SRRT Statement to ALA Council, 6/28/06

[reprinted with permission from the Library Juice blog]
The Action Council of the Social Responsibilities Task Force made the decision that we could not leave New Orleans without issuing a statement bearing witness to what we have seen, heard and experienced while here during ALA’s annual meeting.

We have witnessed that the spirit, hospitality and creativity of New Orleans is alive and well. So too is the generosity of all those who have traveled from all points of the globe to lend a hand in cleaning debris, in restocking shelves, rebuilding homes and in bringing rays of hope to a community of people, many of whom feel largely abandoned and forgotten.

We have also witnessed that New Orleans and surrounding regions remain terribly broken and languishing nearly one year after hurricanes and political negligence inflicted horrible injuries from which the area continues to suffer.

We urge all our fellow ALA members and friends to return to our homes and libraries ready to share what we have witnessed and to pressure the federal government to mobilize the financial, organizational and human resources necessary to make this region and its people whole again. SRRT also wishes to note that the greatness of the United States lies, not in its military power, mammoth bank accounts, mighty corporations and culture of consumption, but rather in the simple humanity, generous hearts and helping hands of its ordinary people. These are the forces that can heal this region, and they must be given the resources and opportunity to do so.

Reports from New Orleans

People have been writing up their experiences from the ALA Conference in New Orleans. I’ll be linking to a few of them here. Feel free to send on conference summaries [not just conference blogging] and I’ll link to them.

Proud to Swim Home, New Orleans After Katrina by Karen Coyle
Notes on ALA Annual 2006 by Jim Casey
On New Orleans and the American Library Association by Phil Tramdack director of Bailey Library at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

You can find more incidental reportage and pictures by checking the PLA Blog, your favorite sites for the ala2006 tag or browsing HitchHikr’s ALA 2006 Annual Conference section which actually does pretty much the same thing with slightly more together layout.

I had a very good time in New Orleans. My small photoset is here on Flickr. There was an appealing synchronicity to the city’s struggles and renewal with a lot of the things that have been going on in my own personal life. It was a good time to do a lot of walking around and thinking, interspersed with talking library talk with friends and co-workers. I have been to New Orleans many times in the past fifteen years, and the city is so clearly changed. A lot of that change carries baggage, feelings of betrayal, of abandonment, of regret.

I found the librarians were well-received and it felt good to feel that money spent in New Orleans may have been helping a larger recovery effort. By the time I left, late Wednesday after the last Council meeting, the city felt empty and a little hollow. It was easier to pretend that things in New Orleans would be okay when there were 20,000 shopping and eating librarians populating the place, but by the time most people had gone home, there was an eerie emptiness and I just kept feeling “I hope things are going to be okay.”

librarian joke

I went to a panel discussion the “Catalog Transformed” featuring Andrew Pace, John Blyberg, Jina Wakimoto, Jill Newby and Cindy Levine. Andrew showed off their Endeca-based OPAC and explained why it had a feature set that ran circles around all the other currently available tools. Cindy did some sample searches and generally showed the thing off. John Blyberg, speaking about his ILS Customers Bill of Rights started out this way, “How many people in this room are satisfied with their OPAC?” No one raised their hand… except for, after a moment, Andrew Pace. Bump, set, spike.

See you at the PLA Blog

I’m in New Orleans and arrived safe and sound depsite the same travel problems that everyone else seemed to have. I’m in the Council information session listening to Leslie Burger talk about (I might say “defend”) her Library Corps idea which I have mentioned before in these pages. It was interesting to see some people’s responses to it, and her responses to them. I should be blogging for the PLA Blog on and off over the next few days.