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Libraries in a Season of Hope

It’s the second day of Christmas, but the Christmas spirit certainly isn’t with some people.

You might have read about the theft of one of those little free libraries in Wisconsin last August (since found). The intent of the libraries is to swap a book for a book. Some awful human beings decided to swap all the books for a lingering air of evil intent.

It’s happened again, once in Louisiana earlier this month, and two in Oregon in the last week or so. It takes a special kind of vile person to steal something so innocuous and with so little exchange value.

It’s not like the structures or the books are going to fetch much money. There’s no benefit to the thieves, just the intent to harm other people. For the second day of Christmas, they probably deserve two turtle doves, served raw at the local jail.

However, all is not darkness and evil. There’s still a little faith and hope left in libraryland, as we can tell from a recent exchange on the ALA Council listserv.

The discussion was about the NSA spying and ALA Council resolutions. As you might remember, some group, probably the SRRT, tried to get the ALA Council to pass a resolution in favor of Edward Snowden, but it was later revised to be just about whistleblowers in general.

Here’s what one councilor had to say:

I admit that I come from the perspective that Resolutions should focus on issues and ALA’s vision for what is the correct direction on those issues.

I’m just curious why there isn’t interest in using Tributes and Honoraria to applaud individuals who take action.

It wasn’t long before the SRRT Councilor put that befuddled councilor in her place and explained why she was so wrong:

The answer is very simple. A tribute is symbolic, but a resolution has some potential impact. We have whistleblowers that are being persecuted. They need our support desperately.

A tribute is symbolic, but a resolution has some potential impact. I nearly spit my tea all over my computer when I read that. It still makes me chuckle when I think about it.

The idea that an ALA resolution about someone like Edward Snowden would have a “potential impact” is hilarious.

Yes, he does need support, but unless that ALA resolution is going to get him to Brazil or protect him indefinitely from the US government, that is, unless it’s going to do something practical, then it’s just a symbolic waste of time.

On the other hand, it’s nice to see such a blind faith in something as useless as an ALA resolution during a season of hope.

And who knows, the ALA Council might pass a resolution that actually has an impact on the world. For many Americans, it’s a season of miracles, and that would definitely be miraculous.



  1. That anyone in ALA takes themselves seriously is a joke. I almost feel sorry for that fact that 1) they believe they have any true effect on social outcomes and 2) that they have an audience. If we’d quit talking about ALA, it might dry up and blow away.

    I resolve that ALA quit making political statements camouflaged as resolutions. Actually, they should just quit making resolutions, period.

  2. Good news, bad news. In almost every case where Little Free Libraries have been vandalized or “stolen,” (the total must be less than .001%) the net result has been net positive rather than negative. One thief had the great wisdom to install the Library he removed from a site in Iowa City in his own front yard a day or so later. Two other pranksters, who stole a robot Little Free Library in Ann Arbor and the church’s Library in Madison, apparently lost interest and the Libraries were repatriated with much affection. A Little Library in Washington state was, in fact, not burned down by vandals but struck by lightening. The rare examples of people “stealing” books in quantities that others thought were out of line (for resale, one might guess) have either found it unprofitable financially or not particularly endearing to the used book store employees who thoughtfully refuse to accept books with the Little Free Library rubber stamp or sticker that says “Always a gift; never for sale.” So…we are not worried. Boys and drunk people seem to have both staying power and rather limited ideas about meaningful mischief. So far, “good news” triumphs. One might hope that taking anonymous pot shots in comments on blogs and media sites could suffer a similar fate…While privacy and freedom are definitely important, so is civility. And goodwill. And care for the common good. Even we “little guys” have respect for those in the ALA and elsewhere who want to stand up in support of various causes, and symbolic acts still do matter. We may not resolve these difficult issues with resolutions alone, but I admire those who keep trying to act…either through their words or other forms of expression. -We can be grateful that somebody cares enough to do something; to speak up. Thank you Nelson Mandela et al..and great writers!

    • Of course folks should care, but It seems clear that AL’ s trenchant observations and sarcastic sense of humor are totally lost to you, Rick, based on this post. The pettiness and silliness of ALA bickering over the efficacy of a tribute, resolution or whatever, IS funny and absurd. And the “free little libraries” smack of the symbolic and somewhat absurd as well, whether folks are steeling from them or not. They are not libraries and it’s sad to think that they are making such a cute little splash at a time when actual libraries and what constitutes the professionals working in them are being eliminated since everything is supposedly free online and anyone can just plunk something into Google and be all the wiser. So, if we’re so convinced that the Internet replaces libraries and librarians, isn’t it ironic that these free little boxes of cast off books are popping up everywhere? Are folks just so sentimental about those old fashioned libraries that are no longer needed that they love these so?

      Irony is a most civil way to express profound care, concern and disappointment. And oh my, maybe even a bit of the not always civil emotion of anger.

  3. When they were asked to make a statement where was their support for the Cuban librarians?

  4. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    Someone wake me when the ALA actually passes a resolution supporting librarians. A few words about how someone willing to get a master’s degree and devote themselves to public service should at least rate full-time hours and halfway decent pay would be nice. It would probably be about as effective as their support for Snowden, but nice nonetheless.

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