August 15, 2018

SRRT Action Council Statement on Hate Speech and Libraries

Hate is on the rise in the United States. According to a report issued this year by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 2017 the number of hate groups nationally increased by 4% from 2016; the number of neo-Nazi groups rose by 22%; the number of anti-Muslim groups grew for the third straight year; the number of anti-immigrant groups jumped from 14 to 22; and various hate websites experienced a phenomenal growth in page views and subscribers.(1) Meanwhile, the frequency of hate crimes is also increasing. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hate Crimes Statistics report for 2017 noted an almost 5% rise from 2015 to 2016, and a 10% increase from 2014. (2) And the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University has found a 12.5% growth in the incidence of hate crimes reported by police in America’s largest ten cities in 2017. (3)

In this context, in December 2017 the Office of Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association (ALA) posted a web page on “Hate Speech and Hate Crimes” devoted to explaining at great length the constitutional protections enjoyed by hate speech, and that “there is no ‘hate speech’ exception to the first amendment.” (4) Then, in June 2018, without advance publicity or discussion, ALA’s Council voted to insert “hate speech” into the list on the “Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights” page of the types of speech that must be permitted in any public libraries that provide meeting rooms to the public. Also, it inserted “hate groups” into the list of the types of organizations which cannot be prevented “from discussing their activities in the same facilities.” (5) We believe these changes were neither necessary nor wise. The “Meeting Rooms” statement that a library “cannot discriminate or deny access based upon the viewpoint of speakers or the content of their speech” was already sufficiently clear, and implicitly included both “hate speech” and “hate groups.” Beyond that, the emphasis on “hate speech” and “hate groups” in both pages resembles the extension of an invitation to groups that are deeply hostile to the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion that ALA rightly describes as “central to intellectual freedom.” (6) With others, we urge ALA to take down the “Hate Speech” page and rescind the revisions of the “Meeting Rooms” page.

At the same time, we cannot agree with colleagues who are calling upon libraries to ban hate speech and upon ALA to encourage such a ban. (7) For us, the issue does not involve the “rights” of fascists, neofascists, white supremacists, anti-Semites, or others who actively use hate to target specific groups. It is a question of the most effective method for combatting those groups, their ideas, and their activities. Our concern is that any calls to limit the far Right by means of laws or rules are doomed to be hopelessly ineffective and dangerously counterproductive.

Over the last 100 years, numerous laws, regulations, and programs have been implemented in the U.S to restrict civil liberties. These have included the Espionage and Sedition Acts, the Deportation Law of 1918, the Smith Act, Harry Truman’s 1947 Executive Order 9835, and COINTELPRO. In virtually every case these have been employed mainly, if not exclusively, against progressive movements and organizations on the Left.(8) We believe this is not accidental. The state in the U.S. is not neutral. It predominantly defends and promotes the power and privileges of the top 1% of wealth, and it seeks to destroy any threat to that power and those privileges. It is inevitable that any effort to restrict the liberties of any group or political current will be turned against progressive movements and the Left. It’s worth noting that one bill currently before Congress that is directed against alleged “hate speech,” is the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.” As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stated, it would equate “constitutionally protected criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, making it likely that free speech will be chilled on campuses.” (9)

Most public libraries in the U.S. are directly affiliated with municipal or county governments. (10) All are heavily dependent on governmental funding, and are highly responsive to the pressures of local, state, and federal governments. There may be communities in the U.S. where public libraries can exclude only groups of the far Right. But in most libraries, we can expect that any ban of hate groups and hate speech will be extended under internal or external pressure to include groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, Black Lives Matter, and various Left organizations. Such a ban might take the form of simply excluding all political meetings from the library.

At the same time, groups of the far Right will capitalize directly upon any attempt to ban their meetings. Although these groups are mortal enemies of democracy, in the face of attempts to prohibit their meetings they will immediately present themselves as “defenders of free speech.” Public attention will shift from a focus on their hateful views and actions to the attempted “violation of their democratic rights” by the Left. The far Right will receive a wider hearing for its message, and the Left will be depicted and more widely perceived as the real enemy of free speech.

Finally, the logic behind the effort to ban meetings or gatherings of hate groups runs directly counter to what is most needed. We believe the only effective way to push back against the Right is through a mass movement involving ever larger numbers of working people and those who have been most oppressed. In contrast, attempts to bar hate groups from libraries exclude popular participation and transfer the struggle into the hands of a few administrators tasked with applying regulations to room applications.

This does not mean there is nothing that ALA, libraries, librarians, or library staff can do to fight hate speech and hate groups. By its statements on behalf of democracy, equity, inclusion, and diversity, ALA has already taken a side in this struggle, as have the many libraries that have attempted to implement these principles. But more can be done. We urge ALA to take the following additional measures:

  • Rescind the recent revisions to the “Meeting Rooms” policy and take down the “Hate Speech” page created in December 2017.
  • Initiate a broader discussion of these issues within ALA.
  • Encourage libraries to adopt and post statements on behalf of equity, diversity, and inclusion. (11)
  • Encourage public libraries to adopt and post policies requiring that all meetings of community organizations in the library must be non-exclusionary, public, and publicly announced.
  • Encourage libraries to actively approach community groups doing anti-oppression work-especially organizations of the most marginalized (12) populations-alerting them to library resources and services and making them aware of the availability of meeting spaces.
  • Encourage libraries to collect resources and develop guides devoted to the history of fascism and the struggle against it.

More importantly, we believe librarians and library staff can participate effectively in the struggle against hate speech and hate groups. Some activities we recommend include:

  • Joining and participating in organizations and coalitions devoted to a mass action perspective of combatting hate speech.
  • Providing reference assistance to these groups.
  • Seeking out and collecting materials and preparing guides to resources on the struggle against the far Right.
  • Helping to organize and participating in demonstrations and picket lines against gatherings of hate groups.
  • Attending and monitoring any meetings of hate groups that are held in libraries.
    Confronting and challenging the arguments and bigotry of hate groups.

References

  1. Heidi Beirich and Susy Buchanan, “2017: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018 Spring Issue, February 11, 2018, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2018/….
  2. Reuters Staff, “U.S. hate crimes rise for second straight year: FBI,” Reuters, November 1, 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-hatecrime-fbi/….
  3. “Report to the Nation: Hate Crimes Rise in U.S. Cities and Counties in Time of Division & Foreign Interference,” Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino, 2018, p. 3, csbs.csusb.edu/sites/csusb_csbs/files/….
  4. “Hate Speech and Hate Crime,” ALA, updated December 2017, www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/hate.
  5. “Meeting Rooms: An interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,” ALA , Adopted July 2, 1991, by the ALA Council; amended June 26, 2018. www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/….
  6. www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/….
  7. This position, for example, is clearly suggested by the “Petition to Revise ALA’s Statement on Hate Speech & Hate Crime” currently circulating. docs.google.com/document/d/….
  8. The Espionage and Sedition Acts, adopted during World War I, ostensibly to combat German espionage and sedition, were employed entirely against Socialists, Wobblies, and pacifists who spoke out against the war. Nearly 2,000, including the Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs, were arrested under this repressive legislation during the war. The Deportation Law of 1918 was directed explicitly against aliens who opposed organized government, advocated the overthrow of the government, or belonged to any organization that advocated overthrow. It was the basis for the infamous Palmer raids in which 10,000 radicals were arrested, and hundreds were deported. The Smith Act against “fifth columnists,” which passed in 1940 in anticipation of World War II, was employed against leaders of the Socialist Workers Party during the war, and against the Communist Party afterwards. No fascists served prison time under the Smith Act. Harry Truman’s 1947 Executive Order 9835 requiring the screening of federal civil service employees for “loyalty” and allegedly directed against “Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist or subversive” organizations, inaugurated the McCarthy era, in which hundreds of Americans were stigmatized, fired from their jobs, and imprisoned for alleged connections to the Communist Party. Although the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the 1950s to 1970s was employed against some groups on the Right, its main purpose was to disrupt the legal activities of progressive movements and groups on the Left: socialist and communist organizations, the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the Black Panther Party, etc.
  9. “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act,” ACLU, www.aclu.org/letter/anti-semitism-awareness-act-2018. Another bill currently under consideration is the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” again justified as a measure to combat anti-Semitism. The ACLU has explained that it could be used to sanction supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) for some statements and actions. BDS is a global campaign attempting to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. “How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights,” ACLU, July 26, 2017. www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/…. See also Brian Hauss, “The New Israel Anti-Boycott Act Still Unconstitutional,” ACLU, March 7, 2018, www.aclu.org/blog/free-speech/rights-protesters/….
  10. Public Library Structure and Organization, National Center for Education Statistics, Technical Report, March 1996, pp. 4, 11, www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/publications/documents/…
  11. Some relevant language can be found in the ALA Policy Manual, www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual, Section B3.
  12. “Different groups of people within a given culture, context and history at risk of being subjected to multiple discrimination due to the interplay of personal characteristics or grounds, such as sex, gender, age, ethnicity, religion or belief, health status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, education or income, or living in various geographic localities.” European Institute for Gender Equality, eige.europa.eu/rdc/thesaurus/terms/1280.
August 4, 2016

Positions open on SRRT Action Council

Message from Diedre Conkling…

Believe it or not it is now time to start thinking about whether or not you would like to run for a position on SRRT Action Council. The terms are 3 year terms so would be from summer 2017 through summer 2020.

For information about SRRT Action Council just go to http://libr.org/srrt/council.php. There are 4 terms expiring, those of Laura Koltutsky, Charles Kratz, Nikki Winslow and me.

To run for a position you need to fill out the form at https://www.directvote.net/alanomination/2017users.html. The more complete the information you provide the better it is for all of us when we are voting.

All candidates running for round table positions must complete the biographical information form no later than 11:59 pm CST on January 26, 2017, after which point the form will go down and new candidates will not be accepted for the ballot.

Here are the instructions for candidates to register on the system:

1.) You will see a Self-Register link on the first page within the bolded text at the top of the page.

2.) Click on the Register link to fill out the registration information and to set your passcode for the Nominee/Candidate process.

3.) Once in the Nomination site you will need to select your ballot. Once you have made your selection, click on “GO”.

4.) Next you will select the office you wish to run for and then click on “GO”.

5.) The first entry, Display Name, is how you would like your name displayed on the ballot. Once you have filled in your name, click on “Next”.

6.) When you go to the page with all of the question/categories to fill in, you will notice the word count monitor. Once you reach the limit, the word count monitor turns RED. Please remember to save your work often.

7.) If you try and submit your work with one or more required questions/categories not completed properly, the system will not let you submit. If this is the case, you will notice the word “Required” by each required category or field that was missed.

8.) If you hit logout, the page will turn grey, provide a notification that your work must be saved before logging out.

9.) When you hit finish you will be able to view your work.

10.) Once you have reviewed your work, if you would like to make any changes, click the “Previous” button and if what you have entered meets with your approval, please hit the “Submit” button and then the “Finish” button.

11.) If at any time during the process, you run into technical difficulties or have a question, please click on the “Support” button located at the bottom of the page. Individuals at ALA cannot troubleshoot problems with the form.

Candidates must click the SUBMIT button, and then the FINISH button to successfully submit their info. Candidates who do not complete their bio form by January 26 will not be included on the ballot. Please let me know if there are any questions or concerns with use of the form.

All candidates must be a current member of the roundtable (ALA/SRRT) as of January 31, 2017 in order to stand for election. Those who are not members of the roundtable by that date will be removed from the ballot, including write-in candidates.

August 28, 2012

Book Reviews from SRRT – New Tumblr

A new source for book reviews: SRRT Reviews, book reviews from the Social Responsibilities Round Table Newsletter. Our titles are reviewed there periodically, along with many others. Bookmark it for collection development.

June 7, 2010

New SRRT Newsletter

An announcement from SRRT Newsletter Editor Myka Kennedy Stephens:

SRRT Newsletter – Issue 171, June 2010 is now available!
The permanent link is: http://libr.org/srrt/news/srrt171.html

NEW! This is our first issue available in EPUB format:
http://libr.org/srrt/news/srrt171.epub

This graphics-free edition is readable on a variety of e-book readers (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and mobile devices equipped with e-book reader software (e.g. Stanza for iPhone/iPod Touch). Strictly speaking, this is a “beta test” so please let me know if you encounter any difficulties with our EPUB edition.

At any time, access the most current issue of the SRRT Newsletter online by going to http://libr.org/srrt/newsletter.html or subscribe to our RSS feed at http://libr.org/srrt/srrtnewsfeed.xml.

Be aware: If you intend to print this edition of the newsletter for reading offline, it will be approximately 31 pages long. Be green and read it on a screen of your choice!


Myka Kennedy Stephens
SRRT Newsletter Editor
mykaks@gmail.com

May 1, 2010

What ails SRRT: a diagnosis

The Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) was the permanent structure formed out of progressive political organizing in the American Library Association during the revolutionary time of the late 60’s. (For a good history of SRRT’s beginnings, see Toni Samek’s Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility in American Librarianship, 1967-1974 (McFarland, 2003). Since then it has served as the political “conscience of the association,” applying internal pressure from an egalitarian moral and political point of view (e.g. opposing ties to corporate America) and taking a public stand on many issues not directly related to librarianship. When I was in library school in the late 90s, SRRT’s existence and the passion of the people who worked within its structure were deeply encouraging, because it affirmed what I saw as an important tie between librarianship and broader social concerns. I was energized by SRRT and became active within it. It was my primary place of activity in the profession outside of my job over the next decade, and I met most of the people I know in librarianship in the process of contributing energy to SRRT. I owe a tremendous amount to SRRT, so it is with a sense of, I don’t know, guilt actually, that I say what I am going to say.

SRRT has run into a wall.

What do I mean? SRRT is the largest round table in ALA (or it was the last time I checked), with over 2000 members. The leadership of SRRT, that is, the people who are active in SRRT discussions, run for and are elected to office, attend regular meetings and make the decisions, are dedicated and passionate people, with strong politics that stem from a sense of moral responsibility. For the most part, they have been involved in SRRT for a long time, some from its very beginning. They are activists, and pursue activist goals within the framework of SRRT, as it was created for. That SRRT is and should be an activist group has never seriously been questioned, but in fact that isn’t what it is for the majority of its members. For the majority of its members, SRRT is something to join in order to support the activities of this activist group and to show ones identification with the idea of the importance of social concerns within the profession.

Only a handful of SRRT members are interested in using SRRT for activist goals. That group is mostly older SRRT members whose idea of activism comes from the era in which SRRT was formed. Their political priorities, assumptions about the way things are, and modes of acting come from that era. There are some younger SRRT members among the activist group – people in their 30s and 40s – but in my experience we have not been able to change the round table’s direction or ways of doing things, due to the strength and entrenchment of the long-time leaders. That is one reason (of several reasons) that I am no longer active in SRRT.

The past few decades have not been friendly to activists of the SRRT stripe. I think that makes it remarkable that SRRT is still around, and as the largest round table at that. SRRT members should be proud that we have not been beaten down by the forces we’re up against as the country has shifted rightward. But it also has to be acknowledged that those forces have had an impact on SRRT, often making it a place of shared frustration for the activists who keep it alive. Many of the difficulties that SRRT has encountered have amounted to an ongoing clash with a worsening reality, a clash made more painful by the obsolete assumptions on which our actions were often based.

I think that SRRT is now in a period of protracted crisis based on a conflict between the activists at its core and the majority of its membership, who have grown less interested in seeing SRRT pursue activist goals over time. This crisis has been precipitated by the issue of the Cuban “independent librarians.”

I have given up discussing the Cuba issue, because I found that no matter how well I explained SRRT’s position, people would inevitably say they understood it and had heard it before but would not be able to explain the argument if asked, let alone answer it, and seemed to remain unaware of the reasoning that led the SRRT leadership to its conclusions. Because of that, I will not rehash the debate, but will only comment on it to point out a few small things. First, it must be appreciated that there are many possible positions to take on the issue, something people often don’t realize. I can discuss a variety of positions on this issue privately with people who are interested (contact me privately if you want). Second, the ideological nature of the debate has led to such a feeling of disgust, among both participants and observers, that issues surrounding the debate have a bad feeling to them and are more difficult to work out. Third, while I feel that SRRT members’ arguments were often more insightful and fair to the real situation, it also has to be stated that they were often fueled by loyalty to the Cuban revolution as a real, successful socialist revolution, which the majority of SRRT members cannot be expected to appreciate or care about.

To report a bit about my experience serving on SRRT Action Council, when the Cuba issue and other contentious issues came up in our discussions, someone would often suggest that we don’t know what the majority of our members think. The idea of polling the membership would sometimes be raised for the purpose of saying that we shouldn’t do it, the reason being that people who don’t know or care much about an issue are happy to idly fill out a poll and have their vote determine something. Instead, this conversation would always conclude, we need to do a better job educating our members about what we are doing and the reasoning behind our position. Action Council has never been interested in knowing what its members think, even during times when membership was declining. (When membership was declining, there were logical reasons to cite that had nothing to do with what SRRT Action Council was doing or saying.)

I don’t know where SRRT’s membership stands on the issues that SRRT has taken up; I imagine that its views are varied (much more so than the core group, I would think). It does seem clear to me, though, that the majority of SRRT’s members are not activists and don’t view SRRT as an activist organization, while its core members do. And, over time, the awareness of an activist orientation for SRRT and support for that orientation have declined, so that for most SRRT members, SRRT is like other round tables, meaning that it is a place to associate with librarians with a shared interests. Still, the official statements of SRRT and its other activities are known, and the leadership is right to assume implicit support for those statements and actions in members’ ongoing membership. While members are free to join the SRRTAC-L listserv and share their opinions, I can tell you that the leadership for the most part has little interest in what those opinions are. Part of the reason for that is that it is rare for a member who is unknown to the leadership to step up and start talking. When one does, the question in the leaders’ minds is normally, “Who is this person?” and not so much, “How big a part of the membership does this person in effect represent?”

I call this gap between the membership and the leadership a “protracted crisis,” but there are more acute crises from time to time that SRRT deals with, or if not crises, then at least problems. The most current one involves all of these issues, and it is over control of the SRRT Newsletter. The SRRT Newsletter has a new editor, Myka Kennedy Stephens, who is not in the activist mold. It seems to me (and I should probably talk to her before writing this) that she is in SRRT because it is the place where her professional ideals are most alive in the association, but not as an opportunity to be a political activist. The core group in SRRT feels that it goes without saying that being active in SRRT (e.g. newsletter editor) means being a political activist. So, when the Myka decided to run an article by Steve Marquardt, who opposes SRRT on the Cuba question, to use a cliché, “all hell broke loose.” As the newsletter editorial board, the newsletter editor, and Action Council have been trying to work this problem out (read “new rules”), there has been a certain amount of misunderstanding between the newsletter editor and others stemming from these different basic assumptions about what SRRT is and what it means to be involved in it.

So, now it seems that SRRT is facing a question. Is there support among the membership to continue it’s 60s-style activist work within the association? Or do members want SRRT to be more like other round tables? Does the SRRT leadership want to know the answer? Or would it prefer to ask another question, such as, “How can we better sell what we are doing to our members?”

I used to feel that this kind of thing should stay in SRRT, but I no longer feel that way. I think it is good to talk openly about what is happening in SRRT and in other groups that we care about.

Regarding Cuba: I know some readers are going to post about Cuba in response to this, but I would ask that if you do, please don’t ignore what I have written on it in the past. The arguments I have made have been responded to many times but never answered, and I am too tired of the discussion to continue in that manner. Posts concerning Cuba in response to this are off-topic, and I might decide not to approve them if they don’t add anything new.

December 18, 2009

SRRT Newsletter – Issue 169, December 2009

Just released: SRRT Newsletter – Issue 169, December 2009.

This issue has messages from the editor and the SRRT AC Coordinator; articles about Banned Books Week and Operation Teen Book Drop; speeches from the 40th Anniversary Celebration; Task Force News, a proposed change to the Bylaws, and book reviews.

July 27, 2009

SRRT Councilor’s report

ALA Council Report to SRRT, Chicago, July 2009

Before reporting on the business of the meetings, let me first honor the life of E.J. Josey, who died just before Annual Meeting. EJ was a founding member of SRRT and the founding father of the Black Caucus of ALA, the first black male President of ALA (1984-85), an ALA Councilor for 29 years,, and a fighter for justice for his entire career, both inside the library profession and outside in the community, nation, and world. EJ was instrumental in desegregating the ALA state chapters in the South and developing ALA policy to support the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. He was a prolific author (more than 400 articles and 12 books), and wrote the path-breaking book, The Black Librarian in 1970. He was responsible for organizing already existing groups for official recognition into a SRRT Coretta Scott King Book Awards Task Force in 1980 (now part of EMIERT). As a young librarian, EJ inspired me with his outrageous interruption of the 1985 Chicago IFLA meeting. He rose from the audience at the first plenary session to castigate the IFLA leadership for continuing to allow the membership of libraries that enforced the policy of apartheid and also the apartheid South African Library Association. I started my library activism at this meeting. For more about EJ , see Memorial Resolution #13.

Despite the economic meltdown, the ALA Annual Meeting had record attendance, 28,941 people. However there certainly was a sense of crisis, and the Council passed a resolution calling for ALA to develop “An Action Plan to Remedy Current Library Budget Crisis (ALA Council Document #56). ALA itself has had to make cutbacks, reducing staff by 9.6 FTE (including 2 layoffs) and requiring staff to take 5 “furlough” days and accrued vacation days.

SRRT had one resolution for ALA Council, “Resolution on Libraries and the Continuing Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” It was passed by the ALA Membership Meeting (Membership Meeting document #5) without any debate and by a large majority of members voting. However, the ALA Council defeated it by a large margin after several emotional speeches (ALA Council Document #55). In my presentation, I noted that Council had called for the withdrawal of the US military from Iraq at the 2005 Midwinter meeting (ALA Council Document #62). It was interesting that two long-time Councilors were ready to challenge the existence of the 2005 resolution until we produced a copy for them. Besides the usual argument that this is not a “library issue,” others seemed to support the Obama position of withdrawing from Iraq but escalating the war in Afghanistan. There were also assertions that the US was upholding women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Council usually follows public opinion, rarely taking a leadership position. We only passed the 2005 resolution on Iraq because it was clear that the country was fed up with the Bush Administration’s war. Sadly, I expect we will have to wait for public opinion to rise against the Afghanistan war before we get Council to act.

SRRT endorsed 4 resolutions developed by other ALA bodies and councilors. One of these also came through the ALA Membership Meeting, “Resolution on Civil Marriage Equality Regardless of Sexual Orientation” (Membership Meeting Document #6). I was very pleased to see that it passed Council with only a few dissenters (ALA Council Document #53). The resolutions on “Accessibility of Library Websites” (Council Document #51) and “Purchasing of Accessible Electronic Resources Resolution” (Council Document #52 Revised) sailed through easily. These bring ALA policy into conformance with several guidelines and laws concerning people with disabilities. Some of us were surprised with the amount of resistance to the “Resolution Endorsing Legislative Proposals for [Single Payer,] Universal Health Care (Council Document #54). ALA endorsed single-payer health care in 2006 but now that the national debate has seriously heated up, the Council took a step backwards. It looked like the resolution would be defeated until a compromise saved the day. Larry Romans substituted the wording “Reaffirms its support for affordable universal health care program, including the option of single payer health care program.” (The title was amended to remove the words “Single Payer.”)

SRRT Action Council also took a position on the “Organizational Dues Rate Proposal” (Council Document #44 Revised). It changes the criteria from size of budget to size of library in various categories. It provides for an average 28% increase over two years. SRRT reiterated its support for a progressive dues structure for individuals as well as organizations. Others voiced the opinion that because of the economy, this was the wrong time to increase dues. However the proposal was approved by a large majority.

Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act was again hotly contested. This is the section that concerns “business records,” the section that most directly affects libraries. It is the only section of the act that ALA has ever officially addressed. Jonathan Betz-Zall referred to “dueling motions.” Separate motions came out of the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) and the Legislation Committee. The IFC resolution was much better. “Resolution of the Reauthorization of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act resolved that Section 215 be allowed to sunset (end) on December 31, 2009 as scheduled (Council Document #19.9). The Legislation Committee’s resolution recommended 9 changes to Section 215 (Council Document #20.8). After much debate, the Council passed the IFC resolution and sent the Legislation Committee’s recommendations to the ALA Washington Office for their use if it looks like reauthorization is going ahead. I spoke to the point that the Washington Office should initially hold firm, and only go to the back-up recommendations at a later stage. I wanted this in the legislative record because the Washington Office is often much too ready to cave in. Furthermore, I reminded the Council that SRRT is opposed to the entire USA Patriot Act.

Council passed 2 other resolutions from the Legislation Committee of particular interest. The first resolved that ALA convene a widely representative group to continue to assess the Google Book Search Settlement and make recommendations to the membership and the Association (Council Document #20.3). The other resolution looks very simple at first glance but is actually based on troubling trends. The “Resolution Supporting GPO’s Digitization of Historical Federal Publications” (Council Document #20.6) urges Congressional support, asks that all digitization efforts adhere to Title 44 of the US Code and GPO guidance, and ALA’s principles of Digital Content, and that GPO and partner depository libraries become trusted repositories for preservation and access. The background to this resolution may be a Midwest “Big Ten” (CIC) proposal to maintain print copies only in its 3 regional depository libraries. This leaves the other depositories to do what they like with their print collections, including moving them in mass across state lines and so-called “destructive digitization.” I think the debate on this will heat up in the coming year.

The Intellectual Freedom Committee presented and Council approved 4 new or revised interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights. They are: “Access to Digital Information, Services, and Networks” (Council Document #19.5), “Importance of Education to Intellectual Freedom” (Council Document #19.6), “Labeling and Rating Systems (Council Document #19.7), and “Minors and Internet Activity (Council Document #19.8). Of course, the death of Judith Krug highlighted the IFC’s work. Judith founded the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. She initiated “Banned Books Week” and developed the Intellectual Freedom Manual. Although SRRT has occasionally tangled with the Intellectual Freedom bodies over the years, Judith stuck to her principles in a forthright way. She will be missed.

There were two other successful resolutions of interest. The first was “Resolution Promoting Sunday, October 4, 2009, as Intergeneration Day Means Libraries” (Council Document #50). This asks us to support multigenerational activities in our libraries and asks ALA bodies to do the same including promoting this on their websites. The other was “Resolution to Expand Electronic Participation.” Instead of waiting for ALA committees and staff to figure our when and where we will start electronic access to governance, this resolution mandated member access to Council meetings for Midwinter 2010. Considering the cost estimates presented, the easiest and cheapest option is a podcast. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if there is extensive member interest.

The ALA Allied Professional Association (APA) Council passed one resolution after extensive debate. “Resolution on Support for Overtime Pay Protection” (APA CD#8.4) puts ALA-APA on record in favor of eliminating the exemptions for white collar staff that were enacted in 2003, amending the Fair Labor Standards Act. It also encourages other associations to speak out in favor of low-wage library workers and actively enforcing existing regulations.

This is my last report as your SRRT Councilor. After ten years as your first SRRT representative to the ALA Council, I can truly say how honored I feel to have had your trust for my time in office. Although there were many times when frustration almost got the better of me, on the whole I think the work has been extremely satisfying. Whether or not we won our issues, we always were able to do some education. In some cases, we were able to persevere and win our issues a few years later. I think this is not only a marker for me but an end to an era for SRRT. Elaine Harger and Jonathan Betz-Zall have also finished their work as ALA Councilors. They are both stalwarts and deserve our praise and thanks. I am sure all the old-timers, including the generation before Elaine, Jonathan and me, look forward to new younger librarians asserting themselves in favor of SRRT issues on the ALA Council floor. I stand ready to help in any way that I can. On the 40th anniversary of SRRT, let’s remember that we are still the largest round table. We also make the biggest splash of all the round tables in the ALA Council. We should be proud of what SRRT has accomplished.

Al Kagan
SRRT Councilor, 1999-2009
akagan@illinois.edu

June 9, 2009

SRRT Newsletter #167

The new issue of the SRRT Newsletter is out – Issue #167, June 2009. It has the usual updates from task forces, messages from the coordinator and editor, and book reviews. This issue also has a separate PDF supplement, a flier about SRRT’s activities at the ALA Conference in Chicago coming up.

March 13, 2009

SRRT Newsletter 166

Issue 166, March 2009, of the SRRT Newsletter is just published. This issue contains the minutes from Midwinter’s meetings in Denver, where Action Council decided to publish the newsletter on the web only, and to move to a quarterly publication schedule. For some time, the newsletter was SRRT’s largest single expense, even at a twice-yearly publication schedule. The weight of this financial cost was unsustainable and had begun to put a damper on SRRT’s other activities. I am glad that Action Council has made this decision.

This issue of the newsletter is Myka Kennedy Stephens’ second issue as editor, and is up to the high standards she set for herself with the previous one.

Now that the SRRT Newsletter is primarily a web-based publication in html format (rather than pdf) it has a new degree of accessibility in the current professional environment.

Other news related to the newsletter: Thanks to Alison Lewis’ and ALA’s efforts, Wilson’s Library Literature database now indexes it. According to reports, they are in the process of digitizing all back issues. That is rather exciting.

Kudos to SRRT and Myka for a good issue 166.

January 12, 2009

New SRRT Newsletter

The new issue of the SRRT Newsletter is out. It’s issue 164/165, January 2009. A new editor takes the reins with this issue, Myka Kennedy Stephens. It’s got a new look but the content is so far consistent with previous issues – conference calendar, task force reports, minutes, resolutions, message from the coordinator, book reviews, etc., as well as discussions about some recent events in SRRT. Emily Drabinski has a review of Questioning Library Neutrality that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Emily is an entertaining writer – I hope she makes the most of her talent.)

July 11, 2008

SRRT Councilor’s Report on ALA Council

ALA Council Report to SRRT, Anaheim, June 2008

ALA met at Disneyland, whoops, I mean Anaheim, June 27th to July 2nd. The ALA and APA Councils passed several resolutions that are particularly important to SRRT concerns. As Council goes, it was a remarkably tranquil meeting and Council III finished its business in record time, adjourning around 10 am on Wednesday morning. In fact, I immediately thought that since we had extra time we should have worked harder and got more SRRT resolutions on the agenda.

Our SRRT Resolution Concerning ALA Policy Opposing Sweatshop Labor and Support for Union Businesses passed in modified form. At the Council Forum where Councilors informally discuss forthcoming resolutions, it was quite clear that there was a lot of support for the sweatshop provision but vehement opposition to including anything about unions. Jonathan Betz-Zall and I therefore deleted the union language before it came up on the Council floor. So this as a step in the right direction, but it is unclear on whether we can ever get a union provision. ALA itself is not unionized. Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director, is quite pleased about our resolution and he is eager to begin implementing it.

Another SRRT initiative came up again as part of the usual ALA Implementation Report from the Midwinter Meeting. It seems that although we had substantial documentation and included a short bibliography, our resolution demanding the return of confiscated Iraqi documents had several inaccuracies. These were pointed out by Dr. Saad Eskander, Iraq’s National Archivist. Jonathan and I revised the resolution and resubmitted it to the International Relations Committee. The IRC reported it out, and the Council passed the revised version without much comment.

The never-ending Cuba discussion came to Anaheim in the form of another resolution in support of the so-called “independent librarians,” who are neither independent nor librarians. Rather they are mostly politicians and journalists, funded by the US Government, who happen to have small book collections in their homes. Although proposed by three Councilors, both seconders were new to ALA Council and when given full information about ALA’s longstanding record and the covert motives of the powers behind the effort, both seconders withdrew their support. The resolution therefore had no second, and was never included in the official agenda. I want to complement Peter McDonald, Chair of the ALA Resolutions Committee, on his excellent work on this matter. Peter explained the background to the debate at the Council Forum to new Councilors and the old ones chimed in to note their disgust in having to deal with this again and again. Peter also initiated a discussion at the Council Forum and on the Council floor exposing the anti-Cuba lobby’s dirty tricks. This time they seem to have crossed a line when they revised an ALA document, and then distributed it as if it were a real ALA document. They even sent it with a simulated ALA Council subject line in their e-mail messages.

The document is Michael Dowling’s (Head of the ALA International Relations Office) extremely well researched report titled Cuba Update for ALA Annual 2008. The original document shows that 98% of the funds of these “independent librarians” come from the US Government. And it also shows how US Government funds have been used to try to influence library associations. Peter explained how this lobby has targeted new ALA Councilors and even candidates for Council. They have bullied them and tried to get them to sign on by asserting that their support would get them elected to Council. Two new Councilors came forward to publicly decry these tactics from their personal experiences. Keith Fiels will write a letter to Steve Marquardt who doctored the document noting ALA’s displeasure, possibly including the legal issues involved. Keith will work on ways to alert new Councilors of these dirty tricks, and he will also alert big name ALA speakers so they are not duped as in the past.

I was particularly happy to see the passage of the ALA APA resolution, “Endorsement of a Living Wage for All Library Employees and a Minimum Salary for Professional Librarians.” This follows-up on a resolution passed last year endorsing a salary minimum of $40,000 adjusted each year for inflation. The rate stated in the new resolution is $41,680 for librarians and $13.00/hr. for hourly workers.

The Intellectual Freedom Committee brought and Council passed six revisions to interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights. Most of these involved only very minor language changes. The most important change added “gender expression” to the interpretation now titled, “Access to Library Resources and Services Regardless of Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, or Sexual Orientation.” The Council passed a separate resolution on pending legislation, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The resolution calls for the reinstatement of protections for transgender persons regarding gender identity and expression. Evidently, these protections were in the original bill but subsequently deleted.

The Committee on Legislation brought and Council approved resolutions on funding support for the National Agricultural Library and outreach to the five national libraries regarding the @Your Library campaign, support for the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007, and support for preservation and access to the US audio heritage by bringing these materials under federal Copyright jurisdiction.

Finally, Council passed the “Resolution Adopting the Definitions of Digital Preservation and the Revised Preservation Policy for the American Library Association,” and a resolution expanding Council transparency which might eventually lead to live streaming of Council sessions.

As always, I will try to answer any questions.

Al Kagan
SRRT Councilor
akagan@uiuc.edu

June 10, 2008

New SRRT Newsletter

SRRT Newsletter issue 162/163, June 2008, is now up on the web in PDF form. This issue has a schedule of SRRT events at ALA in Anaheim, news from the Feminist Task Force, the International Responsibilities Task Force, and the Task Force on the Environment; a report from the Coordinator, resolutions on the crisis in Kenya and the Iraq National Library, SRRT Action Council meeting minutes, a report on Council, a report on the Rainbow Project’s GLBTQ book list for young readers, a report on a bookmobile-to-Cuba project, book reviews, and other features.

December 4, 2007

SRRT Newsletter 160/161

The new issue of the SRRT Newsletter is out, issue 160/161. It is available online in PDF, and being mailed to members in hardcopy. This issue is full of reports, from SRRT Task Forces, the SRRT Councilor, and the SRRT Action Council Coordinator, so it is a great way to see what SRRT is up to these days.

July 13, 2007

Psst! SRRT Facebook group!

Don’t tell anybody, because it’s so embarrassing, but the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) now has a Facebook group.

Actually, the idea was debated for a day, and finally those opposed were swayed. The idea was originally Erik Estep’s, and he had my support.

So join if you’re on Facebook and you want to meaningfully display your affiliation….

July 3, 2007

SRRT Councilor’s Report on the ALA Conference

ALA Council Report to SRRT

July 3, 2007

Greetings to the members of the Social Responsibilities Round Table. SRRT took a break in proposing resolutions at the ALA Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Perhaps we were worn out by the unsympathetic reception to our efforts at the Midwinter Meeting. SRRT did however endorse one resolution, which was then approved by the ALA Council. ALA is now on record in support of the necessary funding to bring new equipment to the National Library Service for the Blind. Council also passed a resolution on the need for “Accessible Digitization Projects” including people with disabilities. A discussion at the SRRT Action Council led to a later initiative at the ALA Council concerning how to move ALA Headquarters and the Washington Office to follow-up on SRRT initiated resolutions passed by the ALA Council. Although we have been assured that these resolutions are sent out to the members of Congress, etc., we are not given any tangible evidence. I now hope and expect to see much better and detailed implementation reports in the future, but of course we will have to monitor this and see what happens. In a related matter, ALA sponsored a successful lobby day where more than 2000 librarians descended on the Congress to lobby for ALA’s issues. Of course, we found that our resolutions on withdrawing from Iraq, opposing disinformation campaigns, and opposing the use of torture were not included in the ALA handout. SRRT made its own handout but it is unclear if it was successfully distributed to many Congressional and Senate offices. I raised this issue three times at ALA Council meetings to no avail. This was particularly unfortunately because the ACLU, an ALA partner organization, along with a couple of hundred other organizations were also lobbying on the same day, and one of their main issues was stopping the torture of prisoners at US and US-affiliated facilities around the world.

The most important Council action was probably contained in the Intellectual Freedom Committee’s report. ALA Council passed a good resolution against the misuse of National Security Letters to obtain library records. The IFC report also contained a substantial guide on “Fostering Media Diversity in Libraries: Strategies and Actions.” The Council also endorsed a short document on “Principles for Digital Content,” with sections on Values, Intellectual Property Rights, Sustainable Collections, Collaboration, Advocacy, International Scope, Continuous Learning, Preservation, and Importance of Standards.

There were two internal procedural resolutions that I and some other progressive councilors opposed. The first created a task force to investigate open-ended electronic participation in all ALA structures. As I said on the Council floor, I am all in favor or e-participation but I am not in favor of e-decision-making. When Keith Fiels later approached me about my remarks, I suggested the extreme case of a call for the ALA Council to meet online. I said that there is no substitute for personal interchange, including body language of folks at the microphone, the emotion in people’s voices, and caucusing during debate to offer amendments. The second was a resolution that will be implemented at the next annual meeting, and concerns the restructuring of ALA Membership Meetings. These meetings were designed to influence ALA policy by offering members the chance to discuss any issues with the possibility of referring resolutions for consideration of the ALA Council. (The ability to overturn ALA Council resolutions was rarely used and is no longer in effect.) Until now, any proposed resolutions had priority on the agendas, but this new provision divides the one-hour meeting into two halves and relegates member resolutions to the second half. This will leave only one-half hour to discuss any controversial resolutions that may arise. We may have to address this problem again soon, perhaps by a membership resolution.

There was one other report of particular interest. The Freedom of Read Foundation lamented the loss of the so-called “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case in the Supreme Court. The FTRF had filed an amicus brief along with several other free speech organizations. This lawsuit challenged a high school student’s suspension from school for displaying his “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner. But this event, an Olympic torch relay, was not a school event and not on school property. This decision was a blow against student free speech rights, and it may have far-reaching implications.

Finally, the Council honored Kurt Vonnegut with a memorial resolution noting his vision, humor, and support for libraries. The text notes that ALA records show 21 reported censorship challenges to five of his fourteen novels, including fifteen incidents from 1972 to 2007 targeting Slaughterhouse Five, which was burned in 1973 in North Dakota.

As usual, I will try to answer any questions.

AL Kagan
SRRT Councilor
akagan@uiuc.edu