The ALA wants to tell you how to act at ALA conferences. There’s now an official Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences. Read it and be warned.
The statement itself isn’t as interesting as the intrigue behind it. It says the ALA wants a “harassment-free environment for everyone.” Anyone who wouldn’t want that probably should be ignored.
So you don’t have to read the entire document, here are the actions that are “specifically prohibited”:
- Harassment or intimidation based on race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, appearance, or other group status.
- Sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact.
- Yelling at or threatening speakers (verbally or physically).
I know sexual harassment of various kinds goes on because I’ve seen it and heard stories about more. I’m not sure what other harassment or intimidation goes on, and sometimes one person’s harassment is another person’s criticism.
Have there been any incidents of yelling at or threatening speakers verbally or physically? Seems very unlibrarianlike behavior.
And why just the speakers? If someone yells at or threatens a librarian passing through the exhibits, is that okay? I guess it must be.
The statement tries to sound ominous near the end.
All such reports will be directed immediately to the Director of Conference Services, who will determine and carry out the appropriate course of action, and who may consult with and engage other ALA staff, leaders and legal counsel as appropriate. Event security and/or local law enforcement may be involved, as appropriate based on the specific circumstances.
That sounds dire, but there’s only so much authority anyone’s going to have in these situations. Yelling or threatening might call for legal action, but many of the prohibited behaviors aren’t illegal, at least in this context, and other than public shaming there’s not a darn thing the ALA can do about some of them.
And based on what I’ve seen of the ALA, the organization is definitely not going to do publicly shame or do anything else to an accused person that might bring legal action against the organization. It’s one thing to request that people act courteously and responsibly, but in some situations trying to enforce that behavior is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.
What’s curious about the statement isn’t its existence. Many conferences are starting to do this. Based on a little research, it looks like it started in the tech world, and given the behavior of some of those people, especially some of those men against women, I’m not at all surprised.
What’s curious is the secretive way the document was created. It’s not from or endorsed by the ALA Council, and they had no idea about it until it was a done deal. As far as I can tell, the group creating the document didn’t seek member input at all, either.
It seems like some people secreted themselves away and just wrote the document and got it published as ALA policy without any discussion by the Council or the members in general.
It’s highly unlikely anyone would have voted against a non-harassment policy, but there are plenty of people who probably would have wanted to make a contribution, and based on the discussion on the Council listserv, plenty of people are annoyed that this sort of emerged from nowhere.
But I guess there are worse ALA documents to have emerged from nowhere.
Anyway, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be too busy gobbling turkey to pay attention to blogging stuff.