Sometimes I just don’t what to say about the ALA, so I’ll probably contradict myself at some point along the way.
I was just reading through the ALA press release about the latest budget proposal from Congressman Paul Ryan. The thing is, it’s a completely appropriate response from an organization concerned with American libraries. Also, it made me laugh and shake my head in disbelief.
Here’s the first sentence of the ALA President’s response to the budget: “We were shocked to learn that Representative Paul Ryan recommended eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the agency that administers the primary source of federal funding to libraries.”
First of all, either that shock is feigned, or the ALA really hasn’t been following politics at all for the past few years. That Paul Ryan would want to cut a service that was of no benefit to rich people shouldn’t be shocking. That’s the norm. It’s his schtick.
He’s a one trick pony and that trick is slashing programs and lowering taxes on rich people. Or maybe his trick is to keep trying and failing to do that, but who knows what the future holds.
So that part made me laugh. It should have read instead, “We were shocked, SHOCKED, etc.,” just to let everyone know that we’re not really shocked, or even surprised. We just want someone to think so. Appalled, maybe, but not shocked.
Then there’s a bit on the importance of the IMLS. And that’s what the ALA should be focusing on.
Other groups focus on other parts. Ryan also proposed eliminating the National Endowment for the Humanities, so something called the National Humanities Alliance has started a petition to get NEH funding reinstated, because if anything is going to persuade Paul Ryan it’s a petition signed by a lot of liberal arts professors. Might as well have a petition signed by a bunch of librarians.
But frankly, after reading this summary of all the stuff Ryan wants to cut, my first thought on both the IMLS and the NEH was, hey, we’ve got way bigger problems here. He wants wants to privatize Medicaid. I might be poor and depend on Medicaid someday, so I don’t want it privatized.
On a smaller note, he wants to eliminate funding for Amtrak. That might seem like a good idea if you live in the middle of Wisconsin, but for the area where Ryan actually lives, that would be a terrible idea. More cars on the road might be good for the oil companies, but it sure isn’t good for Boston, NYC, or Washington.
It’s not like the budget is going to pass or anything, and it’s appropriate for the ALA and that humanities group to focus their efforts, but there might be times when issue advocacy should take a backseat to the greater good.
I’m not saying this is one of those times, just that it might be.