June 30, 2006

Jim Casey’s notes on ALA Annual 2006

Councilor James Casey prepares a nice report after each conference and shares it publicly. Here is his report on ALA Annual 2006:

AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETING – New Orleans
June 23-28, 2006. Notes by James B. Casey

Only some 10 months after the Katrina hurricane devastated many neighborhoods of New Orleans and forced tens of thousands of its residents to relocate, the ALA Annual Conference returned to the beautiful and culturally interesting Crescent City. The waiters, cab drivers, hotel officials, and entertainers of the City worked very hard to make us feel welcome. If anything, they gave us all an example of service ethic and courage that we might hope to carry to our own daily work when we return home. Although most of us simply went about our conference business while noticing some evidence of the disaster (favorite restaurants and shops that were gone, a virtually empty Riverwalk on Friday night), our very presence at this site was considered to be newsworthy. Even the New York Times covered the event (Adam Nossiter article in June 24, pg. A13) with remark that this was the first major meeting in New Orleans since Katrina and is seen as a $27 million “shot in the arm” that will lead the way for millions of dollars worth of future meetings. It was reported that 87 meetings ($2 billion worth) had been cancelled or moved following Katrina.

The final attendance of 16,964 was well short of the huge Chicago attendance of 27,962 established in June 2005 (as might be expected given the large metro population around the Windy City), but even short of the tepid attendance of 19,731 at Orlando in 2004 and slightly under the prior record low of 17,482 established for the SARS affected Annual at Toronto in 2003. However, most Conference attendees I spoke with were glad that they came to New Orleans in 2006 are enthusiastic about coming back to the “Big Easy” in years to come.

My wife Diane Dates Casey finished the first of year of her three year term as Division Councilor for the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) and participated actively in Council Sessions. I proceeded through my third term (and ninth year) as a Member At-Large of ALA Council.

ADVOCACY INSTITUTE: On Friday, June 23, a very active and thought provoking session began with discussion of two very serious challenges to the very survival of Libraries. The push for 65% of all funding for education to be targeted directly to the classrooms of our public schools looks – on the surface – to be a good idea. Unfortunately, school library and media centers and school librarians don’t seem to fall under the definition of “instructional” and hence are outside of the 65% while football coaches (for example) are included. Although Texas, Georgia and Kansas have signed on to the 65% solution, the battle still rages in other states. Speaker Ann Dutton Ewbank (Chair, American Association of School Librarians Task Force on Instructional Classification) pointed out that school librarians do provide direct instructional services and also that the results of surveys and tests show youngsters producing higher levels of educational achievement in schools that have functioning school libraries. Ann also noted that even the Director of the 65% solution program is of the opinion that school librarians should be classified as instructional personnel. However, the debate goes on and school librarians often fall victim to budget cuts – even in Oak Lawn. Kay Boies (Director of Communications at Texas Library Association) discussed TABOR (Tax Payer Bill of Rights) Laws and their impact in the 15 states that have been affected by the measure. Massive tax cuts may be considered favorable to many citizens, but less advantageous when their favorite services and programs are eliminated. Colorado was noted as one state where TABOR had to be suspended when essential services were paralyzed as a result of insufficient tax flow.

FORUM ON LC SERIES AUTHORITY DECISION: This program was packed with 300+ ALA Members and Cataloging advocates determined to hear how to cope with the recent series authority record decision by the Library of Congress. The cataloging community was seeking leadership following this immensely important change of tact by LC. Fortunately, such leadership was present and engaged. Gary Strawn of Northwestern University Library offered a full report under the link http://www.library.northwestern.edu/public/ALA/490Resolution.doc
Gary Strawn was among the speakers who not only criticized the manner of LCs decision, but offered a suggested path by which the library community can address the issue. He asks: “Is it possible automatically to match a 490 field to the corresponding authority record? If so, how reliable is the match?” and “Is it possible automatically to convert a 490 field into a traced series if so directed by the matching authority record? If so, is the result acceptable?”

A speaker from the National Library of Medicine emphasized – to considerable applause – that more research had been needed before unilateral changes were made by the Library of Congress to long established processes. The notion that the Cataloging Community moved too slowly and that immediate steps were needed by LC to force the issue was considered to be erroneous. That speaker noted that: RDA (Resource Description and Access) needed to represent current best practices and not be pressed forward in a unilateral and hurried manner. She said that ALCTS needs to “put the ?¢‚ǨÀúscience’ back in Library Science.”

Those of us who are not as aware of the cataloging and classification issues faced by the Library world may be thankful that there are dedicated catalogers and information science specialists such as those hundreds who gathered to hear this program (and others during this Annual) who have the willingness and intellectual ability to engage this issue on our behalf.

ALAWO – ALA Washington Office – Briefing brought us up to speed on a number of crucial issues. Initially, Stephanie Vance provided an interesting overview of best practices in lobbying under the title “Don’t Let Democracy Get You Down.” She presented an unvarnished view of the ineptitude and inefficiency of the legislative process. ( http://www.advocacyguru.com ) Lynn Bradley and Miriam Nesbit offered updates on key issues before Congress. Included was an issue which ALA is supporting to “better deal with the use of copyrighted works whose owners cannot be located with reasonable effort.” (HR 5439 “Orphan Works Act of 2006”). Other legislation is termed “Broadcast Flag” and calls for strict confinement of ways in which broadcast materials can be used. Heavy fines or restrictions in bills such as S. 2686 by Senator Stevens could prevent information exchange in such vital initiatives such as distance learning and resource sharing.

Librarians wishing to keep up to date on the latest issues before Congress should note the following sites: http://www.ala.org/washoff for ALA Washington Office. http://www.ala.org/ogr ALA Office of Government Relations. http://www.ala.org/oitp ALA Office for Information Technology Policy, and also the Federal Library Legislative Advocacy Network FLAN http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/fflan/fflan.htm

OPENING GENERAL SESSION: Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright addressed the Opening General Session. Among other remarks (most of which earned applause), she took ALA to task for being insufficiently harsh in its criticism of the Castro regime. Those of us on ALA Council who felt that the resolutions passed in 2003 had been responsibly critical of the abuses of freedom by the Castro regime – albeit not accepting all of the definitions and strident jargon demanded by the most extreme anti-Castro organizations – may be amused that Secretary Albright is using the same “soft on Castro” accusation to childe ALA that had been employed against her in 2000 during the Ilian Gonzales controversy in Florida. ALA’s careful and deliberative assessment of this issue of intellectual freedom in Cuba didn’t neglect the inconvenient fact that the ardent “freedom fighters” of one year can easily become the dictators of the next. The Ayatolla and Castro were declared freedom fighters who claimed much support from Americans before they replaced the oppressive regimes of the Shah and Batista with more extreme dictatorships of their own. That ALA refused to embrace the self-righteous bravado of either side among the extremist elements in the Cuba controversy is much to its credit. Secretary Albright may have lingered too long in the world of politically expedient “sound bites” to appreciate the efforts of ALA Committees in addressing complex issues with measured and precise language.

ALA COUNCIL/EXECUTIVE BOARD/MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION SESSION
provided much information including a review of the Association’s budget and long term investment situation. Both looked quite good and the Endowment Trustees were able to present fantastic results with the Fund increasing its portfolio value from $11,619,997 in 2002 to $25,212,173 in 2005. Fees for investment advisors were also reduced as a result of some changes in a new contractual fee structure following an RFP (Request for Proposals) process in 2003. Although the dues increase passed successfully in Spring 2006, additional funds available to the Association will only gradually increase by 2010 to account for a total of some $1.2 million. Executive Director Fiels indicated that the Association should be cautious in expending the new revenue derived from the dues increase. (I had also heard – not at this meeting – that the low attendance expected for this Annual Conference may not result in significant losses in revenue by the Association due to earlier negotiations with New Orleans officials.)

While ALA fund balances look strong and getting stronger, the APA situation remains in deficit territory both in terms of dollars and credibility. Stated revenue expectations — especially $115,000 for sale of statistical reports such as their new salary survey publications and $20,000 in grant award income when applications have not yet been submitted — seem to be outrageously optimistic to many of us. Only 27 Members of ALA Council (myself included) out of some 170 have made financial contributions to the APA. Projections one year ago had $36,500 in revenue expectations from donations. The actual revenue from donations proved to be only $17,466 in FY 2006. Yet, the revenue expectation in donations for FY 2007 is stated to be $46,000. Several councilors – including a former ALA Treasurer – have misgivings about such unrealistic revenue projections. — The name of APA will remain ALA-APA, but be called (in a kind of subtitle) “Organization for the Advancement of Library Employees”. The name is still a “mouthful” and I doubt that it will resonate with potential donors and/or those seeking certification credentials. Whatever it is called, the organization is hardly known outside of Council Chambers. How it can secure significant donations and enrollment in its certification programs without a creditable profile in the profession is beyond my understanding.

COUNCIL I: This brief session saw some quickly delivered reports an one resolution referred to Committee on Legislation. The largest discussion was brought about by challenges from Councilors for a more transparent and understandable system for choosing keynote and featured speakers for ALA Annual and MidWinter. Given that the guidelines are not yet finalized, much of the discussion was premature, but stimulated in all probability by the unexpected departures of speakers like Codrescu and Albright from their stated topics.

It was announced that ALA Membership has reached a total of 66,382 and is 2.3% higher than in 2005.

ALA/APA COUNCIL (Monday, June 26, 2006): This session featured further and more detailed financial reports and budgetary projections for the FY 2007. I was among a minority voting against approval of a $318,875 budgetary ceiling for FY 2007. Although a just a bit of fiduciary housekeeping in normal times, several of us refused to acknowledge fiscal projections we consider to be totally unrealistic. Approved by a small majority was a “Resolution On Support For Freedom To Form Unions: The Employee Free Choice Act.” Rejected by a large majority was a poorly worded resolution “Support For Overtime Pay Protections.” Most of the objections from Council to these resolutions were based upon their lack of clarity and lack of prior review by the ALA Committee on Legislation. (APA is an organization purportedly separate from ALA and does not, therefore, have its own Committee on Legislation. It was also pointed out that the ALA Washington Office might not be able to lobby on behalf of APA approved positions without charging APA for the services.)

OCLC PRESIDENT’S LUNCHEON: Diane and I attended and heard a series of reports. One major event affecting the future of Libraries is the merger of OCLC
(Online Computer Library Center, Inc.) with RLG (Research Libraries Group) effective July 1, 2006. The RLG – an organization of museums, archives and universities – shall remain intact for the time being, but combine resources and governing systems with the larger OCLC. http://www.rlg.org/index.php

COUNCIL FORUM I: During Monday evening, some preliminary discussion of Council Resolutions being prepared for Council II and III gave about 35 Councilors the chance to air concerns. One resolution focuses on the crisis in Darfur (western Sudan) and the need for making the public aware a genocide crisis that has been largely ignored by the media. Another advocates for Net Neutrality of and opposes efforts in the U.S. Senate to impose Broadcast Flag
regulations and fees to restrict information sharing and exchange. http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/466

COUNCIL II: The Chapter Relations Committee presented a “Resolution on Taxpayer Bill of Rights Laws” (TABOR) calling for ALA, state and regional library associations to join hands opposing such bills. The resolution passed without much dissent since the folly of TABOR laws such as Proposition 13 in California and Illinois tax caps and pledges by governors not to raise taxes have had a detrimental affect on many public libraries. The state of Colorado was cited as an example of one TABOR that went into effect in 1992, but had to be suspended for five years due to crushing budgetary shortfalls and the closure of key governmental services. — Budget and Analysis Review Committee (BARC) shall continue to study graduated dues structures for another year. They plan to proceed cautiously on this investigation since the amount of one’s salary alone is not necessarily the most important gauge determining the disposable income one might have when the dues bill arrives. Differences in the level of institutional support, the amount employees must contribute for health insurance premiums, consumer price indexes in various parts of the country and overall family situations can more often contribute to the ability to pay a larger dues obligation than the stated gross salary. — The ALA Treasurer’s report presented a cautiously optimistic budget picture through 2010 with the new dues increase and increases in registration fees expected to enable the Association to keep ahead of growing expenses. The Budgetary Ceiling of $54,653,986 was passed unanimously.

Also passed at this session was a resolution calling upon libraries and the ALA to take steps to increase public awareness of the tragic genocide taking place in Darfur (western Sudan).

COUNCIL III: Among the most important issues under discussion were action items and resolutions brought forward by the Committee on Legislation. “Resolution on EPA (Environmental Protection Act) Libraries” affirmed support of EPA libraries and urged their preservation. Similarly intended, was the “Resolution on Saving Federal Libraries.” The “Resolution Affirming Network Neutrality” listed “four freedoms of the Internet”: 1/ Very low barriers to entry. 2/ Barriers to entry are identical for both speakers and listeners. 3/ As a result of thes low barriers, astoundingly diverse content is available on the Internet. 4/ The Internet provides significant access to all who wish to speak in the medium, and even creates a relative parity among speakers.” “Resolution Endorsing HR 676 (for Single Payer Universal Health Care) and S 2772, the Health Partnership Act” was passed by Council. “Resolution in Support of Online Social Networks” was passed as a response to HR 5319 (DOPA) Deleting Online Predators Act. This resolution noted that if DOPA (as it is currently drafted) became law, it “would require most schools and libraries to block access to a broad array of useful Web resources and applications, including ?¢‚ǨÀúcommercial web sites that let users create web pages or profile or offer communication with other users via forums, chat rooms, e-mail or instant messagin’ or lose e-rate discounts.”

Several other important resolutions came forward the Intellectual Freedom Committee and were also passed by Council. “Resolution on Retention of Library Usage Records” advocated the protection of privacy in the course of preserving public records. “Resolution on National Discussion on Privacy” urging ALA to lead a “national conversation about privacy as an American value.” Resolution to Commend the John Does of the Library Connection (Connecticut)” for their courage in defending the privacy of user records against some provisions of the Patriot Act.

A “Resolution on Lessons Learned from Meeting in New Orleans” was passed by Council in gratitude to Library Community New Orleans for its courageous efforts to deliver service under the most trying circumstances and in recognition of the fact that the role of Libraries in helping communities to recover from disaster has been accentuated by the tragic events of the past 10 months. New Orleans is STILL recovering from the devastation of Katrina. The resolution also calls for Libraries to continue supporting the “adopt-a-library” program.

Council III business was completed about 3 hours ahead of schedule.

My notes do not, of course, highlight all of the actions taken by Council during this eventful Conference. Copies of the final wording of all resolutions an action items from Council Sessions will be posted and available on the ALA Web Site http://www.ala.org in several weeks.

CONCLUSION: Despite the uneasiness felt by many ALA Members about attending a major Conference in New Orleans only ten months following the devastating Katrina and Rita hurricanes — and the resulting drop in registrations — the 2006 Annual Conference in the Big Easy proved to be a major success in terms of public relations and in the stated (to me) opinions of all attendees with whom I conversed. This also proved to be a productive Conference in terms of the efficient transaction of Association business. Outgoing President Michael Gorman was widely praised for his efficient leadership and “dry wit”. Both Mid-Winter and Annual Conference Council sessions ended ahead of schedule.

My sincerest thanks also go to the Oak Lawn Public Library, the Board and Taxpayers for supporting my participation in ALA.

James B. Casey, June 28, 2006.

June 29, 2006

Conference reports coming up

Over the next few days I’ll be reporting on aspects of the ALA Conference that just took place in New Orleans, and talking about some of the things that ALA as an organization has been working on. It seems to me that ALA members like me who are very involved in the association could do a little more than we do to communicate what the organization as a whole is up to. Foremost in my mind are usually the projects that my small groups in the association are working on, but if I only talk about those things I think I’m doing a mild disservice to the larger organization, whose many activities I strongly support. Among the things I’ll be posting about pretty soon are the strategic plan (including how ALA is going to spend our dues increase) and the ALA Conference’s role in New Orleans recovery, and what it was like to be there. In a few weeks the full text of the resolutions passed by Council will be on the ALA website, and I’ll link to them; I will briefly list them before that.

I should note that the resolutions that passed mostly passed very easily, and even those that passed by close votes or failed didn’t require lengthy debate. This conference was very smooth, and there was a strong sense of cooperation throughout. That sense of cooperation and flow was evident in San Antonio at Midwinter as well, but it was even more prominent this time. I think librarians who have often been at odds on issues over the years have rediscovered our common ground in the face of the Bush Administration and its drastic changes, and being in New Orleans following Katrina has also brought out our cooperative spirit. Also, President Michael Gorman (Immediate Past President now) deserves to be commended for leading our Council meetings in a style that brought everyone together. How to describe it… He used a deadpan wit that showed a calm and tolerant yet seasoned and amusingly weary attitude toward the attacks that the profession, and he, himself, in his role as ALA President, have been suffering. The standing ovation he received from Council at the end of the last session was lengthy and full of geniune gratitude and appreciation. If bloggers have a real grievance against him for insulting them, and they may, I hope that everyone can put that matter in its proper perspective and appreciate Michael Gorman for his total service to the profession, which has been great.

More to follow…

June 14, 2006

Ironic Dade County

The school board in Miami, Florida just voted to remove a book from the school’s library – “Vamos a Cuba / A Visit to Cuba” – because they consider it ideologically incorrect. This story has been developing for a while, but today’s news is about the actual vote of the school board. One school board member, who is personally opposed to the ban, admitted that he voted in favor of it out of fear for the safety of his family… so full of hate (and so passionately in love with democracy?) are certain parts of the Florida Cuban expatriat community.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jo Ann Pinder’s firing

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an informative article on Jo Ann Pinder’s firing.

Happy Flag Day

On this day we celebrate the Barnette decision. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on flag day, 1943, overturning a law which made it compulsory for students to salute the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance. (The law made parents and guardians of students who disobeyed subject to prosecution – not that this was the reason for overturning the law.) The Barnette family were Jehova’s Witnesses, who believe that saluting the flag and reciting the pledge of allegiance is placing a temporal power above God; they take the command in Exodus as applying to the pledge and salute: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.” It seems to me that secular people who resent being required to say the pledge or to salute the flag generally hold the same reason against it, albeit in a more abstract sense.

Thanks to Carolyn Caywood for commemorating this decision on the ALA Council listserv.

Happy flag day.

June 13, 2006

Conservative campaign forces Georgia librarian from post

Jo Ann Pinder, a completely mainstream librarian and longtime head of the Gwinnett County, Georgia, library system, was recently fired from her job by the library board, with no explanation given, after a local conservative organization set up a website that aimed to “harmonize [their] library system with the conservative values of Gwinnett County families.” A posting in Kathleen de la Peña McCook’s Librarian blog led me to this, and provides some good information on Pinder’s background.

June 12, 2006

Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards

The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards were announced in late April of this year. The award is described thusly:

“The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to the children’s picture books and longer books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence.”

The book award is the primary activity of the Jane Addams Peace Association.

June 10, 2006

SRRT Newsletter 154/155

Issue 154/155 of the SRRT Newsletter is just published. It has a report from the Midwinter meeting, a message from the Coordinator, updates on Task Force and member activities, and a feature article by Fred Stoss on the situation facing the EPA Library Network.

June 8, 2006

Barbara Fister on Library 2.0 and the culture of reading

Check out Barbara Fister’s thoughts on Library 2.0 and the culture of reading in her posting on the ACRL blog. She refers and links to a discussion in the mainstream press which I have been neglecting, about how the medium of the web is affecting reading and book culture. This discussion involves Kevin Kelley, Lee Gomes, and John Updike. Her discussion of Library 2.0 issues is sensible and summarizes some of the basic questions.

June 7, 2006

WSJ claims STM journals rig impact factors

The Wall Street Journal published an article on Monday claiming that science journals routinely manipulate impact factors by encouraging contributors to cite heavily prior articles from the same journals. (The link goes to a login-free copy of the article as found on the Stay Free! blog.)

Now, I think it’s true that because many journals tend to be highly specialized in the sorts of articles they publish that there will be a natural tendency for authors to use and cite a good number of articles from the same publications. But this article in the Wall Street Journal isn’t simply drawing a conclusion from the number of citations to a journal’s own articles. It is reporting on authors’ experiences with editors who ask for more citations to their journals as a condition of publication. It also includes an editor’s candid description of this phenomenon.

Isn’t it interesting and somehow a little odd that this is coming up in the Wall Street Journal? “Impact factor” is a term you don’t often see in a daily newspaper. Perhaps this problem has been studied elsewhere (please comment with cites if you have them), but this article isn’t just a digest of another study. The article’s author, Sharon Begley, interviewed a good number of authors and scholarly journal editors in preparing her story for WSJ. What she says is important. I would like to see the issue discussed as directly and frankly in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but I’m not holding my breath. (Okay, point me to the citation…)