Al Kagan’s Council Report

Report on ALA Council to SRRT, Midwinter 2008, Philadelphia

Although we did not get everything we advocated, SRRT’s initiatives and interventions in the work of ALA Council went quite well at Midwinter in Philadelphia. Our Resolution on the Confiscation of Iraqi Documents from the Iraq National Library and Archives was passed almost unanimously with very little debate (ALA Council Document #44). Our Resolution on the Crisis in Kenya was revised and passed by a vote of 67 to 65 (ALA Council Document #42). Unfortunately, the Council was not ready to acknowledge any shortcomings in the US media or the effects of the US Government’s close relationship with the past and current Kenyan Governments, and the two whereas clauses that dealt with these issues were deleted.

The draconian guidelines issued by the ALA Executive Board on campaigning for ALA offices upset many Councilors, especially the parts that prohibit ALA elected officials from endorsing candidates. The related issue of prohibiting ALA units from endorsing candidates was not debated as much as the previous issue, and it is unclear whether or not SRRT will have support for overturning these guidelines, which go against longstanding SRRT practice, and probably the practice of other ALA units. One wonders why candidates for ALA President always address the SRRT Action Council and other bodies if not to get some type of endorsement. Indeed both current candidates for President agreed that they would like endorsements. I moved and the Council agreed that the document be revisited by the ALA Executive Board with a report back to Council at the Annual Conference.

There seems to be a fair amount of support for finishing Council business on Tuesday instead of staying to Wednesday. This would be very difficult because some ALA bodies do not finish their business until Tuesday afternoon. In fact, the whole conference would have to be restructured to eliminate the Wednesday Council meeting. It might just shift everything back so that we would have to start on Thursday instead of Friday. In any case, ALA has contracts with hotels and conference centers for many years in the future, and these would all have to be renegotiated with probable great financial loss. For the first time, we successfully moved to refer this item to the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC), a tactic that is usually used against us.

The ongoing process concerning instituting a graduated dues structure seems to be more of a way to delay consideration rather than find a way to do it. The Presidential Task Force on the Graduated Dues Study distributed its report saying the necessary study would cost $624,351. Of course, nobody wants to spend this kind of money. Rather they will do a demographic study of the membership and rely on a current IMLS study to get further data in about 18 months. Then we will see what happens next. Especially since some SRRT members voted for a dues increase based on the promise of this study, I find these tactics more than annoying.

SRRT Action Council endorsed the change to Article IV of the ALA Code of Ethics, which now reads, “We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders.” The previous version completely left out the rights of information users.

I would like to note three (of six) successful resolutions from the Committee on Legislation. The first advocates the inclusion of tribal libraries in the Federal Depository Program, the second opposes postal rate increases for small circulation publications, and the third commends Mr. Bassem Youssef, a high-ranking FBI agent who became a whistleblower. Mr. Youssef was reassigned after he criticized the FBI’s serious abuses of National Security Letters resulting in invasion of privacy. The resolution also calls on Congress to restore civil liberties, correct the misuse of National Security Letters, and protect the rights of whistleblowers against retaliation.

Other important resolutions passed include Resolution in Support of Women as Caregivers in the Workforce, Resolution on Providing Accessible Workstations and other Accommodations at American Library Association Meetings and Annual Conferences, and the creation of an Advocacy Committee to work with the new ALA Advocacy Office. The Resolution on [read only] Member Access to Electronic Lists of the American Library Association was referred to the Electronic Participation Task Force.

As usual, I will be happy to try to answer any questions.

Al Kagan
SRRT Councilor