Midwinter Wednesday: Council Commends Obama, Urges Peace

January 28, 2009

The third and final Midwinter session of ALA Council commenced bright and early Wednesday morning and the agenda moved rapidly into resolutions presented by Ken Wiggin, chair of the Committee on Legislation. The Council passed a glowing resolution praising President Barack Obama for "recognizing the importance of openness, transparency, and accountability in government by signing an executive order on presidential records and presidential memoranda on the Freedom of Information Act and Transparency and Open Government on his first day in office."  The ALA governing body then passed a resolution urging the United States Congress to reauthorize the Library Services and Technology Act "in a timely manner." During the International Relations Committee report delivered by chair Beverly Lynch, Councilor Al Kagan urged that we cannot achieve peace and stop the destruction of libraries and cultural institutions in Gaza without changing the policies of the U.S. government. A resolution on the connection between the recent Gaza conflict and libraries was introduced and the perpetual debate ensued: Is it the Association's role to insinuate itself into international affairs? Councilor Elaine Harger argued that peace is a library issue, just as civil rights was in the 1960s, and Executive Board member Larry Romans cited ALA policy related to the Association's social responsibilities. With limited opposition, the resolution then passed, calling for "the protection of libraries and archives in Gaza and Israel" and urging the U.S. government "to support the United States Committee of the Blue Shield in upholding the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict." It also "calls on the U.S. government to continue working for a permanent peace in the region." Ken Wiggin also announced that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has put a hold on applying the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008 to libraries. The legislation was passed to protect children from lead in toys, but it also included children’s books among items that need to be screened for lead. While lead poisoning is a serious issue, the is no evidence that the ink in books poses any real danger. Librarians have been lobbying for exemption to the act—which attendees have been talking about throughout the Midwinter Meeting—because it would force libraries to either test every book in their collections or prohibit children from handling them. Elected to the board: Patricia Hogan, Stephen Matthews, Courtney Young

Among other actions, the Council elected three of its members to serve three-year terms on the ALA Executive Board, beginning at the end of Annual Conference this summer: Patricia M. Hogan, Stephen L. Matthews, and Courtney L. Young. Updated Midwinter attendance figures released January 26 show a grand total of 10,220 attendees, compared to 13,601 in Philadelphia in 2008. The figure is very close to attendance projections but in categories that will not meet revenue projections. People opted for lower-price-tag events and categories, such as exhibits-only, Deidre Ross, head of Conference Services told me. Denver is also a location that does not lend itself to drive-in attendance from nearby cities, the way Philadelphia does.