November 21, 2016

The ALA Washington Office press releases and Todaro’s Monday morning misdirection (#NotMyALA)

For American Library Association members, this past weekend was a firestorm of controversy around a series of press releases, retractions, and apologies having to do with the association’s posture toward the incoming Trump administration and the unshackled radically conservative 115th Congress. I want to avoid chronicling these events, but will refer you to two centerpieces of the weekend’s discussion, blog posts by Emily Drabinski and Sarah Houghton. If you haven’t read them yet, read them first so that I don’t have to spend time rehashing the events. I would add one thing to these statements though, which is to emphasize that the press releases came not from the ALA President, but from the ALA Washington Office, which is ALA’s lobbying arm and its site of relations with the government. These press releases were a statement of ALA’s intention to collaborate with the Trump administration and Congress to help them with some of their goals which ALA shares in common. The fact that they did not express any of ALA’s priorities that are in conflict with Trumpism was what enraged members. My personal reaction was disappointment and anxiety – anxiety that ALA will go down in history as collaborating with a fascist government rather than opposing it in any way. And my impression of the press releases was that they were driven by fear – fear, perhaps, that the Washington Office has to show it is willing to cooperate if it is to have any hope of preserving the LSTA and the IMLS. (The Library Services and Technology Act and the Institute of Museum and Library Services are the two major sources of Federal funding for libraries and have to be periodically renewed by Congress, so they are the main focus of the Washington Office’s activities as lobbyists.)

It is important to understand that the Washington Office operates with a lot of independence from ALA. ALA President Julie Todaro was quoted in their press releases with statements that reflect their cooperative and supportive attitude toward the Trump administration, but if you know about how press releases are produced you know that you can’t assume she came up with those words herself or that they represent her own personal views. Her role as ALA’s spokesperson is necessarily an impersonal role. So I don’t believe it is appropriate to put the heat on President Todaro as though the press releases represent her views. However, I consider her apology for the Friday’s retracted press release to be a bit of a misdirection, because in apologizing she was tacitly taking responsibility for it. In taking responsibility for it she deflected attention from the fact that the press release was a statement by the Washington Office with the government as its primary intended audience.

This morning, President Todaro issued a statement that was intended to cool off the weekend’s firestorm. In it, she reassures members that ALA stands for all things good, just like we want it to. It is important to keep in mind the fact that it does not retract last Tuesday’s press release, which is still sitting on the website as the Washington Office’s official statement of its posture toward the Trump administration. That makes it a misdirection. I want to try to put the focus where it belongs, on the Washington Office. So enough about Julie Todaro.

A few words about the Washington Office, because people should understand its role and its relation to the rest of ALA. ALA of course is an odd beast, an organization of 60 thousand members, a governance structure that is member-based, and lots and lots of employees, who have their own governance structure and call the shots in many ways. So there is tension between member governance and executive governance. Washington Office staff are employees of ALA, and they operate with a lot of independence, owing in part to the fact that other people can only understand their work with Congress and government offices so well. (The fact that their website has its own domain name for staff email addresses underscores their independence.) It is a rather arcane business, inside-the-beltway politics. But officially, the Washington Office is not supposed to set its own policies. It’s policies are supposed to be set by ALA’s Committee on Legislation, which is composed of ALA members and reports to ALA Council, which is ALA’s main governing body and is elected by membership. So through a supposedly democratic process, the membership, you and I, are supposed to determine the policies of the Washington Office, through the Committee on Legislation. In reality, it works that way only to a minimal extent (although arguably the potential exists for members to exert more control, which is the reason I am posting this). I served a term on ALA Council, and used to attend Council sessions for several years prior to that, and I can tell you that Council seldom if ever directed the Committee on Legislation in terms of what the Washington Office policies toward government would be. There were occasions when Council would make a political statement on an important issue through the resolution process, with instructions for the Washington Office to relay this message to Congress. This can be very significant, as it was with ALA’s statement against the USA PATRIOT Act. But more often than not, when ALA Councilors with connections to SRRT (ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table) made an effort to get a politically oriented resolution passed, the Committee on Legislation would push back, saying, “The Washington Office says this would make their work with Congress more difficult in terms of getting LSTA funding.” A valid point with some degree of truth that we can’t know without being a lobbyist ourselves, but two points come to mind in response. First, there are plenty of examples of precedents for taking a strong stand politically where no negative impact on LSTA funding was felt, for example, the Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act. ALA took a risk, against the general guidance of the Washington Office that it does not pay to ruffle feathers, and the result was a statement that members are still proud of. And LSTA funding survived. Second, it is worth highlighting that the COL’s role on Council has primarily been to relay policy advice from the Washington Office, a staff organization, to Council, which is supposed to be the body that sets its policy. This is a reversal of the way the relationship is formally designed. (If you want to do some reading about the history of attempts to get ALA Council to make political statements and the politics surrounding those efforts, I highly recommend Elaine Harger’s book, Which Side Are You On: Seven Social Responsibilities Debates in American Librarianship, 1990-2015, published by McFarland earlier this year.)

So it is in the context of these relationships that you should read the press releases.

(Parenthetically, I do have a couple of questions about these press releases that maybe someone can answer in the comments. I wonder why last Tuesday’s press release didn’t attract any attention, and why it was not acknowledged by Todaro in her apology for Friday’s press release, which was practically identical to it. For that matter, why were there two nearly identical press releases in the first place? Why was Friday’s press release released at all?)

To reiterate, the Washington Office press release from last Tuesday still stands and still has to be taken as their official position on how they will relate to the incoming presidential administration and Congress, and to that extent it remains extremely disappointing and remains a problem that we have to deal with. We should shift the focus away from questions of the way the press releases were worded, and we should be careful to understand that a message from the ALA President about what the association stands for has no impact, in itself, on the Washington Office.

What we should do is this. We should communicate, through Council, that the Committee on Legislation has an important task – to review the overall policies of the Washington Office to ensure that those policies are well-aligned with the priorities of the association, as expressed in statement’s like President Todaro’s statement from this morning. And we should ask for a retraction of Tuesday’s press release and the crafting of a new one that puts ALA’s positive priorities front and center, as goals of its lobbying efforts. Statements of how ALA wants to cooperate with a few of the Trump administration’s goals can be secondary. (There are other associations to look to as examples. Lisa Hinchliffe brought this statement from the National Association of Social Workers to my attention as an exemplar we should look to, and also pointed out a similar situation that the American Institute of Architects are dealing with.)

It is also important to keep in mind through all of this that the context of the Washington Office’s work is changing radically. It is changing to the extent that what they have learned about lobbying in previous sessions of Congress may no longer be valid. Maximizing funding through LSTA and the IMLS may no longer be a concern if the LSTA and IMLS don’t exist anymore (and there is a very good chance that they will go away completely, as the 115th Congress promises to be an orgy of destruction). That might make it paradoxically easier for them to take a strong stand against the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, or at least give them less of a reason to try to block political statements by Council. We don’t know what will happen yet, but we do know that Republicans in Congress have educational institutions in their crosshairs and they have expressed every intention to cut government activities radically. I do not envy Washington Office staff in this situation, and I feel for them. I wish I had a better understanding of how they do what they do, and how they look at all of this. Judging from the tone of the press releases from last week though, it is pretty evident that they are feeling afraid. I hope we can give them a sense of strength in having the association behind them, and that knowing we are behind them they can craft a stronger statement. But in offering them strength, we should also be assertive about the need for a new statement from the Washington Office, laying out ALA’s values and letting the contrast between those values and the Trump administration speak for itself.

Regarding the argument we are beginning to hear that ALA should indeed cooperate with the Trump administration where possible, if it means being better able to achieve some of our goals. I do not dispute this, but it shouldn’t be the sole message of ALA’s statement of its position with respect to the new government. The Washington Office should make it clear at the same time what ALA stands for. Personally, I don’t think we need to say that “ALA refuses to cooperate with the Trump administration and repudiates its fascist ideology,” but we can say what we stand for, and we can register what we are concerned about specifically, before mentioning possible areas of collaboration.

I am terrible at concluding blog posts, so I will just repeat my central point. Julie Todaro’s inspiring statement from this morning has no effect on Washington Office policy, and it is Washington Office policy that their press releases from last week have revealed to us and that we should be concerned about. And there are ways that we can influence that policy. To that end, I have to share Diedre Conklin’s wonderful list of relevant contact information. Use it to write your letters.


November 19, 2016

The ALA Press release that was taken down on 11/19

And this is the press release that was taken down, retrieved from a Google cache:

For Immediate Release
Thu, 11/17/2016


Shawnda Hines
Press Officer
ALA Washington Office
Shawnda Hines

WASHINGTON, DC — Today the American Library Association (ALA) released three briefs highlighting how libraries can advance specific policy priorities of the incoming Trump administration in the areas of entrepreneurship, services to veterans and broadband adoption and use.

“ALA is dedicated to helping all our nation’s elected leaders identify solutions to the challenges our country faces,” ALA President Julie Todaro said. “The briefs released today demonstrate the diverse range of programs and services provided by our nation’s 120,000 libraries, which together constitute a national infrastructure that can address some of the challenges identified by President-elect Trump.

“Libraries are hubs of entrepreneurship and small business development,” she continued. “We help veterans and others access valuable benefits and services they are eligible for. And libraries spur broadband adoption by increasing awareness and confidence in using online resources and services.”

Each paper features numerous snapshots of programs around the country illustrating libraries’ contributions to vibrant communities, as well as “takeaway” points for decision-makers:

One Small Business at a Time: Building Entrepreneurial Opportunity in America’s Communities (PDF)
Snapshot: A Maryland ice cream entrepreneur used library resources to write an award-winning business plan that led to $50,000 in seed money and the launch of her shop.
Takeaway: Leverage libraries in new policy initiatives to grow entrepreneurship and small businesses.

Libraries Help and Honor Our Veterans: Employment, Education and Community Connection (PDF)
Snapshot: A California veteran said the referral he received at the library led to him receiving medical benefits and back pay he was unaware he earned.
Takeaway: Libraries represent a proactive, cost-effective solution for extending outreach and services to veterans and their families.

America’s Libraries: Powering Broadband Access, Adoption and Use (PDF)
Snapshot: Families in public housing with school-aged children receive digital literacy training and access to online homework resources and other digital services at libraries.
Takeaway: Libraries bring a wealth of resources and expertise to partnerships like ConnectHome with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Release of the snapshots coincides with a major policy event (Here Comes Everybody) on the same day held jointly by ALA and the Internet Association, which represents America’s leading internet companies and their global community of users. Focused on how to harness the internet and U.S. libraries to increase economic opportunity for all, the event features speakers from Yelp, Google and the two associations, followed by a policy hackathon.

“Virtually every community across the country is served by libraries,” said Todaro. “Given adequate resources and support, we can expand the scope and reach of the resources we offer.”


And here is the press release from a few days earlier, which is still (at this date) still on the ala website: As you can see, it’s not much different.

ALA’s controversial press release for posterity

ALA’s Washington Office press release from yesterday has already been removed from the web – That’s the one that sane people found horribly craven for its eagerness in declaring ALA wants to collaborate with Trump’s government. An earlier press release that says essentially the same thing, also from the ALA Washington Office, is still on the web. Since it is logical to expect that it might also end up getting taken down, here it is for posterity, followed by a comment from me:

For Immediate Release

Tue, 11/15/2016

Shawnda Hines
Press Officer
ALA Washington Office
Shawnda Hines

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Library Association offers its expertise and resources to the incoming administration and the new and returning members of Congress from all parties elected on Nov. 8.

“The American Library Association is dedicated to helping all our nation’s elected leaders identify solutions to the challenges our country faces,” ALA President Julie Todaro said. “We are ready to work with President-elect Trump, his transition team, incoming administration and members of Congress to bring more economic opportunity to all Americans and advance other goals we have in common.”

Libraries themselves – 120,000 strong and embedded in the largest urban centers, small farming communities and school and university campuses – make up a robust national infrastructure immediately available to advance several policy priorities identified by the President-elect. As hubs of learning, literacy, job skills development and access to public services in virtually every community across the country, our nation’s libraries are ready and able now to expand the nationwide reach of these valuable services.

Some of these services are described in detail in a series of papers being released this week by ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy, including:

* One Small Business at a Time: Building Entrepreneurial Opportunity in America’s Communities
* America’s Libraries: Powering Broadband Adoption, Access and use
* Libraries Help and Honor Our Veterans: Employment, Education and Community Connection
We trust that these resources will assist the new administration and Congress in addressing several areas of national interest announced on the website for the White House Transition Team, specifically in:

Infrastructure: As many as 33 percent of American households lack home broadband connections. Libraries use broadband technologies to help citizens, especially in the most disadvantaged and rural areas, improve their education, find a job and start a business. Investments and public policies are needed to advance the deployment of widespread high-speed broadband capabilities to libraries and other community anchor institutions, as well as to the general population.

Education: Libraries provide opportunities for digital and traditional literacy training. From hosting technology camps to teaching coding skills to offering 3D printers, libraries foster the kind of computational thinking necessary for success in today’s world. Ensuring funding for federal block grants to states for the work of libraries will enable local governments to determine how to best meet the greatest needs in their own communities and make wise investments in education.

Serving veterans: Libraries help address many of the challenges experienced by members of the military when they return to civilian life. Libraries help veterans (and their families) search for a job, improve and translate job skills to the civilian context and navigate bureaucracies to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Further collaboration with the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense will allow libraries to efficiently address the issues facing our returning veterans.

“Through new and strengthened collaborations, libraries are well-positioned to serve as an ever-stronger and flexible resource to advance critical national goals,” continued Todaro. “The U.S. library community looks forward to strengthening our partnerships with federal agencies, the new administration and other key stakeholders at all levels of government.”


That’s the press release. A few brief comments of my own for now. I hope to take this up soon, perhaps with an interview with someone on the ALA Committee on Legislation, which is charged with directing the Washington Office in matters of policy. First, it seems obvious that the “goals in common” that ALA shares with a Trump administration are vastly overshadowed by incompatibilities. To name two: Libraries are committed to inclusivity, and Trump and his team believe that the real America is white, male, heterosexual, and Christian. Second, libraries are committed to an enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, understood as a process where the play of ideas in rational discourse leads to a democratic society governed by a collective wisdom and honest efforts toward truth, while Trump and his supporters have no respect for facts and view the public sphere as an arena where only fools observe the norms of adherence to reason and where might is right. Honest observers recognize that we are dealing with fascists, and we should be vocal in highlighting these incompatibilities, rather than for scurrying to find little areas where we can collaborate. I do not want my association to go down in history as collaborating with a fascist regime, not when we have such strong precedents for standing up to power. I think this issue is going to be front and center for ALA members for the next four years at least. I am hopeful that the Washington Office can be directed to change course and can be assigned a more oppositional stance. I think the response from members will be strong enough to do that.

And recovered now: the press release that was taken down:

And incidentally, this press release, the earlier one that is still up, is open for comments from ALA members on the ALA website.

November 17, 2016

Support for Natalya Sharina

Martyn Wade via
Nov 16
to ifla-l

Dear Colleagues

You may recall that IFLA has made a number of statements regarding Natalya Sharina – a Russian Librarian who is accused of inciting hatred by having “extremist” books on the shelves of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow. Donna Scheeder, IFLA President, has also written to the Russian authorities expressing our concerns. (See,, After being held under house arrest for over a year her trial has now commenced. (See this report on the BBC News website for more information:

Amnesty International have also raised concerns over the case against Natalya Sharina, calling her a prisoner of conscience. They are asking for supporters to write appeals to the Russian Prosecutor General and Chairman of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation. For more information see the Amnesty website at

IFLA remain concerned over the unnecessary and disproportionate treatment of Natalya and continue to be in touch with her lawyer and to monitor the situation.


Martyn Wade

November 14, 2016

Bill McKibben to speak at ALA

Message from Al Kagan to the SRRTAC-L list:

We are excited to announce that Bill McKibben will be a featured speaker at ALA Annual 2017!

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and activist. His books have been published worldwide in over 20 languages. In 2014, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, which is sometimes called the “alternative Nobel.” The same year he was recognized by biologists who named a new species of woodland gnat (Megophthalmidia mckibbeni) in his honor. McKibben is co-founder and Senior Advisor at, an international, grassroots climate movement that works in 188 countries around the globe to organize rallies and spearhead resistance to the Keystone Pipeline. This organization is also credited with beginning the fossil fuel divestment movement.

McKibben suggests that we conceptualize climate change as a threat on the order of World War III and respond accordingly. With this mindset we can make societal shifts similar to those experienced in the 1940’s wartime era and move to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage.

There is urgency to his message as climate change is happening more quickly than scientists anticipated. McKibben argues that the status quo and doubt are luxuries we cannot afford. The nonviolent war that McKibben proposes will save lives and has the potential to produce millions of jobs.

Sponsored by: ALA’s Social Responsibilities Round Table and Sustainability Round Table as well as the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association and the American Indian Library Association

Date, time, and location of McKibben’s featured address at ALA annual in Chicago are forthcoming.

CFP: CAPAL17: Foundations & Futures: Critical Reflections on the Pasts, Presents, and Possibilities of Academic Librarianship

CFP: Call for Proposals

CAPAL17: Foundations & Futures: Critical Reflections on the Pasts, Presents, and Possibilities of Academic Librarianship

CAPAL/ACBAP Annual Meeting – May 30 – June 1, 2017

Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2017

Ryerson University

Toronto, Ontario

The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians (CAPAL) invites you to participate in its annual conference, to be held as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, which lies in the territory of the Haudenosaunee and the Mississaugas of the New Credit River. This conference offers librarians and allied professionals across all disciplines an alternative space to share research and scholarship, challenge current thinking about professional issues, and forge new relationships.


In keeping with the Congress 2017 theme, From Far and Wide: The Next 150, our focus is CAPAL17: Foundations & Futures: Critical Reflections on the Pasts, Presents, and Possibilities of Academic Librarianship.

This conference provides an opportunity for the academic library community to critically examine and discuss together the ways in which our profession is influenced by its social, political, and economic environments. By considering academic librarianship within its historical contexts, its presents, and its possible futures, and by situating it within evolving cultural frameworks and structures of power, we can better understand the ways in which academic librarianship may reflect, reinforce, or challenge these contexts both positively and negatively.

How can “recalling, retelling, and scrutinizing” our stories help us to understand the present and envision the future of academic librarianship? What are the logics and practices that constitute and reconstitute our profession, and inform our assumptions and approaches?

This conference engages with current discussions surrounding what many consider to be a significant juncture in academic librarianship: the turn towards critically examining the contexts and roots of our profession. How for instance, do we as a profession integrate understanding of the pasts and presents of broader social contexts and engage meaningfully in these necessary conversations?

Potential Topics:

Papers presented might relate to aspects of the following themes (though they need not be limited to them):

– Critical reflections on librarian identity, agency, and representation (in areas such as gender, sexuality, race, decolonization/indigenization, professionalism, stereotypes)
– Critical reflections on core values: intellectual and academic freedom, access to information, privacy of information, preservation and curation, professionalism, etc.
– Bringing the oppositional practices of broader social mobilization around movements (e.g., Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, transgender rights, and others) to bear on our work
– Critical librarianship in practice: collections development and management, information literacy, reference services, and other areas of service (e.g., cultural bias in knowledge organization; absent histories, etc.)
– Critical reflections on career paths (e.g., early-career professionals, new and emerging roles, specializations, management, leadership, etc.)
– Unpacking of language, rhetoric, and discourse that influence and constitute our profession and services (e.g., buzzwords, military or business speak, oppositional discourses of past/future, print/digital, progressive/obsolete, etc.)
– Modes of knowledge creation, research dissemination, and engagement (e.g., oral traditions, co-creation, copyright, open access, and other forms of scholarly communication, etc.)
– Critical review of current educational requirements and training for academic librarians

The Program Committee invites proposals for individual papers as well as proposals for panel submissions of three papers. Proposed papers must be original and not have been published elsewhere.

Individual papers are typically 20 minutes in length. For individual papers, please submit an abstract of no more than 400 words and a presentation title, with a brief biographical statement and your contact information.

For complete panels, please submit a panel abstract of no more than 400 words as well as a list of all participants and brief biographical statements, and a separate abstract of no more than 400 words for each presenter. Please identify and provide participants’ contact information for the panel organizer.

Please feel free to contact the Program Committee to discuss a topic for a paper, panel, or other session format. Proposals should be emailed as an attachment as a .doc or .docx file, using the following filename conventions: Lastname_Keywordoftopic.docx

Proposals and questions should be directed to the Program Chair, Courtney Waugh at

Deadline for Proposals is: the 23rd of December, 2016

Further information about the conference, as well as Congress 2017 more broadly, will be available soon.

November 8, 2016

Kent State LIS Study-Abroad in Cuba

The School of Library and Information Science, along with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is offering a study-abroad opportunity in CUBA!

If you are interested in exploring new cultures, and particularly learning more about young people (“Generation Z”) and how they consume culture in another country, this class is for you.

This four-week open learning course is scheduled for May 15-June 10, 2017 — online for three weeks, with one week of travel in Cuba (May 29-June 3, 2017).

YOU ARE INVITED to attend an information session for this course on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m. in Franklin Hall, room 340, at Kent State University. If you are not in the Kent, Ohio, area you can participate in the session remotely:

Meeting number: 715 199 653

1-650-479-3208 Call-in toll number (US/Canada)
Access code: 715 199 653

The session will be recorded and later posted to this site: A course overview and travel itinerary are located on that page as well.


Course description: “The Real World” Cuba: Examining Gen Z Pop Culture Across Borders

Being a teen has clear implications across the globe. This course will examine how adolescence is defined transnationally, as well as young people’s relation to culture. What does “culture” mean to contemporary young adults living in the U.S. compared to those living in other countries? What is produced for this generation in each place? How do young people consume such culture? How do they interact with it? How do they produce, claim, and consume the culture they create for themselves? And subsequently, what can we learn about transnational cultural production, dissemination, and consumption for and by young people? This course will introduce students to Generation Z and the impact of culture on their lives, comparing the US and Cuba in these respects.

The trip to Cuba includes three cities (Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad) and a lot of Cuban culture. We’ll spend three days in Havana, immersed in Cuban pop culture with top Cuban artists from various art, film and music collectives and interact directly with Cuba’s Gen Z. From there we’ll travel to two of Cuba’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites which will show, among other things, “true masterpieces of human creative genius.”

For more information, including course objectives and a travel itinerary, visit

This course is co-taught by SLIS Assistant Professor Marianne Martens, Ph.D. (for graduate students) and JMC lecturer Wendy Wardell (for undergraduates).

Marianne Martens, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). Her research and teaching cover the interconnected fields of youth services librarianship and publishing, with a special focus on Digital Youth. She is the author of Publishers, Readers and Digital Engagement: Participatory Forums and Young Adult Publishing (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Prior to her academic career, Martens worked in children’s publishing in New York. You can read more about her at

Wendy Wardell, an Instructor in JMC’s Advertising sequence, has more than 14 years of B2C experience in the advertising industry. She has worked for local, national and international ad agencies including Ogilvy, Malone Advertising, WB Doner and Liggett-Stashower. She has experience in planning, directing and executing programming designed to drive sales, and she has a proven track record of increasing consumer brand loyalty. She has implemented product launches for ZYRTEC and HUGGIES and has also managed integrated communications plans for global consumer brands including Glade, Ziploc, Windex, BENADRYL and TYLENOL.

All the best,


Flo Cunningham
Marketing Communications and Public Relations Specialist
School of Library and Information Science
Kent State University
Twitter: @KentStateSLIS

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. — Jorge Luis Borges