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ALA 2009: The ALA Council and Same Sex Marriage

ALA is right around the corner, and as always it’s in a seasonally inappropriate place. Summertime in Chicago is pretty bad. Come to think about it, wintertime in Chicago isn’t that great, either. Maybe ALA should move its headquarters to a more temperate climate.

And ALA means at least one thing: the ALA Council wasting its time discussing irrelevant political issues instead of relevant any kind of issues. This time it seems the hot topic is going to be same-sex marriage, and there’s a "Resolution on Civil Marriage Equality Regardless of Sexual Orientation" being debated on the ALA Council listserv. This should be an exciting one. Let’s take a look at the latest draft I’ve seen.


Definitely a catchy title. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m just not sure how it relates to American libraries.

"WHEREAS, civil marriage is a basic human right and an individual choice;"

Well, it’s a basic human right according to Article 16 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, not that anyone pays attention to those. Still wondering about libraries. Do people get married in them? That could be another function of libraries, I suppose.

"WHEREAS, American Library Association (ALA) Policy 1.5, Goal Area III, states that the goals of the Association include increasingALA’s influence in promoting equity of access and fair use, and supporting grassroots efforts to influence local, state and federal policies and standards that affect library and information services;"

Oooh, this one has "library" in it! Let’s see…equity of access…fair use…library and information services…nope, don’t see anything about marriage in that one.

"WHEREAS, ALA Policy 54.3 (Equal Employment Opportunity) states that ALA is “committed to equal opportunity for all library employees or applicants for employment,” regardless of sexual orientation and in Policy 54.16 (Gay Rights) ALA “reaffirms its support for equal employment opportunity for gay librarians and library workers”;"

Ok. No job discrimination for gay librarians and library workers. Check. Still no connection to marriage.

"WHEREAS, ALA Policy 60.3 (Combating Prejudice, Stereotyping, and Discrimination) states that ALA “actively commits its programs and resources to those efforts that combat prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination against individuals and groups in the library profession and in library user populations” on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender _expression_;"

Programs and resources, library profession, wait, I see this one coming. "Library user populations." That’s about the closest connection yet. Does this mean that the proponents of the resolution wouldn’t be for same-sex marriage for people who don’t use libraries?

"WHEREAS, same-sex couples can legally wed in several countries, and six U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized varying levels of marriage equality;"

And that has what to do with libraries? This thing keeps shifting all over the place.

"WHEREAS, same-sex couples, including those who are library workers or library users, who live in states where only heterosexual couples may wed legally do not receive the same rights, including library privileges for partners, family and medical leave, tax equity, inheritance rights, hospital visitation, insurance and retirement benefits, family health care coverage, housing benefits, tuition remission benefits, adoption or birth leave;"

My goodness, they’re reaching here. Since there are librarians in every state, then any laws affecting librarians in any way (and not just as librarians) is relevant for the ALA to comment upon. That’s the typical argument of the radicals, the slippery slope that makes everything relevant. Very convenient.

"WHEREAS, legally wed same-sex couples, including those who are library workers or library users, lose rights and privileges afforded to wedded heterosexual couples when they cross borders into states and countries without marriage equality; and"

Once again, if it affects librarians as citizens, it’s relevant for the ALA to comment on. What’s still not clear is how it affects American libraries. This isn’t the American Librarian Association, as they like to point out.

"WHEREAS, the Council of the American Library Association has an opportunity to voice their support to extend full civil marriage protections to all members of the library profession and library user population; now, therefore, be it"

Sure, they always have an opportunity to voice anything they please. This means absolutely nothing. They have an equal opportunity to voice their support for stoning homosexuals and conservatives. A meaningless WHEREAS.

"RESOLVED, that the American Library Association (ALA) affirms that civil marriage and other civil rights protections are essential to making all families safer and more secure;
RESOLVED, that ALA opposes civil marriage discrimination in the federal or in state constitutions; and
RESOLVED, that ALA supports the right of every person to marry, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples, wherever they reside."

The resolutions themselves shouldn’t even matter because the case leading up to them is so shoddy. This is a sign of people wanting something so desperately they’ll say anything to make it happen. The ALA supports equal and fair access to information and doesn’t think libraries should discriminate against librarians or library users. Those are the only relevant points, and they just don’t build a case for the ALA Council passing a resolution about something that is so clearly not a library issue.

The sloppy move is from libraries to librarians to librarians as citizens, and the "logic" ends up being that if anything affects anyone in the United States, then it’s relevant for the ALA to pass a resolution on, because there’s nothing that doesn’t somehow affect someone who might work in a library somewhere. That’s it. That’s the entire rationale. Is it a good one? Nope. Not that an abundance of sloppy reasoning will stop the ALA Council. They’ll do what they like regardless.
Library Journal ALA Annual Conference News

Click here for more ALA 2009 Conference News coverage from Library Journal and School Library Journal



  1. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Down here in Dixie, I don’t see same-sex marriage becoming a reality any time soon, but I think it must happen and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime (I’m 50). However, I am not convinced ALA needs to wade into the issue. I have worked with more librarians who didn’t belong to ALA than did. It is these political stances that have kept my colleagues from maintaining/obtaining ALA membership. They saw ALA as ignoring the real library world and concentrating their efforts on LibraryLaLaLand. Isn’t it rather sad when so many librarians decline to join the association that accredits their schools/degrees?

  2. bluestocking. says:

    it bothers me that ALA makes these resolutions, and is one of the deciding factors in my decision not to renew my ALA membership. i agree with the AL– this stuff isn’t ALA’s business. i also find it pompous of ALA to assume all librarians feel a given way about the topics they decide to take on. while i happen to agree in spirit with this decision, i still have to ask: is this what my dues are going for? i’d rather ALA advocate for better pay, help my library set up a union, or loan us money to cover our 6-figure budget shortfall.

  3. I believe the qualification to be on the ALA council was to say logic class was hard.

  4. ChickenLittle says:

    All ALA bashing aside….everyone would have to admit that gays and lesbians make up a good portion of the workforce in libraries, so maybe this is an issue ALA should be involved in. In my public system gays and lesbians are by far the majority of workers and straits the minority by far!

  5. SpongeBob Librarypants says:

    Another issue taken up by ALA that has little if any relevance to supporting libraries. The dues are too high, the issues irrelevant to libraries, and the leadership takes itself way too seriously. I wish some folks with far more practicality and common sense than the leadership of ALA would form an alternative organization. We have both the NEA and the AFT for teachers, why not another professional organization for library workers and supporters?

  6. I think that this is just a result of the AL’s homophobia.

  7. TwoQatz says:

    So sfspr if one doesn’t support ALA’s resolution one is a homophobe? I think not. Perhaps you suffer from a persecution complex? Or maybe you were joking?

  8. people still pay attention to the ALA? wow!

  9. It is such a minor issue.

    Things like this blow up when radical conservatives like the AL take it to be the only thing the ALA is doing.

  10. Mr. Kat says:

    So we’re represented by the American Liberties Association, never mind the library because “Library” is just too darn restrictive???

    Why are people still IN the ALA supporting this nonsense???

  11. CanuckLibrarian says:

    I’m disappointed to see irrational attacks here on the AL’s supposed conservatism. She hasn’t said a work against gay marriage in the post; her issue is with ALA issuing position statements on issues unrelated to libraries, as should be obvious to any intelligent reader. I agree with her – professional associations shouldn’t comment on issues that aren’t related to their industry/profession/sector. ALA opposing the PATRIOT Act is valid; ALA lobbying for gay marriage is not. And for the record, I’m not a radical conservative — I live in Canada, vote for left-wing parties, and supported wholeheartedly my country’s legalization of gay marriage. I have gay friends and was thrilled to attend my first lesbian wedding a couple of years ago. But I think if ALA wants to wade in on this issue, their focus should be on ending discrimination within libraries against gay library employees and patrons. Their authority really doesn’t go any further.

  12. Tell it to the Canadian Library Association, eh.

  13. Techserving You says:

    Sorry I haven’t read all the comments but I feel like adding my two cents. First off, I am fully in support of gay marriage. BUT, why does this have anything to do with the ALA? Why should the ALA, as a professional organization, make ANY public statement about this issue? It’s ridiculous. Yes, there are many gay librarians. I think that the population of gay people in the library world may be, as a percentage of the total, larger than in almost any other field. I’m not sure how this came to be, other than that many libraries are in Academia and Academia is a liberal and accepting (when it comes to certain things) place. Regardless, I do not understand how gay issues and gender issues have become so entwined with librarianship that some people are even pushing to have gay studies/LIS classes, as though this is somehow integral to librarianship, and not simply that a lot of gays and women are in the field.

  14. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    I am gay and I have been ignoring most of the listserv posts on this topic. While I support Marriage Equality, I, too, wonder how this is directly relevant to library services and librarianship. Do other professional organizations, like the AMA, the ABA do this sort of thing?

  15. Why is it a big magilla at ALA?

    Because it is a LIBRARIES organization not LIBRARIAN.

    Just another way to divide up the troops and have them argue $hit and not deal with real issues.

    I applaud you management. Hand well played.

  16. ala dropout says:

    logic class was hard. vote for me!

  17. another f-ing librarian says:

    i am strongly in favor of gay marriage. but wtf? is ala practicing for when it becomes the u.s. congress or senate? and — why don’t they do something cooler, like pass a resolution for ‘more library holidays’, and ‘martini lunches for librarians’?

  18. “. . .why don’t they do something cooler, like pass a resolution for ‘more library holidays’, and ‘martini lunches for librarians’?”

    Why would they want anything for LIBRARIANS? They are management. They want librarians to sit and argue about $hit so they can sit back and have 6 martini lunches.

  19. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    Another good reason to be thankful that I am not a member of ALA. Otherwise I might have to quit due to them wasting my money supporting issues that have nothing what-so-ever in the world to do with Libraries.

    Besides, I could give a fig less whom marries whom…as long as they leave me & my cats alone! >^..^<

  20. Why doesn’t the ALA fix a real problem? For example, lunch “hours” are rarely 60 minutes long. Reinstating an actual HOUR for lunch–PAID would affect more library employees than this mindless twaddle.

  21. Pendragon says:

    You know, I really don’t think the ALA Council realize they’re morons. I really don’t think they do…

  22. You know I think there needs to be a day were the ALA can pass whatever resolution they want for what ever cause makes them happy. Then they should be forced to do real work the rest of the year. Oh wait we have that its the ALA conference but wait thats twice a year. Lord no wonder we are in bad shape.

  23. Dan Kleinman of says:

    Great post! I just blogged about it. See “Slippery Slopes Okay for Gays, But Not Kids, Not National Security, According to the American Library Association” at

  24. 60 Minute paid lunches?!?


  25. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    After 25+ years in the field, I am quite comfortable stating the following: by and large, those who manage libraries at th top and library department heads are worthless. As a para I had one fine boss. As a professional, I’ve had one fine boss. Where might I be going with this? ALA is filled and run by management and wannabe management types – a bunch of folks who cannot think their way out of a paper sack, lack spine, cannot do the hard stuff (like “manage” difficult employees), and have no idea what it is like to do real library work because far too many went from their master’s program right into “management.”

    Those two good managers? They were nothing like the slippery idiots we have running our accrediting association.

  26. stopandthinkaboutit says:

    ALA Council members are elected by association members. If you don’t like what they’re doing, then run yourself. ALA has a banner on their home page right now encouraging folks to run.

    Regarding the resolution, I think any librarian/information professional would be hardpressed to NOT have a colleague, family member or close friend who is a member of the LGBT community. As more and more states & countries allow same-sex marriage, those who have been allowed to marry are now in a position of having that marriage ignored when they travel or relocate to states that don’t recognize their union.

    The intent of the resolution to send a message, such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors did at their 77th Annual Convention, passing a resolution calling for full marriage equality for same-gender couples and where the Society of American Archivists recently passed a similar resolution earlier this year. It’s about time we treated all couples equally. The issue isn’t going away anytime soon.

  27. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    hahahahaha stopandthinkaboutit – who the heck do you think gets the travel money AND the time to travel? It ain’t the worker bees. A library management type by chance?

    We, the worker bees, get in-service opportunities. Attend a Webinar in your office … make sure you answer the phone and knocks at the door. (eyes roll)

  28. stopandthinkaboutit says:

    @NotMarianTheLibrarian–I actually know quite a number of librarians, a few councilors included, who pay at least part of their way to ALA (annual and MW) conference every year. I guess I’m somewhat old school in that even though I do get some travel support I normally have to budget $1500-$2000 each year out of my own pocket for professional development. I’ve done so since entering academia some 20 years ago.

    I think it’s a shame that librarians as a whole don’t get more funding. Maybe a groundswell of local librarian support as well as ALA being more vocal of how it can support its members professional development by getting directors collective ears.

  29. If you can get time off to go gallivanting to Chicago, you are not very vital to your organization. You must be a member of management.

  30. ChickenLittle says:

    AL=RK said, “If you can get time off to go gallivanting to Chicago, you are not very vital to your organization. You must be a member of management”….I would tend to agree, most of my managers are usually not missed when they leave, in fact more work probably gets done! Then again, I must admit I’m jealous because I never get sent to conferences and some of them I would dearly love to go to!

  31. The sad thing about not going to conferences is that the people who do go get appointed to committees that create standards and such for the “profession” all the while they don’t have a clue as to how things really work.

    Now that gets me annoyed.

  32. another librarian says:

    What?! No reference to “Heather Has Two Daddies” or that book with the gay penguins?

  33. ” . . .or that book with the gay penguins?”

    Gosh, you would think that someone who claims to be a librarian could find a title of a book like “And Tango Makes Three”. Says a lot about our profession, huh.

  34. Dan Kleinman of says:

    “What?! No reference to ‘Heather Has Two Daddies’ or that book with the gay penguins?”

    In West Bend, the ALA shows up and suddenly there is a lot of reference to those books. The ALA claims that the Sund case in Texas means no books whatsoever can ever again be moved into any adult library section if the move is to make it harder for children to access the books. The ALA overlooks, purposefully, that there is a huge difference between those children’s books and books such as “The Joy of Gay Sex.” As the AL says, “Very convenient.”

  35. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    When some managers leave an amazing amount of work gets done. They’re not hanging over one’s every move micromanaging.

  36. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Stopandthinkaboutit the Mayors pass these resolutions because as law makers and managers of government its their job to do so. As librarians we should be concerned if gay people were not allowed to use libraries or if straight couples get more or better library service then gay couples. For staff we should be concerned if gay staff are being treated badly because of their status. So stop and think about it, we are saying we deal with issues that end at the library doors, Thats why its the American Library Association not the American Civil Liberties Union or the Council of Mayors. If you want to deal with Gay rights on a broad scale then join the ACLU or become a mayor. If you do not like your city policy the advocate within your city not with the ALA.

  37. another librarian says:

    ” . . .or that book with the gay penguins?”

    Gosh, you would think that someone who claims to be a librarian could find a title of a book like “And Tango Makes Three”. Says a lot about our profession, huh.

    Sorry. I’m a rare books librarian and not a children’s librarian. Just wasn’t worth my time to look it up.

  38. ” ” . . .or that book with the gay penguins?”

    Gosh, you would think that someone who claims to be a librarian could find a title of a book like “And Tango Makes Three”. Says a lot about our profession, huh.

    Sorry. I’m a rare books librarian and not a children’s librarian. Just wasn’t worth my time to look it up.”

    But it is worth your time to comment twice about it?

    If you can’t do proper research, keep the snark to yourself.


  39. I Like Books says:

    I haven’t seen an ALA resolution against kicking puppies. Until they pass such a resolution, I guess I will just have to assume that they endorse the kicking of puppies.

  40. Mr. Kat says:

    When some managers leave an amazing amount of work gets done. It’s because goofing is simply isn’t fun once the cat leaves. It’s pretty boring to pretend working if there is nobody to hide it form – and further, the Cat expects everybody to be goofing off, so by doing the opposite you look great when the boss gets back. Once the boss gets back, it’s back to the everyday cahllenge of goofing off like normal again.

  41. TwoQatz says:

    Is there any person or comment Mr. Kat doesn’t object to? I think the comment was “some managers” – I read it and thought of The Twit (TT) who has to make sure people in his area are “meeting” on a regular basis. When TT goes on vacation or goes to a conference, people can actually get work done instead of listening to TT pontificate.

    A long career in libraries and I’ve always had plenty of work to do. I also made sure I took the time to enjoy my co-workers and our users. I suppose basic human kindness and regard for others counts as goofing off, Mr. Kat. Yet again, I am so glad you don’t work here.

  42. John Berry, LJ says:

    What a surprise that AL’s repeating responders keep making the same mistake, equating ALA with libraries. ALA is a membership organization and I joined it to amplify my voice on professional and social issues. ALA can speak on anything a majority of its members want it to speak on, and it has, like the Vietnam war, racism. and more. ALAisn’t arrogant, its members and their representatives on the ALa Council just decide to engage in the debates in our society and tak positions when they thin it is worthwhile. It is just what I want from a democratic, membership organizaton. No limits on what it can take positions on.

  43. gay librarian says:

    On the resolution: Many librarians work in institutions which provide many benefits to the spouses of legally married employees, but which do not extend those benefits to non-legal spouses. As an association which promotes the interests of its members, this is entirely within its scope.

    Conferences: I have attended conferences as a librarian and as a paraprofessional, both with and without financial support, because I believe it is important for librarians and libraries to be involved in the larger community. There is much to be learned and gained from these experiences. If you really want to participate, find sessions and preconferences relevant to your job, and lobby your supervisor, manager, director, and board to provide opportunities for staff at all levels to have these experiences. Advocate for more funding for training and travel. DO something.

  44. thelibrarianhistorian says:

    But what if you do not agree with this resolution? I know that it isn’t that major. But when and if I become a member of this organization, I will feel uncomfortable when they create resolutions that do not relate to their organization’s mission and resolutions that go against my personal beliefs. If I do disgree, I can’t say anything because I’ll be going against my organization and members of the organization. Not the intellectual freedom that the profession supposedly promotes.

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