November 19, 2016

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
Contact:

Shawnda Hines
Press Officer
ALA Washington Office
Shawnda Hines
shines@alawash.org

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: http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=5421

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

2 Comments »

  1. The services remain impt., it is the prefatory material that is confounding. Libraries have intrinsic worth.

    Comment by Kathleen McCook — November 19, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

  2. Our libraries will be faced with significant challenges in negotiating a political sphere whose values are threatening to ours. We need our professional association to stand firmly for our professional values, and not waver.

    Comment by Joyce Latham — November 21, 2016 @ 12:43 pm

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