Immediately after the first meeting of the American Library Association (ALA) Council at the 2017 Midwinter Meeting on Sunday, the ALA Executive Board held a town hall–style meeting to allow ALA members to share their ideas on what they think the direction of the Association should be. Many members have expressed concerns about the effects of the US election on ALA policy and advocacy efforts. The Town Hall was proposed so that attendees could share feedback, concerns, ideas, and aspirations.
The event was streamed live on the American Libraries Facebook page, where it is available for replay. Cheryl Gorman, senior fellow of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, served as moderator for the 90-minute session, which gave each member a maximum of three minutes to state his or her concerns. A total of 32 individuals came up to the microphones during the session.
Most of those who offered their views did so as personal members or on behalf of an ALA unit rather than as representatives of their organizations. Commenters included:
- Jim Rettig, former ALA president: “I think our most core values are freedom of expression and intellectual freedom. We hear rumblings about the need to change libel laws so that politicians can sue reporters. People could then be sued for reporting the truth instead of fake news. When I think about these issues, I wonder what former Office of Intellectual Freedom Director Judith Krug would have to say. She would make sure that we were vigilant and ready.”
- Andromeda Yelton, Library Information Technology Association president-elect: “The statements that came out of ALA after the election had a lot to say about funding. That’s important, but my concern is that they seemed to talk only about funding. I found myself wondering, if they come for copyright, will we say that’s okay as long as we’ve been bought off? If they come for net neutrality, will we say that’s okay as long as we’ve been bought off? When they come for the NEH and the NEA, the artists who make the content that we collect and preserve, will we say that’s okay as long as we’ve been bought off? When they come for free speech—and five bills were introduced in five states on Friday to criminalize protest—will we say that’s okay as long as we’ve been bought off? Do we have a soul? Can it be bought? Or are there lines we do not cross?”
- Nancy Kranich, former ALA president: “I’ve never been prouder to be a librarian. And it’s because of our values that make me feel so good that we can come forward like this and be what is truly American. I’ve never been prouder to be a woman after yesterday’s marches. And I’ve never been prouder to be a democrat with a small d. In ALA, we come together across our differences and we unify. When we stand unified, our voices will be so much more amplified.”
- Aaron Dobbs, ALA councilor: “While I agree that we need to speak up about our values, we need to say it in a way that doesn’t drive people away. We need to say we support our values in a way that people will say, ‘Hey, I’m for that too.’ All of us together, we are ALA. If ALA is not doing something, do it. Speak. Go to your local legislators and say this is what my library does for my community. And my community is your community, because we elected you.”
- Carol Brey, former ALA president: “We do have incredible power. I currently work for the State Department in Buenos Aires at the US Embassy. I am amazed at how many people I heard about that did not vote in this last election. You need to write, call, talk to your legislators at the local, state, and national level. Use that power in any way you can.”
Watch the video of the archived Town Hall meeting to hear all of the comments.