Annoyed Librarian
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The Orlando Problem

When the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) speaks, the ALA Council listserv goes wild.

Okay, maybe not all the time, but definitely when it “condemns the American Library Association’s (ALA) decision to continue with plans to hold the ALA 2016 annual conference in Orlando, Fla. in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict and that state’s refusal to revise or repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws, which were included in jury instructions in Zimmerman’s trial for second degree murder for fatally shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. in 2012.”

Whew, that’s a long one. The thread of discussion was eventually called “The Orlando Problem.”

Apparently the BCALA isn’t satisfied that Zimmerman supposedly now has post-traumatic stress disorder, is homeless, and “is unable to lead a normal life, and has to don a bulletproof vest whenever he goes out.” Hasn’t that poor guy suffered enough? All he did was get away with murder, after all.

The condemnation goes on to mention the Michael Dunn case. The BCALA seems to think that it’s now perfectly legal to shoot random black males in Florida on a whim.

Actually, come to think of it, I guess they’re right.

The question is whether that’s enough reason for the ALA to move a conference that’s scheduled a mere two years away.

The semi-official ALA line is always conservative in things like this, which must really irritate the people who think the ALA takes a bold, liberal stand on anything other than book bans that it has no control over anyway.

Getting out of the contracts would be expensive, there aren’t that many cities big enough for an ALA Annual, the notice is too short to get good rates for meeting rooms and hotels, and the cities don’t control state policy. Those are most of the objections. All very practical.

The objection to boycotting Orlando that recurred in various versions is a bit less practical. Basically, it’s the claim that things are bad all over.

Every state has something bad about it, and if every state has some bad laws or policies then we could never find an acceptable state for a conference.

That sounds like a plausible argument on the face of it. Someone mentioned that California, for example, is getting rid of school librarians left and right, which I’ve noticed before.

And yeah, if you look at it from the perspective of the average librarian – female and white – then that could almost be comparable to basically legalizing the murder of random black males, rather than thinking of it as an insult.

Lots of states have discriminatory laws, against gay marriage for instance. Then again, most of those states are in places that ALA would never have a conference because they don’t have any cities big enough to handle the conference.

The ALA won’t be moving the conference just because of the BCALA’s arguments and condemnation. They need more incentive.

How about this? ALA Annual should never have been scheduled in Orlando in the first place after the last Annual there, which was hot and awful. It’s a terrible conference city, one of those cities with no there there, much like it’s Disney twin Anaheim. What bunch of clowns chose that city anyway?

No, just being an awful location for a conference isn’t going to deter the ALA. That’s why we get Boston in January and New Orleans in June. Being an awful location or at an awful time of year is pretty much how conference sites are chosen.

On the other hand, people don’t have to go. If I recall correctly, the last Orlando conference was one of the least attended ALA Annuals in years.

It costs a lot of money to move a conference just two years away. How much will it cost to put on a conference that few people pay to attend? Perhaps we’ll find out.



  1. Does anybody outside of ALA members even pay attention to what the ALA is doing? When I was still in the profession my state library association was far more useful and cost-effective in terms of professional development. The ALA conference was something LS students (who could still afford the conference at a discount) who took the whole librarian thing a little TOO seriously went to so that they might better commune with their kind and get swag to show and tell in class the next week.

    • I’m not an ALA member and I’ve been looking forward to the conference returning to Orlando. The last time it was here, I bought a pass to just the exhibits and spent an enjoyable two days learning what new books were on the horizon (not to mention ogling expensive library furniture and picking up freebies for my kids). It seems to me that librarians who take their missions seriously ought to insist that the conference come to places like Orlando, to support their compatriots who are struggling hard to enlighten a benighted public. Moving to conference to (say) San Francisco won’t change the legislature’s or Rick Scott’s mind, but a move will make it harder for Florida’s hardworking public librarians to keep up with the field.

  2. OldLibrarian says:

    I would much rather attend the AASL and the Computers in Libraries conferences which target my interests and are always value-added events. ALA is an overhyped, overwrought dog and pony show that just does not interest me anymore.

  3. Walter Lessun says:

    Move all future ALA conferences to Toronto. They have a wonderful Mayor.

  4. AL, I too wrote about this, yesterday — and I cited you being, well, annoyed!!

    But I also wrote about how some ALA Councilors responded to FLA’s politely showing up ALA by sticking to libraries and librarians, and not progressive social advocacy. You gotta love ALA Councilors, what did you call them, old ALA hacks in a recent post, who are so used to using ALA as their own means to promote their own progressive causes that they just come right out and make it all plain to see:

    “So ALA Councilor Gladys Smiley Bell responded to Alan Kornblau—you see, library workers and users ‘fear’ living in Florida so that makes opposing gun laws and the ‘struggle for equality and fairness’ into ‘library advocacy’ and ‘an opportunity to promote change':”

    “This is about library advocacy which I support. This is an opportunity to promote change in states that includes library workers, libraries, library users in light of BCALA and others fight for safety, a safe environment, and other discriminating acts regarding the struggle for equality and fairness. I don’t like living with fear for myself or my teenage grandsons.”

    So if something affects library users external to libraries, that makes it a library issue? Since everything affects library users, isn’t everything a library issue? The Syrians slaughtering and eating Christians as religious sacrifices as revealed by former Muslim Brotherhood terrorist Walid Shoebat affects library users, so ALA should pressure Obama to stop the slaughter? I suppose it would if the perpetrators were Israelis.

    I followed that ALACOUN “Orlando Problem” conversation. I have no doubt librarians who want ALA to stop being used to promote political causes are simply not speaking up because of the reception they know they will get from the “old ALA hacks.” And that’s the very reason they are villified. To silence them and anyone else who dares speak up.

    I am so happy, AL, you write about this kinds of issues. You are one of the few.

  5. If we can boycott and sanction countries like Russia for unusually cruel and barbaric actions, why not states, cities and individuals here in the good old USA?

  6. How can we objectively talk about racism when there is a group called the “Black Caucus of the American Library Association” in the profession. Is it like the Congressional Black Caucus and won’t allow other races to join?

  7. Frumious Bandersnatch says:

    On the other other hand, making the wild and unfounded assumption that the purpose of the ALA is to support Libraries and Library professionals, can you think of any place where they need more support than Florida?

  8. Imagine this … According to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law any WHITE Man can walk down the street and SHOOT DEAD any Black Man he sees. His defend is the HE the White Man felt threatened by the sight of the Black Man!

  9. Imagine this … According to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law any WHITE Drug Dealer can walk into the police station and SHOOT DEAD any Black Cop he sees. His defend is the HE the White Man felt threatened by the sight of the Black Cop!

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