The Annoyed Librarian is in something of a pickle. Usually when Kind Readers send me tidbits about libraryland that annoy people, I can see immediately why they’re annoyed. The persistent low level annoyance so many librarians feel drives this blog.
A Kind Reader sent me an exchange from the ALA Council listserv on Friday. The first thing I read was a response to an email with this subject heading: “RE: A question and a suggestion about the global warming issue.”
Oh, no, I thought, what’s happening now? Is the ALA Council going to pass a resolution that the globe should stop warming? If so, the globe would be even less likely to listen than all the other groups who ignore the ALA.
Here’s the opening:
At the risk of setting off yet another firestorm, I have to ask, What On Earth does this issue have to do with the business of this library association? With the mission of the ALA organization and this Council? Don’t get me wrong; I believe that global warming is a serious issue, as do many people here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I personally and professionally practice the most sustainable lifestyle I can. But to hear that the “global warming issue” will be on the agenda for Annual is just too much.
Why not put any other significant non-library issue of the day on the docket? Why not the eradication of polio, or the lack of clean water in wide swaths of the world, or the threat of a nuclear Iran and North Korea? These are all huge issues, but I respectfully submit that they are outside the scope of the American Library Association, just as the global warming issue is outside of our scope.
The firestorm in question is wanting to have fewer ALA Councilors at Large, by the way, so this Councilor is no stranger to controversy.
Since I’ve been criticizing the Council for addressing non-library issues for years now, I was sympathetic. Global warming is an important issue, or else a mean joke being played on oil companies by 99% of climate scientists and everyone who doesn’t watch Fox News, but either way it’s not an issue for the ALA.
Or is it?
Now, I’m not sure what the original “global warming issue” is to be on the Council’s agenda, but the original email isn’t what I expected based on the response. Here’s the meat of it:
I would therefore like to ask Keith Fiels what practical conservation measures ALA has taken. Some examples might be flushless urinals, lower temperatures in the winter and higher temperatures in the summer, and other such measures at Headquarters? Are trips being reduced when video conferencing would be as effective? Are efforts being made to make Midwinter and Annual more energy efficient? I’m not asking for any long report but some brief comments including some discussion whether conservation is a priority in running the organization.
Regardless of what others might try to pass through the Council, these questions are definitely related to the ALA as an organization if not to libraries as such. Greening the ALA as an organization would be both environmentally friendly and perhaps cost-saving in the long run, which is something that would benefit all the members.
Since I assume polio has been eradicated at ALA headquarters and drinking water is plentiful, environmental concerns are not driving attention from those other pressing issues.
However, maybe this part of the email is what drew the criticism:
My suggestion is to see if anything practical can be done at our conferences. At the ACRL conference in Philadelphia, I remember seeing a table to encourage taking shorter showers by handing out a timer. If such activities are already happening, my apologies for not noticing them. If they aren’t, does anyone see any possibilities for such actions?
I can sort of see why. Encouraging shorter showers isn’t a library issue, although it very well might have been a group of librarians encouraging other librarians on their own, so no harm done. Plus, unlike some non-library issues the Council considers, this one actually does have the potential to affect everyone.
WHEREAS, the earth is warming;
WHEREAS, libraries exist on the earth, etc.
RESOLVED: the earth should stop warming.
North Korea or polio aren’t really threats to libraries, but if global sea levels rise they could possibly drown a lot of coastal libraries in the U.S.
Still, it seems to me the bulk of the question is about what the ALA is itself doing in response to environmental issues, not necessarily trying to get the Council to pass a resolution about some issue that might be a good thing, but that isn’t within the purview of librarians.
Then again, maybe someone is bringing a resolution to the floor that global warming is bad and the globe should just stop doing it. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.