When Barbara Stripling took the helm at the American Library Association (ALA) this summer, she arrived with a plan to make a mark. She anchored her “Libraries Change Lives” initiative with a quiet but forceful tool, the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.
That titular truism is even more accurate during hard times; the muzzling and corrupting impact of the almighty dollar on the flow of information is magnified in a weak economy. Those with an agenda use their money to influence our politics, our ideology, and our lifestyles and social interactions. We see this sway not only in election campaigns but in the media as they provide our entertainment and report our news. Even the once sacrosanct public media are afflicted with influences that tend to quiet their critique and discussion if it might affect their donors, funding agencies, trustees, and advertisers.
Early at the Annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) copies of a page from Illinois Lawyer Now, a publication of the Illinois State Bar Association, were quietly distributed to members of the press. The page reported the disbarment and suspension of 11 Illinois attorneys. Included was the disbarment of Mary Frances Wilkens, a lawyer since 2006, who was charged with misappropriating $174,300.53 from ALA for her own personal use between 2006 and 2012. Wilkens was employed in the offices of ALA Booklist, the Association’s book review publication.
Robust crowds showed for the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference, which took place in Chicago June 28-July 2. Total attendance topped more than 26,000, dramatically higher than 2011 and 2012, which both came in at about 20,000. In addition to the greater total attendance, ALA’s recent initiative to condense programming into fewer, closer locations meant more bodies physically on site, garnering grateful shout-outs from several attendees on Twitter. The combination of more attendees and fewer competing venues also led to excellent traffic in the exhibits, several vendors told LJ, and a sense of intensity that attendees welcomed.
The American Library Association has launched a new website, ala.org/liberty, in response to the recent revelations about widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). The site offers a toolkit and other resources for libraries to convene forums and moderate community discussions on privacy. Many more resources will be added in the weeks to come, an ALA representative said.
To aid in your use of the handy ALA Scheduler this year LJ ’s editors have selected a few of their favorite ALA program sessions from the sprawling array of options on offer. We hope these selections will give you the best shot at the newest and best ideas and innovations, the most useful information and best practices, and, of course, the most entertainment for the time and money you have invested. If all else fails there is always “that toddlin’ town” outside.
Despite my frustrations with The American Library Association (ALA) Council, I voted in its election. The ALA Council’s email list (ALACOUN) has been endlessly repetitious for weeks. It was spurred by an array of fatuous messages from a chapter councilor fixated on cutting the number of at-large councilors in that august body.
Despite conventional wisdom that conferences held on the coasts draw smaller crowds and complaints from some vendors that show floor traffic was down, Keith Michael Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA), reported that this year’s Midwinter attendance totaled 10,731. That’s up slightly from 2012’s 9,929 and 2011’s 10,110, though below 2010’s high of 11,095.
Over the past couple of decades, we in libraries have been asking a lot of soul-searching questions about how we can best carry out our functions in a radically changed (and still-changing) information environment. This self-examination has led to many interesting conclusions and some pretty dramatic shifts in the ways libraries do business—almost always in the context of reaffirmations of the library’s core mission and values. Less frequently have we asked ourselves whether the core principles that underlie traditional library service remain relevant and essential in and of themselves.