what ALA is doing, from a current ALA Councilor

I have no idea how long I stay on the ALACOUN, the mailing list for Councilors, but I’m definitely not on Council anymore. Whether I’ll let my membership lapse in December is anyone’s guess. This has been a big few months for shakeups. Rory has a post over at Library Juice which has links to the sorts of reports Councilors get from the organization. If you’re ALA-curious, they’re worth a look.

Both Rory and I have been involved in working on some of the ALA-related Wikipedia articles and it’s clear that there is a small (one person? more?) and vocal (fanatical?) faction who believes that one of ALA’s primary claims to fame is as a “sexualizer of children” and other related issues based on ALA’s Library Bill of Rights which includes a statement of right of access to libraries for children as well as adults. I don’t feel the need to chime in on that particular topic, my feelings are probably obvious. However, one of the side effects of the move towards the democratization of information production of the type we see in Wikipedia, means that people with serious axes to grind, a lot of time, and ability or willingness to circumvent or constantly challenge community norms, guidelines and rules get a much larger-seeming platform for their ideas than they would have under more “traditional” publishgin methods. Whether this is the good news or the bad news depends in a large part on which side of the particular debate you’re on.

In this new world, it seems to me, we need libraries and their librarians more than ever.

5 Responses to “what ALA is doing, from a current ALA Councilor”

  1. Michael Golrick Says:

    I hope that even though your term as Councilor is over that you don’t drop your membership in ALA. The Association needs forward-thinking articulate people like you to keep us honest and moving in the right direction. I think it is important that the voices come from within the Association. Those voices will have carry much more weight and validity.

    You have spoken well for the need for ALA to adapt technologically. At the same time you bring the tempering view of someone who works closely with small and rural libraries which consititute the majority of public libraries in the country.

    As to the Council list….You will probably stay on it, as “read only” until you ask the indominable Lois Ann Gregory Wood to take you off.

    I’m heading to Wikipedia now to get the RSS feed set up so I can follow and help you with the ALA article. [And this is a perfect example of why *I* don't want you to leave the Association.]

  2. Library Juice » Wikipedia and Why Librarians Make Good Wikipedia Contributors Says:

    [...] I’ve recently gotten into Wikipedia as a contributor, as Jessamyn West noted recently. She encouraged me to start editing articles during the ALA Midwinter Meeting back in January, but I didn’t start doing it until the head of reference where I work assigned me to learn about it so that I could teach the other reference librarians here how to do it. Initially I didn’t see much of a connection between librarianship and wikipedia editing, because working on an encyclopedia seemed to me to be more of a writer’s or a researcher’s pastime than a librarian’s. As I got into it, however, I realized that the standards for writing a Wikipedia article are similar to a reference librarian’s approach to answering a reference question, especially in relation to one of the main “pillars” of Wikipedia: the “Neutral Point of View,” or NPOV, policy. The NPOV policy is frequently misunderstood by new editors and those unfamiliar with Wikipedia as the same as journalistic or historical objectivity, but it really has much more in common with the librarian’s ethic of neutrality, in that the goal is to present, in as balanced a way as possible, a range of views on topics where there is disagreement by referring to published examples, and to also provide sources when providing factual information. In Wikipedia just like in librarianship, what’s presented is either factual information or a description of what others say, rather than an author’s perspective on a subject. [...]

  3. Rory Litwin Says:

    There may be a large number of small and rural libraries, but in terms of populations served, consider that the US population is approximately 75% urban and suburban and about 25% rural.


  4. Online View » Blog Archive » The Library Bill of Rights Says:

    [...] As a non-librarian, I have just discovered the Library Bill of Rights and the controversy over its statement about age discrimination: [...]

  5. Greg Says:

    With all due respect Jess, trying to whitewash the LBR and how it affects issues like CIPA would also seem to be the serious grinding of axes by yourself and Rory.