1. Former Library Director says:

    First of all, just like for ALA, it is never “IN THE NOLA” it is simply “IN NOLA”!! Now, it could be “in the Crescent City” or “in the Big Easy”, but never, never, never “in the NOLA”.

    Think about would you have said “in the NYC” or “in the DC”?

    Second of all, as a resident of NOLA, I would say that there is never a bad time to visit NOLA. Well, except right after a hurricane. But even for the last evacuation (Gustav, 2008) there were places in the French Quarter that never shut down.

    As to the dirt…They wash down all the streets in the Quarter every night. The trash is from all the inconsiderate (and often inebriated) tourists.

  2. Library Student says:

    Okay… I live in New Orleans too. June is miserable here. All of summer is miserable here. Flying somewhere that requires walking to different conference destinations in 90 degree heat with crazy humidity is ridiculous. Not to mention the thunderstorms every day at some point…

    Put the conference somewhere that at least has a chance of being pleasant in June!

  3. Retired Librarian says:

    Dear AL…

    The answer to your first question is the same as to why PLA met in Minneapolis in MARCH of 2008. It undoubtedly has something to do with money. That was the only PLA I ever attended and I never went to ALA.

    I’ve been to New Orleans in Sepember and at Mardi Gras. Too many people in the spring, but the weather is better.

    What I did like was going to the International Book Fair in Guadalajara in December. With some limited sponsorship by ALA, it was relatively inexpensive and a wonderful week. Anyone building a Spanish language collection should look into attending; it takes place every year, beginning the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

  4. FMLib says:

    Sure NOLA is hot during the summer months. So is most of the South, most of the Midwest, most of the Eastern seaboard! Where do you want the conference held, in Anchorage? I, for one, never having been to NOLA, am looking forward to the trip.

  5. Fat Guy says:

    What conference DON’T you get to go to and complain about?

  6. CleverMoniker says:

    I approve of these resolutions that will ensure the future efforts to secure library funding for all library types.

  7. AL, take a look at this article:

    American Library Association Supports WikiLeaks Suspect Manning; Librarian Group’s Backing is Not Just for Gay Propagandists Any More,” by Matt Philbin, Media Research Center, 22 June 2011.

    I am happy it cites to my work, but it is really sad to see the ALA’s top leadership lean so far to the left as to lament the opportunity to aid and abet the enemy. Like when Judith Krug said in the New York Times that she was sorry a librarian reported a 9/11 terrorist to the police instead of respecting Florida library privacy law.

    You said, AL, “This one seems slightly more sensible, if you consider Manning as a whistleblower rather than a traitor.” That was kind of you to be so kind.

  8. ExistentialLibrarian says:

    As Fox News writes re ALA: “I suppose they are First Amendment absolutists — that’s their cover anyway. I don’t happen to think that’s the case. … I just think this is where their sympathies lie,” he said. “This is not your mother’s librarian.”

    Wow. Doesn’t the last sentence now prove that librarians are “with it” and relevant? Yay!

  9. Joneser says:

    Oh well then, if it’s on Fox “News” . . .

    But what’s not to like about Minneapolis in March? Heck, it was about ZERO, wasn’t it??

  10. elena says:

    It’s not like we don’t have heated buildings in the great white north. And I am sure that NOLA has air conditioning too! Buck it up, and show them that librarians can kick butt in all kinds of climatic extremes.

    As for librarians support the release of Manning? wow…Not sure if its good or bad.

  11. elena says:

    correction: ALA supporting the release of manning

  12. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    2. Urges all libraries to protect patron identity by adopting the following practices:
    · Provide patron privacy through the use of pseudonyms, codes, numbers, or other means that do not require personally identifiable information
    · Obscure the identity of patron requests and its content through the practice of packaging items with a full sheet of paper, using an envelope or reusable bag to hold the item, or an equivalent option.

    Is ALA going to be covering all the costs connected to buying all the paper/enevelopes/reusable bags that will be needed to carry out this secretive service? Will they be passing a resolution next year to re-plant all of the forests that will be consumed in this effort?

  13. Good question, Midwest SciTech Librarian.

    The real ALA interest seems to be protection of wrongdoers. For example, recall how Judith Krug wanted the library patron privacy laws to trump national security interests, like when she wished a Florida librarian never turned a 9/11 terrorist’s presence into the police. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/23/us/nation-challenged-questions-confidentiality-competing-principles-leave-some.html