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Boycotting Florida

You have to hand it to the SRRT folks. They’re certainly an earnest bunch, and despite years of resistance from librarians who don’t want them to use the ALA as their political mouthpiece, they keep on coming back for more.

Here’s the latest example I’m aware of. On the ALA Council listserv, the earnest SRRT Councilor posted the following:

The SRRT Action Council has been discussing Karen Downing posting about the possible boycott of Florida for our 2016 meeting unless they repeal their Stand Your Ground law. I can say that so far there is significant support for moving the meeting.

Whatever awful things one might think about Orlando, Florida as a conference locale – and I can think only awful things about it – this would be a bad reason to boycott Florida.

It doesn’t matter whether the Trayvon Martin shooting was a tragedy or the Zimmerman trial a sham of justice because of the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. The thing is, none of that happened in a library, or is related to libraries, or is likely to happen in libraries, and there are a lot of library issues to discuss.

It’s just not a library issue, and that’s it. Once you open that floodgate, the waters never come back. That’s probably what SRRT wants, but it shouldn’t be what sensible ALA members want.

Even theoretically, it’s a bad idea to try to pass resolutions or boycott anything based on stuff like this, because once you start boycotting states where things happen some ALA members don’t like, then most states would be banned.

Fortunately, the Councilors are fighting back more than they used to. One Councilor responded:

While I see definite value in moving conferences out of venues that do not share the same values as the Association, a member on another list pointed out that ALL the following future ALA meetings are in “stand your ground” states:

[Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Orlando, Atlanta, and Indianapolis within the next 8 years]

Additionally, I would personally favor a boycott of venues in states without same-sex marriage equality, and know quite a number of members who would back this type of action as well. While there may significant support to move our meetings to venues in states that align with our values and mission as an Association, the economics of the situation may dictate otherwise. But it’s an excellent conversation to have.

He’s right. It is an excellent conversation to have, just so people can point out what a bad idea it would be.

The list of upcoming conferences in “stand your ground” states shows that it’s pretty difficult to avoid them. Something like 19 states have laws like that. Are they all off limits?

I mean, I’m happy to avoid New Orleans in June and Philadelphia in January, as well as Orlando and Las Vegas at all times.

And what about same-sex marriage equality, since we’re changing the subject? According to this Wikipedia article, 13 states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality laws. The only three of them to host ALA meetings in living memory are Massachusetts, California, and DC.

There are some lovely places to go in many of these states, but I seriously doubt Vermont, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire have the facilities to host an ALA Annual Conference, and possibly not even a Midwinter Meeting.

We could hold all the ALA conferences in DC, Boston, or NYC, though, and be safe. I’d be fine with that arrangement.

Not everyone would, though. A former Councilor managed to get posted to the listserv. She wasn’t at all happy about the political diversion.

I do not want to spend my personal dollars in states that recognize or have laws that recognize same-sex marriage. In my opinion, the institution of marriage is being eroded. I never saw a problem with civil unions if two people want to commit their lives to each other — but marriage? — you will never convince me this is what God wants a marriage to be.

A man with a male spouse responded that his marriage was exactly what God wanted it to be.

Yep, before they could even begin discussing Florida and Stand Your Ground, it became an argument about what God wants. That’s a pretty good way to derail anything, and a completely pointless conversation unless you actually involve God directly in the talks. I didn’t see that happen, although perhaps God just doesn’t have permission to post to the Council listserv.

The chaos happens before we even get to the practicality. These conferences are planned years in advance, and the cost of changing venues two years out is almost certainly unaffordable for an organization like the ALA. We already have to endure Orlando in the summer and Philadelphia in the winter because the organization and the librarians can’t afford nicer locations.

And then, among the hysteria about Florida and the pointless discussion of same-sex marriage, we get some much needed good sense:

both public and school libraries are facing challenges to their very existence in my state and around the country. I would urge councilors to focus energies on policies and resolutions addressing grassroots issues affecting libraries and librarians. I believe our national conferences may be more deeply affected by the rising tide of unfunded libraries and the removal of librarians than by state laws that do not align with our beliefs.

My sentiments exactly.

On the other hand, if ALA wants a good reason to boycott Florida, just keep in mind how brutally hot and humid Orlando is in late June. I may be boycotting it myself for that very reason.



  1. Considering Miami Dade Library system is closing nearly half it’s branches this seems like a brilliant idea. Now that I think about it we should avoid all conservative states and withdraw all support to the libraries and librarians living there. I mean after all, libraries and librarians have complete control over popular opinion so this is their fault.

  2. I have long agreed with your stand on the need for library associations to focus on issues affecting libraries, education, literacy, etc. The fact of the matter is that although many states have a Stand Your Ground law, it was not even a factor or issue in the Zimmerman trial. We would have to go through every law of every state to make sure they all aligned with “our values and mission.” The ALA does not speak for me in political, religious, moral, or personal values issues. Only library related issues. If it were not for the excellent library information disseminated by the ALA, I would not pay my high annual dues.

  3. When I go to a place that has different values than I do, I do not see it as a support of their values, but as an opportunity to understand theirs better and to share my own. I think a lot of legislation that I personally object to comes out of people’s fears. I don’t think you help people be less fearful by refusing to visit them in their state.

    The SRRT is suggesting boycotting an entire state. By not going to Orlando, we would be punishing all the businesses of Orlando whether they support this legislation or not. How is that not discriminatory? How is this what librarians do?

    I whole-heartedly agree that I pay ALA dues to support dialogue on library issues, and it makes me angry when they wander off into non-library territory.

  4. Captain Librarian says:

    It would be so nice if the ALA could focus the time, attention, and brainpower on saving libraries that they spend on trying to save the world. I suspect it would accomplish more.

  5. As someone that comes from RI they could definitely accommodate an ALA, PLA, ACRL, etc. conference. In fact, Providence or Newport would be fantastic towns to have conferences in. I know that has very little to do with the topic at hand. But I moved out of state for work and would love to go back to visit for free :)

  6. Traci Avet says:

    There are several library systems in Florida truly hurting right now. To even consider withdrawing support on this basis isn’t something I would have expected from a RT on Social Responsibilities.

  7. I think what we have to be asking ourselves here is not what God thinks of same sex marriage but what God thinks of Stand Your Ground laws.

  8. I think God favors Turn the Other Cheek.

    • I think God should favor libraries! I know we have books on evolution, atheism, human sexuality and 50 Shades of Grey & Twilight (I understand if He would like to bring on some Old Testament punishment for that) but…well there is no “but” because were not gonna change.

    • God invented human sexuality.

    • Is that the party line librarians should say to those who ask us to remove those books? I would love to see that fight go down!

  9. Stephen Michael Kellat says:

    Apparently there was a survey of state laws done by ProPublica relative to “Stand Your Ground” laws and the lack of “duty to retreat” laws last year which just happened to include Illinois where ALA itself is headquartered. Strangely enough, Ohio lacks such a law but happens to be home to not just OCLC but also OverDrive and Midwest Tape.

  10. I always love how people ascribe to God their own wants and prejudices. That’s not God talking to you — that’s your subconscious. If you are vehement that God is in your head, I will smile vacantly and back away slowly.

  11. Well said, AL. See you in Philly!

  12. miss.smith says:
  13. Kristina says:

    The ALA and all of it’s roundtables and sections need to worry a little more about libraries and library advocacy and a little less about stuff like this. I’m not saying it isn’t important. It just isn’t important to libraries and I’m sick of my dues money being spent to support unrelated stuff like this.

  14. Free2read says:

    I personally am boycotting Florida for more than Stand Your Ground — Tampa is now jailing the homeless for sleeping in public and Miami is considering the same:
    I won’t spend a penny in a state that criminalizes homelessness and marginalizes the basic humanity of its poorest citizens. However, that is my decision. SRRT members are free to do the same. I respect their right to an opinion, but I don’t agree they have the right to try to shove it down ALA’s collective throat. Let them go hold their party elsewhere if they want.

  15. babylib says:

    Moving conferences from states that do not recognize gay marriage has direct implications for people attending the conferences. If an LGBT attendee were to become ill or be injured in a state that does not recognize their marriage, their spouse could be barred not only from seeing them in the hospital but even from obtaining information about their medical condition as they are not considered related in the eyes of that state’s laws. We’ll have to see how the repeal of DOMA shakes out if this still holds true, but it’s important to recognize the diverse concerns of the membership

  16. As librarians are here talking about how ALA Council addresses issues having nothing to do with librarianship, ALA Council is discussing how “ALA Council needs to learn more about the dangers of global environmental change.” “#2 HOW LONG UNTIL ALL THE ARCTIC ICE IS GONE?” “A new study predicts full Arctic melt by the 2050s.”

    Why is ALA Council discussing this and not discussing issues related to the mission of ALA?

    Hey, library patrons are masturbating by the dozens or hundreds each month in the Los Angeles Public Library and both the librarians and the police are afraid to act to stop it. Is ALA Council discussing how to aid such librarians? No. Librarians are getting sexually harassed as a result of anything-goes porn policies and suing and winning very large sums. Has ALA Council ever discussed how to help such librarians? Never. Instead ALA counts the “negative” articles in the media that I and others raise on these topics as if it’s bad to even talk about helping librarians under duress.

    I could go on and on. I don’t need to. The AL’s post and the comments thereunder indicate there’s a very serious problem. “They’re certainly an earnest bunch, and despite years of resistance from librarians who don’t want them to use the ALA as their political mouthpiece, they keep on coming back for more.” That’s for sure.

    • A lot of us have complained about that. For me the ALA has gone off the deep end and I probably will not be attending any more conferences. Individual agendas of the council and other committees have replaced the mission of the ALA. Which is provide library services to the local communities no matter what creed, race, ethnicity or sexuality.

      On a side note, the Stand Your Ground law was not used for Zimmerman. It was never mentioned during the actual trial. They used plain old self-defense, I believe Stand Your Ground couldn’t be used because the 911 operator told Zimmerman to stop following Martin. There is a bigger issue that the ALA has no understanding of the law yet will use it to gain popular opinion.

  17. On a more practical note, I doubt that ALA can be very effective against such laws, bogged down as it is in unrelated matters such as the promotion of reading and the free exchange of ideas. People who want to change things not directly related to libraries should probably also join some organization that *is* structured and postured to take effective action, and contribute there too. Attempting to repurpose a tool that cannot do the job is unwise.

    • If a boycott is necessary consider this dues payers. You’re supporting this nonsense with your dues. If States are to be coerced by removing financial advantage, why not a membership organization?

  18. Please, please, please… somebody make sure Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey hear about this. The material is just too good to ignore.

  19. I believe Karen Downing works at the University of Michigan — in Michigan, a state that also has the stand your ground law.

  20. Erasmus says:

    Are the SRRT bots aware that Stand Your Ground was NOT used by the defense in this trial?

  21. Clara Strom says:

    I agree with Jan when she says, “The ALA does not speak for me in political, religious, moral, or personal values issues. Only library related issues.” We have multiple agencies and lobbyists to deal with the political garbage of the day. We NEED advocates for libraries. The ALA needs to focus on issues that bring us together.

  22. This was an interesting read — personally I’ve been boycotting Florida since being forced to spend one late-August week there; I did not set foot outside the apartment I went to help empty (old Canadian snowbirds who got too old to go) from arrival until departure, because humidity is not my bag.

    However, it is my opinion that the Zimmerman/Melissa Alexander travesty should be addressed by anyone and everyone, and I agree with the commenter who wrote about LGBTs not being recognized as a spouse in a case of an emergency. That is a very real concern. Likewise I would advise any African American to stay away from Florida, or any person of color to keep out of Arizona, if at all humanly possible. Perhaps it would be wiser for an African American Librarian caucus to boycott the ALA conference?

    Or maybe we should boycott any conference that’s held in a Disney stronghold (Anaheim is very popular in that regard), on the grounds of the general poisoning/conditioning the minds of children and youths everywhere.

    Commenter Me! raises the relevant idea (though the “it’s” just hurts my eyes), that the ALA should boycott locations based on their policy regarding public libraries. My dilemma would be, which is more effective: staying away or showing up full-force? It reminded me of the call to boycott Israeli academics in response to Israel’s policies on the Palestinians. My personal opinion on that was, the bulk of Israeli academics are practically the only Israelis with whom the tragedy of the Palestinian people resonates. Boycotting them basically boycotts the only people you can actually talk to about the problem. And no, I haven’t figured out my answer to that yet.

    • It is very difficult to check grammar (and let us not forget how auto-correct has ruined us) when using your iPhone!

      Now to the issue at hand, I didn’t mean to imply that we should boycott Florida. I was being facetious; I just believe that if we were to have boycott it should be library related. My annoyance comes from how ALA has moved away from its purpose. Where were they during the Tea Party lawsuits against Kentucky libraries? What was their response when libraries were being destroyed in Cuba and the librarians thrown in jail?

      My ultimate question is, if these issues don’t get a real response from ALA but something like Stand Your Ground does what are we paying dues for? At this point we are paying for press releases and personal agendas. Perhaps what should be boycotted is ALA and librarians should just focus on their states associations.

  23. Liberrywench says:

    This is the kind of crap that convinced me not to bother joining the ALA in the first place.

  24. #MEDIAFAIL: Majority Support “Stand Your Ground” Laws. “By a ratio of 53% to 40%, voters still favor the law, despite weeks of attacks by Obama, Democrats, and their allies in the mainstream media [and the ALA’s SRRT]

  25. Is it any consolation to know that it’s not only library professional organizations that engage in this sort of thing? Currently, the Western Museum Association is boycotting Arizona. The reason? SB1070. I think most people agree that that was a terrible law, but a) that had nothing to do with museums, b) it’s been overturned by the courts, and c) Russell Pearce, the embarrassment of a state senator (who sponsored the bill), was removed from office by a recall election over the whole thing.
    And yet the WMA had the gall to suggest that some museum professionals from Arizona give a session at this year’s conference on what they, as museum professionals, should have done to prevent that law from being passed. (I joked to a friend that they should agree to it, have the gist of the session be “nothing!,” and proceed to have a discussion on whether WMA should engage in such silliness.)

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