Conference reports coming up

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

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

More to follow…

9 comments on “Conference reports coming up

  1. I’d be interested to know, among other things, how you define “the organization as a whole.” ALA is so many things to so many people, and I wonder if there’s a way for us to see it as a unified thing. I suspect that many of the bloggers who were offended by Gorman felt as they did because for them, his role in ALA was as its public voice, and they found the way that he used that voice–not only about bloggers but about a variety of other topics–to be detrimental to their idea of the profession and its ideals. They never saw him in action at Council (and neither does the general public). Anyway, as I said, I’ll be interested to read what you have to say.

  2. Really, Laura? Other than right wingers who did not like ALA’s positions and bloggers whom he insulted, I don’t remember reading statements criticizing him for how he used his voice to represent the profession. The way it looks to me is that bloggers are really upset with him for insulting them as bloggers, and that in their outrage they are showing a high level of insecurity about being bloggers. If instead of being so defensive they found Gorman’s comments simply amusing and anachronistic it would have showed that they were confident. In being outraged at the insult and expressing hatred for Gorman, I think the library blogging world is really revealing its own insecurity and revealing its inflated sense of relative importance in the scheme of things. I think Gorman’s statements about blogging are pretty insignificant and way overblown. I also don’t think it’s my responsibility to re-communicate all of the other statements Gorman has issued as ALA President (most of the public ones are available in ALA’s archive of press releases online) or to give a run-down on all of his responsibilities and activities as the association’s president, though I may do a little of that down the road. As far as how I define the organization as a whole, mostly I’ll be relying on reports on the association’s activities that come from the Executive Director, the Executive Board, the President and the President Elect, as well as the Treasurer’s Report. Actually, I think I’ll ask for permission to upload these reports, or see if they are on the ALA website or can be put up there. They’re good reading – summaries, really, but good for perspective.

  3. I agree with your observations on Past-President of ALA, Mr.Michael Gorman. I thought the Tame the Web blog was a bit harsh on him and I’ve said so in several places. I think Mr. Gorman did a fine job in a difficult year. I think time adds a patina to the initially unclear. I’ve studied ALA presidential years and I predict Mr. Gorman will be viewed as influential and effective.

  4. My opinion: Gorman’s presidency was a huge embarrassment and I’m glad to be rid of him. His comments about bloggers were foolish and ignorant and if that was all he said perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad. His comment on Google being a “notoriously inefficient search engine” was the real killer. What must people have thought– average people now, not librarians — when they heard the President of ALA make a statement so completely divorced from their reality? Well here’s one example from a civilian:

    [W]hat, I should run down to the library the 100 times a day I use
    Google (certainly no exaggeration) and look up in books maps and addresses,
    news headlines, online articles plus myriad other miscellaneous facts I use
    Google for? Sure, libraries are still great for scholarly research, but the
    impracticality of his criticisms of Google (“notoriously inefficient search
    engine,” “random bits of information” in “no very useful order,” etc.) just
    outrage me.

    The bottom line for me is that Gorman’s ignorant statements and arrogant demeanor continually put our profession in a bad light, and that’s something we can’t afford. I don’t care if he walked on water at Council meetings, his behavior hurt librarianship. Goodbye Gorman, Hello Leslie!

  5. I think many librarian bloggers are upset that, because Gorman represented us to the general public, his opinions about technology can be taken to represent the profession as a while. Librarians face many challenges in appealing to the tastes and needs of the public, and it’s damaging when he provides evidence that we’re irrelevant, and perhaps even hostile, to those tastes and needs.

    I like many of Gorman’s ideas and think he’s contributed greatly to the profession, but on this one issue, he has a tone problem. He has the right to his opinions, but name-calling will earn him few new fans.

  6. I think the important thing is that “this one issue” is probably not as important in the scheme of things and in the profession as a whole as most bloggers think it is.

  7. A note to Peter Blomberg:

    Michael Gorman’s statement about Google being “notoriously inefficient” is based on the information science concepts of relevance and recall. The large number of irrelevant documents in a typical google search means the system is inefficient by that measure. It would sound to non-librarians or people who haven’t studied information retrieval that “inefficient” is just an insult or simply means that Google is a time-waster, but as Gorman was using the word it has a more specific and technical meaning. Now, one can debate whether these traditional concepts in information retrieval need updating in the context of contemporary search engines, but that debate would be a scholarly one and would understand the word “inefficiency” in cooler, more objective terms.

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