June 03, 2004

ALA offers Wireless for ALA Council, Staff

Posted yesterday to the ALA Council list: "Following up on our discussions over the last several months, we have arranged for wireless internet connections in the Orange County Convention Center to be offered to the ALA Executive Board and Council during the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando." ALA is ponying up $4,000 for 200 logins, and I am not the first to suggest that if at future conferences, ALA offered it to all registrants at $20 or $30, we'd all save a pile of money over what we'd pay for wireless individually, and it could be a way to raise money.

In my dream, there's a "wireless at ALA" check-off on the conference registration page, noting that "a portion of this fee goes to ALA scholarships and awards," with a check-off list for designating where you want the donation to go. Your dream may vary.

If you too want wireless at ALA, send a message to feedback@ala.org and let them know! They need the input.

If you are a Councilor and are hoping I'll help you walk your way through this when we get there, I'm sad to say I'm missing ALA because it conflicts with the start of my second master's program. Go bug Jessamyn (though she won't be there til Monday) or ask questions now! Anyone for a Council Buddy List?

Posted by kgs at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 03, 2004

ALA Council Election Results

CLA member Patty Wong was the leading vote-getter. Congrats to all who ran, whether or not you won--it's good to see people take an interest in the association. Thanks to Ruth Seid for the Excel version of this election report.

KEN HAYCOCK 3134 Elected
ANN C. SPARANESE 2840 Elected
SUE KAMM 2538 Elected
RUTH J. NUSSBAUM 2527 Elected
SHA LI ZHANG 2399 Elected
KATIA ROBERTO 2318 Elected
NADINE M. FLORES 2278 Elected
JAMES B. CASEY 2271 Elected
LINDA MIELKE 2266 Elected
ADA KENT 2224 Elected
JOSE AGUINAGA 2186 Elected
GORDON M. CONABLE 2152 Elected
ROBERT NEWLEN 2122 Elected
M. ELLEN JAY 2102 Elected
JOHN DESANTIS 2086 Elected

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April 27, 2004

Preliminary ALA Election Analysis

Turnout up, E-ballots carry the day! It's great to see more people participating in the governance of the association.

Ballots Cast, 2003 9,844
Ballots Cast, 2004 12,562
# Increase 2,718
% Increase 27.6%
# E-ballots Cast 2004 10,614
% E-ballots Cast 2004 84.5%
# P-ballots Cast 1,948
% P-ballots Cast 15.5%
P-ballots distributed 2003 55,484
% Return, Election 2003 17.7%
P-ballots distributed 2004 14,404
P-ballots distributed 2004 25.3%
% Returned, P-Ballots 2004 13.5%
E-ballots distributed 2004 42,433
E-ballots distributed 2004 74.7%
% Returned, E-ballots 2004 25.0%
All ballots distributed 2004 56,837
% Return, Election 2004 22.1%

Posted by kgs at 06:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

ALA Election Update: The Crisp Scent of Democracy

(Updated: note percent increase from last year already over 20%. Thanks to ALA Councilor Jim Casey for catching the error!)

Man oh man, do I love voter turnout. The ALA election is going gangbusters! Put your peepers on the latest stats, and tell everyone who hasn't voted to get to it before Sunday night, April 25, 11:59 p.m. CDT.

As of 22-Apr-04:

E-ballots: 10,151
+ 1,562 since 4/15

P-ballots: 1,753
+ 185 since 4/15

Total ballots: 11,904
+ 1,747 since 4/15

Early pollster summary:

Ballots, 2003: 9,844
Ballots, 2004: 11,904
# Increase: 2,060
% Increase: 20.9%
# E-ballots: 10,151
% E-ballots: 85.3%
# P-ballots: 1,753
% P-ballots: 14.7%

I'm still waiting for the data to run these nums:

P-ballots distributed 2003
% Return, P-Ballots 2003
E-ballots distributed 2004
% Return, E-ballots 2004
P-ballots distributed 2004
% Return, P-Ballots 2004

Posted by kgs at 06:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

ALA Election: Last Year's Turnout Exceeded Ahead of Schedule

The turnout for the ALA election has now surpassed 2003's turnout! Here's a PDF
I cranked from Excel, which I used to quickly run the numbers; it has ALA election turnout data from March 23.

The ALA election turnout rate is also a little higher than I predicted, with most of the pick-up in the e-ballots. If you have been waiting to vote, get going--you can no longer count on the "small pool" theory to elect your candidates. (Democracy: catch the fever!) Polls close Sunday, April 25, 11:59 p.m. CDT.

4/15 Turnout, and Increase From 4/8/04

E-ballots 8589, +1523 (17.7%)

Paper Ballots 1568, +325 (20.7%)

Total Ballots 10,157, +1848 (18.2%)

Total Ballots 2003: 9,844

Posted by kgs at 10:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

ALA Election Update: Better than I Thought

I had been glum (and puzzled) about what appeared to be a sudden and steep drop in turnout in this year's ALA election. However, I had made a crucial error--I had mixed up the total ballots submitted with just the e-ballots. Turnout is on track!

If we sustain the participation rate of a little over 200 ballots per day, by 4/25 we should have around 10,700 ballots, for about a 10% increase in turnout from 2003. I'd like to see my colleague win his bet (a 10% increase in turnout), but I'd be happy to win my own bet (5% increase in turnout).

Total ballots, 2003 9,844

Total ballots, 4/8/04 8,309

Total ballots, 4/1/04 6,756

Increase in total ballots, 4/1 - 4/8: 1,553

E-ballots, 4/8/04 7,066

E-ballots, 4/1/04 6,122

Increase in e-ballots, 4/1 - 4/8: 944

Paper ballots, 4/8/04 1,243

Paper ballots, 4/1/04 634

Increase in paper ballots, 4/1 - 4/8: 609

Posted by kgs at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

ALA Election Update

The rate of submission is predictably slowing; the question is whether the rate of submission will slow even further. In the last six days, ALA has received only about 250 ballots (as of April 3, we had 6,756 ballots submitted). All ballots must be received by April 25.

From ALA:


As of April 8, 2004:

Electronic ballots submitted: 7,066

Paper ballots submitted: 1,243

Total: 8,309

Total votes in 2003 election: 9,844


An email reminder to vote was sent on April 5. Another will be sent on April 19.

Paper ballot mailing was completed on March 24 (one week earlier than last year).

If you requested a paper ballot and have not received it, please contact membership@ala.org by Monday, April 12. All requests for paper ballots that have been received to date will be mailed on or before Monday, April 12.

Posted by kgs at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

Letter to ALA from OLOS on Gay and Lesbian Rights

The following eloquent letter to ALA comes from the Office of Literacy and Outreach Services (also by way of the Council list):


To: Mr. Fiels, Ms. Hayden, Ms. Brey, Ms. Grady, and Ms. Sheketoff:

The Advisory Committee of the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services urges ALA and ALA-APA to take a public stand against discriminatory philosophy and treatment of gay and lesbian employees. We believe that such policies are in opposition to not just one but various of ALA's priorities and principals. It goes against Equity, Diversity, and Intellectual Freedom.

The proposed new interpretation by the new Federal Special Counsel would have a deleterious effect on federal gay and lesbian librarians and library workers, but if implemented its effects would go even beyond that. It would result in a rollback of their rights. It would also encourage further discrimination in other aspects of life towards glbt individuals and groups.

As we have seen repeatedly in the history of this county, legal decisions that make distinctions to discriminate often give elements in the general public a license to not only discriminate, but sometimes even to carry out acts of violence. Perhaps the most extreme and powerful example of this is the Plessy versus Ferguson Supreme Court decision that established the "absurd" separate but equal doctrine. History has shown that the epidemic lynchings that occurred in the decades following this decision were not coincidental. Likewise, legislation that sets up English as the official language has too often resulted in employees and citizens being discriminated for their use of languages other than English. So too are legal decisions that allow for unfavorable treatment of gay and lesbian people in one arena, likely to foster widespread mistreatment in many other arenas.

ALA has a duty to enter into the public debates on these issues and to advocate for greater freedoms for the publics that we serve and the employees who are our members, so that there is true equity and outreach on the part of the American Library Association.

Isabel Espinal
Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services

Posted by kgs at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gay and Lesbian Librarians Seek ALA's Help

I'm forwarding the following message from the ALA Council list, where it was distributed by OLOS (ALA's Office of Literacy and Outreach Services) . Go GLBTRT!


Dear Mr. Fiels, Ms. Hayden, Ms. Brey, Ms. Grady, and Ms. Sheketoff:

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table (GLBTRT) urges ALA and ALA-APA to take a public stand against discriminatory philosophy and treatment of gay and lesbian employees. We believe that such policies are in opposition to not just one but various of ALA's priorities and principals. The policies go against equity, diversity, and intellectual freedom.

The proposed new interpretation by the new federal Special Counsel Scott Bloch of federal workplace protections would have a deleterious effect on federal gay and lesbian librarians and library workers, but if implemented its effects would go even beyond that. It would result in a rollback of their rights. But it would also encourage further discrimination in other aspects of life towards GLBT individuals and groups. Bloch has already in his brief tenure removed all references to protection from discrimination within federal employment from Web sites in his office. He has also removed this protection from presentations and materials available to federal employees. This protection was first given after the decision in Norton v. Macy when the United States Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit found that being gay was not a reason for dismissal from federal employment. The Office of Personnel Management has held since 1980 that discrimination based on sexual orientation is covered as a prohibited personnel action under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. Mr. Bloch seeks to roll back 24 years of protection for federal employees and legal precedence.
As we have seen repeatedly in the history of this country, legal decisions that codify discrimination often give the general public a license to not only discriminate, but sometimes even to carry out acts of hate and violence. Perhaps the most extreme and powerful example of this is the Plessy versus Ferguson Supreme Court decision that established the "absurd" separate but equal doctrine. History has shown that the epidemic lynchings that occurred in the decades following this decision were not coincidental. Likewise, this administration has made it clear that the removal of equal opportunity protections from all types of employees, applicants, student loan recipients, is in danger of revocation based on its court cases and rulings. Once the protections are rolled back for one group of people it will be that much easier for protections to be rolled back for other groups and individuals.

We strongly believe the American Library Association has a duty to enter into the public debate on this issue and to advocate against discrimination toward those we serve and the federal employees among our membership. Doing so will continue the long tradition of equity and non-discrimination on the part of the Association. Therefore, we urgently request that ALA and ALA-APA take a strong public stand against rollbacks in job discrimination protections for federal workers.


Anne L. Moore
Stephen E. Stratton
Co-chairs GLBT Round Table

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First Anniversary of the ALA Web Site Roll-Out

ALA rolled out its redesigned Web site on April 7, 2003. It wasn't the best day in ALA's history. The site was a debacle: a lot of content was missing, the design was confusing, the search engine was worse than terrible, and as the week unfolded, we found many, many other problems.

The worst part of the Web site roll-out was that ALA initially rebuffed members' comments, which ranged from mild puzzlement to howls of pain. Our own Council, our elected body, was initially complacent and quiet. It took a revolution of e-mail messages and postings to sway ALA's thoughts and make it realize that the new Web site was, if not exactly FUBAR, well on that road.

It might not be readily apparent from the site, but ALA has come a long way in the past year. I don't just mean the technical improvements, which move along at a glacial pace, but are indeed in work. ALA restored a lot of the "disappeared" content, made some minor but crucial usability changes to the site, and even has a search engine consultant (and a good one, at that) working with them to help them select and implement the right tool. That's all well and good. But along the way, something else happened. Council is more interested in ALA's technology. Executive Board members know to ask about technical improvements, and follow up on these questions in their monthly meetings with the Executive Director. And elsewhere in the organization, there appears to be more of a focus on technology, and more effort to integrate technology into the association. We now have a priority list that ALA staff, governance, and committee members can review and discuss.

When I first became involved in the ALA Web site mishagosh, my mantra was "we cannot change ALA, but we can improve the Web site."

I still think that's true, but I'm pleased to see examples (and I hope no one on ALA staff takes offense) where ALA has clearly taken action to move itself forward. Like most big organizations, it's a slow-moving barge that is hard to turn mid-stream, and as an ALA staff member once said to me, "Karen, there is a reason we call them 'divisions.'" Considering all of that, and that ALA had way underinvested in technology for a very long time, and still doesn't spend what it could, and probably never will, we've seen a lot of good things happen in the past year. We have a long way to go, and ALA will always be more reactive than proactive. Nonetheless, I predict continued good things. (And if I have guessed correctly, that new search engine will rock.)

Posted by kgs at 06:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

ALA Election Update

We're up to 6,756 total ballots so far in ALA's election. Last week this time, 5,231 e-ballots had been submitted. So in the last 7 days almost 900 ballots were submitted. Also, the paper people are starting to send in their ballots, bringing the total for the week to over 1,500 ballots. 17 days into the 52-day election period, we're 2/3 of the way toward last year's total participation.

Don't forget to vote!


From ALA:

As of April 1, 2004:

Electronic ballots submitted 6,122

Paper ballots submitted 634

Total 6,756

Total votes in 2003 election: 9,844

Web email and paper ballot mailing have been completed.

We will send email reminders to members who have not voted (or who have "parked" their ballots) on April 5 and April 19. Please cast your ballot!

We will update you regularly.


Posted by kgs at 08:11 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

ALA Election Update

Last year, in 52 days ALA received less than 10,000 ballots. This year, with only ten days since the "polls opened," ALA has received over 5,000 ballots.

1/4 of all ballots mailed out this year were paper ballots. We can expect a lag time for this participation, but I'm still surprised that ALA has received so few of them. We forget how slow snail-mail is: the paper goes out, the paper sits on the table, the paper must be filled out, the paper must be mailed back.

Keep voting--it's your association!


Electronic ballots submitted 5,231

Paper ballots submitted 50

Total 5,281

Web email notification and paper ballot mailing have been completed.

Total votes in 2003 election: 9,844


Posted by kgs at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

ALA Online Election Update

The message below my post just came to the Council list.

Zounds! Egad! And my stars! That's over a 10% increase in voter participation since yesterday morning. Plus now we know what's going on with the paper ballots. (1/4 of all members are using paper ballots? Let me adjust my bustle!)

John Duke says he will be a gent and if turnout exceeds 15%, we both lose our bets. (I bet on a 5% increase, and he bet 10%.) We may have to buy Keith Fiels a beer!


Here is an update on the progress of our 2004 election as of March 23,

All of the initial mailings and e-mailings will be completed as of today.

As of the end of the day today, we will have mailed out 13,483 paper ballots.

As of March 20th, 42,626 members have received email notices containing voting instructions and passwords.

Additional paper ballots will now be mailed out as they are requested by members.

As of this morning, we have received 4,465 electronic ballots and 2 paper ballots, for a total of 4,467 ballots received.

Keith Michael Fiels
Executive Director
American Library Association
(800) 545-2433 ext.1392

Posted by kgs at 01:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

My Council Picks for ALA Election

This is actually tough for me, because the standard advice is to bullet-vote for five or so candidates, and yet I can easily find 34 people I'd like to serve with on Council--and that includes people I don't agree with most of the time.

The list below represents some of the people who received my vote, and I've put a * next to names of people I'd recommend bullet-voting for because they are highly qualified folks whose names are not "household" enough to set them apart on the ballot.

Get out there and vote!

Therese G. Bigelow
* Rebecca B. Brown
* Frank A. Bruno
* Randolph Call
James B. Casey
David S. Clark
Gordon M. Conable
Joe F. Dahlstrom
* John DeSantis
* Norman I. Eriksen
Ken Haycock
Sue Kamm
Em Claire Knowles
Bernard A. Margolis
Stephen L. Matthews
* Michael J. McGrorty
Linda Mielke
* Michael J. Miller
Robert R. Newlen
* Barbara J. Pickell
June Pinnell-Stephens
* ROberta A. Stevens
Frederick W. Stoss
* Thomas J. Tobin

Posted by kgs at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Read Poster Contest

How tempting this is!


This is a hoot, and for the price ($89), it's really reasonable. I'd need Photoshop, but realistically I'd also need a graphics designer since even putting a small graphic of a cow on this Web site has exceeded my design abilities.

Just this morning I was thinking about fundraising efforts for LII... the LII bustier... a calendar of the Men and Women of LII (I want to be standing at the reference desk strategically holding a volume of the National Union Catalog)... and here comes the ultimate idea: I can make a READ poster that shows someone reading LII! (And why not in a sweet little bustier?)

Posted by kgs at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

ALA Election Turnout Update

As of this morning, ALA had received 3900 online ballots since the balloting began one week ago. To put this in perspective, last year, ALA received 9,844 ballots for the entire election--a turnout of less than 18% for a paper-ballot voting period 52 days long. Not only that, but 2003's turnout was the best turnout since 1998. And to really frost the cupcake, we haven't seen participation above 25% in the last 24 years (the only period for which I have data), if not much longer.

I guess I have suffrage in my blood. Long time ago, in another life, many was the day I set up a folding table on the corner of 110th and Broadway in Manhattan and registered voters as they went in and out of the subway. It never stopped being a thrill for me to be part of this positive process.

A few people are griping about the online election software. There's room for improvement. But if the early participation trends hold true, we've gone a long way toward fixing what was truly broken. By and large, ALA members appear to be voting with their feet (or whatever appendages they use to enter data into computers).

I'm just an enlightened bystander in this election, but it is thoroughly groovy to watch the process. Technology can't change everything--it can't even change diapers. But sometimes, technology takes a good thing and makes it better, or takes a problem and brings it closer to a solution. Let's watch to see how it works this time--and let's wish it well.

Posted by kgs at 11:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Barb Stripling for ALA President

This is a reminder that I'm enthusiastically supporting Barb Stripling for ALA President, and hope you will join me in voting for her.

Barb is not only enormously poised and articulate, and a great writer, but her background in school libraries makes her an essential choice in this most draconian of budget years. Our youngest users need spirited and knowledgable leadership--and that describes Barb. As an ALA Councilor, I've had the privilege of working with Barb for quite some time, and she impresses me with her interest in new technologies and her skill and building relationships across the board.

I can also say, from personal experience, that both candidates have enormous personal integrity, but in terms of poise and ability to think on one's feet, Barb wins hands-down. It's important to be articulate on paper, as both candidates are. But as Carla Hayden demonstrated this past year when she quickly responded to the attorney general's comments about "hysteric librarians," we need librarians who are articulate at a moment's notice.

If you want to know more about Barb, visit her Web site.

And please do VOTE!

Posted by kgs at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

ALA Online Election: Tastes Just Like Chicken!

Allow me to make a few approving clucks over the new ALA online election system. I started my ballot today (and will set it aside to finish it up later). It's not just that the company did a good job designing our ballot (which they did) or that the process is remarkably smooth (which it is). What stands out are the unexpected joys of using an online system, which informates the process so that some of the tasks, such as figuring out how many Councilors you had voted for, are done by the system itself.

Notes from the election process:

I had no trouble identifying the initial e-mail informing me that the ballot was available.

I logged in without trouble--in Mozilla, no less.

The instructions were clear, and unavoidable.

The voting process is easy-breezy. I like the way it adds up the Councilors for me. (Now I am wondering what happens if you vote for too many Councilors on the paper ballot--is that section of your ballot then void? I'd think so.)

It's easy to see the candidate bios--far easier than in paper--and the ability to vote for the candidate from the bio page is a real plus (and as newspapers are wont to say, "a Web-only feature").

User support phone numbers and e-mail are listed on every page.

Amendments, plus pro/con, appear in a popup. (Wonder if candidate bios are not popups because they are interactive pages? I betcha.)

I found I spent far more time thinking about each Council candidate than I have in the past. It is so much easier to review the bios online, and I was able to prioritize my votes. I'll discuss who I'm voting for later today.

I finished voting, then moved on to the LITA ballot; it went very fast--less than two minutes. I'll save the other two ballots for a little later on.

I bet John Duke a beer that turnout would increase by 5% in this election; he bet 10%. I bet he wins--I should have insisted on a spread. Any other bets?

Posted by kgs at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2004

Blogging at PLA: Any Insights?

I'll be at PLA conference next week for a whirlwind tour, from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon. Tried to determine if the Washington State Convention Center sells wireless... no luck. Anyone else find out anything? I sent them a query a minute ago--I'll post what I learn.

Posted by kgs at 11:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 05, 2004

The Cuba Report Amendment: The Director's Cut

It didn't take long for the proposed amendment to IRC's report on Cuba to morph into something it was not. I am going to be charitable and chalk it up to post-conference amnesia (what did we vote on? who did I lunch with?), but today, one of the members of the Cuba report task force warned the readers of ALA's member-forum, "please do not be misled by quotes taken out of context"--and then proceeded to grossly misrepresent the amendment, suggesting it was a "demand" to release a "specific number" of prisoners.

Look, if you're going to disagree with me, please do so on the merits of the amendment, not on hearsay. We're information professionals, and we don't get our facts via the DRE method. As a lawyer once commented, "we give good citation."

So here again is the failed amendment to the IRC Cuba report, in gloriously plain text, suitable for framing (or forwarding), with a couple of explanations built-in for those of you who aren't parliamentary-procedure junkies.


Proposed Amendment to the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba


Proposed: the following modification to the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba:

Changing this:

ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003, and urges the Cuban government ...

To this:

ALA joins IFLA in its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003, and calls for their immediate release. ALA urges the Cuban government ...


[Note: the above is the actual action language. The rationale below was provided to support the proposed language, but would not have appeared anywhere in the report. Amendments do NOT have to be submitted in writing; I did so at the encouragement of the parliamentarian, and I believe it helped facilitate debate and closure on this issue.]


This change would add action language related to the arrest and lengthy prison terms of the dozens of journalists, writers, and others arrested in the March, 2003 crackdown. These journalists, writers, and other activists were arrested for a variety of actions that we have repeatedly affirmed in numerous ALA policies: writing and speaking about free speech and civil liberties, and owning private book collections (often referred to as "independent libraries"). Additionally, personal book collections were confiscated and in many cases destroyed.

In calling for the release of the people arrested in the March, 2003 crackdown, we join Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, President Jimmy Carter, journalist Nat Hentoff (recipient of the 1983 ALA Immroth award), and other organizations and individuals who champion free speech everywhere. This action language is consistent with ALA policies, including ALA Policy 58.8, which affirms our support for Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression") and ALA Policy 58.1(2) (International Relations, especially 58.1(2), a policy objective to "support human rights and intellectual freedom worldwide."

ALA's commitment to free speech everywhere is so strong that in the last fifteen years ALA has passed resolutions on behalf of human rights and intellectual freedom in these countries: Romania (1990), Afghanistan (1991), Thailand (1995), Zimbabwe (1996), Nigeria (1996), Yugoslavia (1999), Cuba (2001), Palestine (2002), and Iraq (2003). These resolutions were not limited to calling for free speech for formally accredited librarians or for access to "official" libraries, and some of the individuals we cited in these resolutions were labeled dissidents in their own countries.

Several of the Cuban dissidents arrested in 2003 received prison sentences of over 20 years. The dissidents include several journalists for the organization Reporters Without Borders, an international journalists'
organization dedicated to free press everywhere, and Journalist Victor Arroyo, whose sentencing documents note that his "antirevolutionary"
activities earned him an award from Human Rights Watch.

It is worth asking what kind of "criminal" behavior prompted the mass roundup of dozens of Cubans in March of 2003. The arrests appear to be related to a crackdown following the Varela Project, a pro-democracy petition that despite the risk it posed to those who signed it, received tens of thousands of signatures after it was mentioned in a speech by President Jimmy Carter in his visit to Cuba in 2002. The actual "charges"
against the dissidents include such charges as accepting radios, battery chargers and cash donations; owning and sharing books critical of Cuban government; and for the journalists, independently reporting news, which is illegal in Cuba.

For More Information

Reporters Without Borders: http://www.rsf.org/

Human Rights Watch: Americas: Cuba: http://hrw.org/doc/?t=americas&c=cuba

Amnesty International 2003 Report on Cuba (pending, online)

Posted by kgs at 01:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004

Anime Councilor

Well, durned if Monika Antonelli, ALA Councilor, doesn't do voices for anime! See:


Posted by kgs at 02:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2004

ALA Technology Peeve #2: The Council Transcripts

Here's another bug up my fanny about ALA and technology, and one I've been battling for at least seven years.

We don't broadcast the ALA Council transcripts, and we don't make them available online.

Before you step up and say, "but gee--that sounds expensive," let me tell you what we do spend money on. If you stop in Council chambers during a session, you will see that we hire a highly competent transcriber who keys the discussion into a computer in near-real-time, and the transcripts are simultaneously projected on two huge screens.

So the transcripts are already keyed in, and though that's surely expensive, that's a Good Thing. We provide them for the hearing disabled, but most of us benefit from being able to read the screen during the sessions (particularly those of us who worked on airplanes in our youth and no longer do well in less-than-optimal sound settings).

We could easily and inexpensively piggyback on this technology (and on this expense), and project Council sessions in the same real-near-time, so that ALA members could follow the sessions anywhere in the world--from the exhibit floor, from a hotel room, from anywhere in the world people can access the Internet.

We could also make the transcripts available online, for later review. These are open meetings, so we have nothing to hide--right?

So why don't I propose this? I have. I proposed a resolution on this issue in my first Council session--what is that, 1996?--and I was hooted down. I don't mean I was voted down. I was laughed at, on the Council floor, as if I had proposed that, say, the earth was round. Two people voted for my resolution besides me (I had more votes on the Cuba resolution than on this issue). I remember them well--the Superintendent of Documents, and Marvin Scilken. God bless 'em both. I think Marvin was being kind, and the SuDoc was being savvy (a smart man who knows better than to go on record opposing access to information).

Still, I'm right on this issue, and time is on my side, so I keep raising it. I brought this up last year, more informally, and didn't get quite as much flack. I'd love to see more ALA members, on Council or otherwise, ask for this service. I'd like to see us go just a little bit farther, take something we already do, and make it truly accessible.

As one colleague said, watching the Council sessions in real-time may sound boring, but people do watch C-Span. I can easily see ALA junkies watching the sessions, not only from far away, but from as close as a meeting room across from Council. All it would take is a computer with Internet access. (And that's the next peeve to moan about.)

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Jim Casey's ALA Council Report

This is a report on ALA Council from Jim Casey, ALA Councilor at Large, PUBLIB member, and director of the Oak Lawn (IL) Public Library. Jim does such a thorough job with his ALA reports that I really can't top what he has to say (even when I disagree with him--and we sat next to one another but couldn't have been farther apart on the Cuba issue). Useful and insightful. Thanks, Jim!

ALA MIDWINTER MEETING in San Diego, California, January 8-14, 2004
Notes prepared by James B. Casey

This was the first Mid Winter Meeting in San Diego for Diane and I and the weather and program itself were excellent. As of the end of business on Monday, attendance at this Mid Winter was at 10,788, a full 26.7% behind the 13,664 recorded for by the same period at Mid Winter
2003 in Philadelphia. Although a beautiful location and near to the Los Angeles area, San Diego isn't within reasonable driving distance of as many very large cities as is Philadelphia --- New York, Baltimore, Washington, Newark, Boston and even Pittsburgh and Cleveland (from which
I drove with a carload of impoverished colleagues back in 1982).
Vendors made some ominous noises about low floor traffic in the exhibits and are reviewing their attendance at future Mid Winter Meetings.

OLPL Trustees Shirley Barrett and Marian Sullivan continued their service on ALTA Committees and joined us for a pleasant dinner on the evening of January 10. (ALTA = Association for Library Trustees and
Advocates) Diane continued in her position as Chair of CCS Policy and
Planning Committee and is the CCS representative to the ALCTS Planning Committee. (CCS = Cataloging and Classification Section. ALCTS = American Association of Library Collections and Technical Services). I began my seventh year as a Member of ALA Council and secured petition support for re-election to another three-year term as a
Councilor-at-Large (Spring 2004). Election results will be posted on
May 3.

COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION - LEGISLATION ASSEMBLY. Following a brief meeting of the GODORT (Government Documents Round Table) Legislation Committee, the Committee on Legislation hosted its Legislative Assembly. Reports were given by members relative to issues currently facing ALA Washington Office Lobbyists. Great concern was expressed about the tendency of the Bush Administration to go beyond the normal behavior characteristic of administrations to "put their policy stamp"
on web sites and documents. It was noted that the Bush Administration
has frequently removed information provided in government studies that contradict their policy positions under the guise that such findings are
"out of date" or "archived". ALAWO reports that: "In August 2003, the
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division issued 'Politics and Science in the Bush Administration'
which reports numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings."

The Government Printing Office has also been pressing to reduce access or charge for previously "free" (that is, paid for by tax dollars) documents and that Congressional Research Service Reports have become less accessible than at any time in the past. According to ALAWO (ALA Washington Office): "On November 11, 2003, 59 organizations and 3 individuals wrote to Representatives Mark Green and Christopher Shays to express their dismay at the discontinuation of the 'Index of Congressional Research Service Reports.' [A copy of the letter is on
the www.ala.org/ogr site] On November 21, 2003, Rep. Christopher Shays
introduced HR 3630 which would 'make available on the internet, for purposes of access and retrieval by the public, certain information available through the Congressional Research Service web site.'" ALA Washington Office has been actively promoting the public's "Right to
Know" information created and paid for by tax dollars. Restrictions
emerging since September 11, 2001 have posed a major problem for public access to government information.

Considerable support has been building from Congresspersons on both sides of the political aisle to affirm Privacy Rights in the wake of the
Patriot Act and proposed Patriot Act II. Also, good news came in the
form of expected approval of very good funding for LSTA during the next fiscal year. In this one area, the Bush Administration has proven to be a very positive force (or possibly, via the influence of the First Lady).

Another threat emphasized in this Assembly was the introduction on October 8, 2003 of HR 3261 "The Database and Collections of Information
Misappropriation Act" out of the Republican controlled House. This
bill would make it more difficult for libraries to obtain 'fair use'
exceptions to the kind of 'shrink wrap' or 'click wrap' contracts that are designed to maximize profit at the expense of open access.

The ALA WO BRIEFING was led by ALAWO Director Emily Sheketoff. She
announced that May 3-4 would be the National Legislative Day program in
Washington, D.C.. She also promoted the virtual Legislative Action
Center prepared by the WO staff http://capwiz.com/ala This web site
offers a "scorecard" which shows how congresspersons voted on various
issues. She urges us to become acquainted with this site and to thank
supporters of Library positions and question those who oppose us. The
notion of a 'groundswell' of opinion can sometimes strengthen our
lobbying efforts.

Emily made the unexpected announcement that a firm by the name of
Working Assets http://www.workingassets.com/ has joined forces with ALA
Washington Office to encourage voters to register on-line at their
public library. The web site to which
prospective voters are to go is http://www.yourvotematters.org
National publicity would encourage voters to come to their public
library to register to vote. For each registration secured at a public
library facility via the yourvotematters.org web site, ALA will receive
$1.50 and for each change of address update $.50 will go to ALA.
Cooperating libraries will be eligible to apply for grants from ALA.
After this session, I asked Emily whether or not this program had been
reviewed with PLA or any other public library group before being
launched. She indicated that the whole agreement had just been hammered
out with Working Assets the night before and that no literature or
detailed information was available. I urged Emily to hold back on this
project and on the publicity until she had conferred with public
librarians as to the impact on public expectations and demand emerging
suddenly in an election year (primaries are a few days or weeks off).
At this point, I am uncertain that my warnings were heeded.

E-Rate was discussed in the most favorable terms in the sense that we
need to continue defending the program from Congressional critics and
emphasize how enormously helpful it has been. Although some $376
million have reportedly been received by Libraries during the past six
years (and about $63 million per year), there are still a vast majority
of libraries which do not participate. In a room with about 80 to 100
people in attendance, the speaker asked how many were currently applying
for E-Rate. Only about 20 of us raised our hands. "That's
encouraging!" He said. I did not find it so and shudder at what
Congresspersons would hear if they venture to randomly call public
library administrators from their districts to ask how important (or
even relevant) the E-Rate has been to their libraries during the past 6
years. Lynne Bradley, ALAWO Staffer, indicated that the E-Rate is not
under direct attack, but that efforts will be made during February to
embarrass the program with allegations of "waste, fraud and abuse".

PATRIOT ACT challenges continue including a new bill (HR 3037) which
would allow "administrative subpoenas" (subpoenas which can be issued
automatically and without the authorization of a judge) for business

ALAWO Staffer Rick Weingarten indicated that many important battles lie
ahead for "the soul of the Internet". Major trends he noted were: 1/
Increased costs for access. 2/ Assault on anonymity. 3/ Telecom
collision (?), and 4/ Privatization.

As in past Conferences and Mid Winter Meetings, I have been impressed by
the vast amount of detailed knowledge handled by the ALAWO and by the
ALA Committees dealing with these issues. Although the news is often
bad, our efforts to stem the tide have been laudable.

The local political scene for libraries had been adversely affected by
past budget cutting and worse was expected after the announcement by
newly hatched Governor Arnold "the Terminator" Schwarzenager that future
budget cuts would also be massive. This tightening of the budget
situation may have had an impact upon the ability of attendees to come
to San Diego from elsewhere in the "anything but golden" State of

SESSION. This session included reports from the ALA Executive
Director, the BARC (Budget Analysis and Review Committee) and also from
the Endowment Fund. On the whole, 2003 saw very large gains in the long
term investments - far better returns than in past "up years". The
endowment fund increased from the area of $11 million to $18 million
through investments and property sales. On the other hand, the APA
(Allied Professional Association) raised only $5,992 from Member
contributions during its first year (2003) while the projections of 2002
had been for about $48,000 raised by this source. I urged that the
executive leaders of APA find a way to make the donation mechanism on
the ALA Membership renewal forms more apparent and less obscure.
Donations to the APA are provided as an option on the renewal forms, but
the fact that they must be solely from out of member pockets (cannot be
paid with tax money or reimbursed) needs to be made clearer and the
reason for the contributions needs to be presented more clearly.

ALA RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE: In my third year as a Member of the
Resolutions Committee of ALA Council, I was able to assist with the
checking of Resolutions submitted by Councilors on a number of
occasions. In one case, I assisted the past President of ALA with
editorial and format changes at the ALA Office until well after 10 PM.
My term on Resolutions Committee ends in June 2005.

COUNCIL I: This very brief session included several reports from
Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels on Executive Board actions since
the Annual Meeting of 2003 and also on the implementation of Council
directives from Annual Conference. A Resolution of little practical
importance which consumed a considerable amount of discussion time was
on ALA Election Endorsement and Use of Funds. The elections in question
were internal, ALA elections and not national political elections. This
resolution prohibited ALA from expending monies on endorsement of any
particular candidate for ALA office (President and Treasurer), but left
endorsement issues to the governing bodies of each of the various Round
Tables and Divisions. The resolution was, as I recall, rejected. -
Council was unanimous and enthusiastic in awarding Honorary ALA
Memberships to eminent cataloger and former Council Member Sander Berman
and to internationally known and respected Librarian Norman Horrocks.

Following this Council Session were speeches by candidates for ALA
Executive Board (including Nann Blaine Hilyard from Illinois). All
gave excellent speeches and answered difficult questions - including one
from me concerning the willingness of the candidates to insist upon
Librarian credentials as qualifications for filling of senior management
positions in ALA. We learned on Wednesday, January 14, that Janet Swan
Hill and Nann Blaine Hilyard were elected to the ALA Executive Board for
terms commencing in July 2004. Both are extremely well qualified and
will serve the Association well.

COUNCIL FORUM: This is an informal caucus of Councilors which generally
occurs late in the evening prior to Council I or Council II. In this
case it was Monday evening and the two topics under discussion involved
some intense disagreement. The former President of ALA - Maurice
Freedman - indicated his outrage that the law firm retained by ALA over
many years (Jenner & Block) had agreed to take on divine, Inc. as a
client. Divine was the company which (it has been charged) squandered
many millions of dollars which had been paid by thousands of Libraries
across the country Faxon - RoweCom to purchase periodical and journal
subscriptions. At least $50 million and perhaps $100 million in
precious subscription dollars vanished in an Enron type maneuver which
left libraries across the United States in an extremely difficult
position during late 2002 and early 2003. Dr. Freedman presented a
resolution for discussion at this session which would set a specific
policy requiring legal counsel retained by ALA to not accept clients who
are (or have been) in litigation with ALA and also to refuse clients
whose actions have materially damaged ALA, libraries and publishers.
--- I assisted Dr. Freedman with the wording of this resolution so that
it could appear on the Council III agenda and was unable to remain for
the discussion on whether or not ALA should pass a resolution deploring
the Castro regime's treatment of dissidents in Cuba.

COUNCIL II: This long session saw the rejection of a seemingly simple,
innocuous resolution to replace the 1892 vintage motto of ALA and the
delay to Council III of a resolution demanding the repeal of the Patriot
Act. As usual, Council debated issues at length. Another seemingly
harmless resolution deploring the closure of Clark University Library
School (in Georgia) was debated and battered at length and also referred
to Council III (if not later) because it lacked specific remedies for
prevention of future Library school closings. The Treasurer's Report
for 2003 was competently delivered and revealed the near miraculous
completion of the year with a small surplus. (In the wake of the SARS
disaster in Toronto, it was feared that lost revenue would preclude any
black ink for the year.) I took issue with ALA's long term projections
of healthy U.S. economy and a rise of the Dow Jones from 10,000 to
15,000 by 2010 with the observation that the price of Gold bullion has
gone from $260 per ounce three years ago to $426.50 today (+64%). Gold
price increases have generally reflected long term pessimism and a
perception of global and economic instability. --- A new dues category
for "support staff" of $35 per year was debated at length and ultimately
passed. It was argued (convincingly) that some "support staff" earn
more money than MLS librarians (even directors) who work for
inadequately funded libraries. The strong advice from Council urged the
Committee to work for a graduated scale of dues which is triggered
solely by salary. Those earning the most should pay the most.

For the first time I can remember, the President of ALA did not travel
to New York City to discuss the Newberry and Caldecott selections on the
Today Show. President Carla Hayden stayed in San Diego and elected to
appear on a Fox news segment. Dr. Hayden indicated to us that she would
have been unable to attend any of the key meetings at this Mid Winter
with a transcontinental flight required for appearance at New York studios.

COUNCIL III. This session was shorter than expected due to the very
sensible decision of Council Members to withdraw resolutions which would
have consumed vast amounts of time, but which were also probably doomed
to failure --- Resolution on Human Rights in Cuba and Resolution to
Repeal the Patriot Act. In point of fact, the reasonable objectives of
both resolutions were achieved via outstanding Resolutions presented by
the International Relations Committee (on Cuba) and Committee on
Legislation (Patriot Act). ALA will deplore limitations on
Intellectual Freedom in Cuba without demanding specific action to
release prisoners held by the Cuban government. This, in effect, kept
the focus on Intellectual Freedom and avoided ventures into specific
"foreign policy" measures. Committee on Legislation (COL) kept focus
on calling for repeal of specific portions of the Patriot Act and headed
off demands for total repeal of the act. Thus, the successful strategy
of opposition to the Patriot Act will probably grind forward through
2004. COL also achieved overwhelming support for opposition by ALA to
HR 3261 - the "Database and Collection of Information Misappropriation
Act" and thereby indicated strong commitment to fight against
encroachments on "fair use" in the digital age. --- Among the
disappointments was the rejection of a portion of the excellent
resolution presented by Past President Maurice J. Freedman entitled
"Resolution to Establish ALA Policy for Retaining Legal Counsel". It
called for the expression of great disappointment by the ALA Executive
Board with the ALA law firm Jenner & Block for representing "divine,
Inc." against charges by the U.S. government in grand jury inquiries.
The other segment of this resolution was referred to BARC (Budget
Analysis and Review Committee) and will therefore probably not resurface
before Annual. Those of us who felt that ALA needed to step forward
NOW and demonstrate a determination to begin holding "corporate friends"
to accountability were disappointed. The divine, Inc. subsidiaries
RoweCom and Faxon were all designated as "corporate champions" of ALA at
the very time when they were accepting tens of millions of subscription
dollars that were allegedly being diverted by devine, Inc. to other
schemes. The affiliation with ALA gave devine, Inc and RoweCom a
fascade of trust and respectability which may have prompted less
trustful libraries to keep on sending in money despite rumors that the
firm may have been in trouble.

This session of Council ended at about 12:20 PM.

CONCLUSION: This Mid Winter was in one of the most beautiful sites any
of us can remember, and also proved to be reasonably productive when it
came to sensible resolutions on the difficult issues of Cuba and
continued opposition to the Patriot Act. It was less productive with
regard to ALA formulating a stronger representation of "due diligence"
when it comes to holding corporations and the Association's Law firm to
accountability. As before, the Committee on Legislation continued to
work skillfully and well and the ALA Washington Office showed much
effective leadership despite increasingly difficult conditions both on
Capital Hill and in the Administration with issues involving privacy and
access to government information. The International Relations Committee
did a splendid job of devising a resolution on Cuba that represented our
commitment to Intellectual Freedom while avoiding antagonism towards any
of the political parties involved.

My sincerest thanks go to the Oak Lawn Public Library for supporting my
participation in ALA.

James B. Casey,

January 14, 2004

Posted by kgs at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Cuba Amendment Voted Down

Not too surprisingly, the amendment (Council Document 55.1) was voted down. It was felt that the report "finesses" the complex Cuban situation. Councilors called for us to "stay away" from foreign relations.

I will withdraw the resolution; it doesn't make sense to have this conversation again later this morning. ALA has spoken. I don't call it ALA's "shame," and I feel that the shrill name-calling from some sectors within and outside our association alienates ALA members. But I do think that those of us who feel differently from ALA need to take it to other arenas and other venues if we seek change on this issue.

I would like to think that I have affected positive change by raising the issue well enough in advance to influence the final wording of the IRC/IFC Report on Cuba. The report goes farther in criticizing human rights abuses in Cuba than it would have without additional light on this topic. It doesn't shame ALA to produce this document... but it's not going to help Victor Arroyo.

Posted by kgs at 09:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 13, 2004

Judy Jetson among the Flintstones

If you folks can believe this, a resolution to rescind the ALA motto was defeated. The Pleistocenes on Council reared their heads and noticed that Janet Swan Hill (who received my vote for EB) had proposed we finally kill this tagline, first introduced when Benjamin Harrison was president: "The best reading, for the largest number, at the least cost."

Posted by kgs at 12:37 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Update on Cuba

SRRT pushed another resolution to Council III, ensuring Council III will be so busy that we aren't going to get to everything on it. This tactic is similar to holding the report in committee and claiming it is in draft, when in reality IFC and IRC finished their work on it this Sunday. It's not surprising, but it's still not kosher.

Meanwhile, here is a proposed change to the IRC/IFC report. We may not get far enough to consider this, but if accepted, it would significantly strengthen the report on Cuba.

Most amendments and substitutions are not prepared in advance (and it's ironic that some Councilors will have access to my proposed amendment a day before they have access to the report). However, this gives me a chance to offer not only the amendment, but to provide a rationale for it that may win over some Councilors, or at least give them more to think about.

Posted by kgs at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wireless Hub Found!

I found the rogue wifi hub; it's in the ALA office, delivering network services to some of the computers. (Actually, I didn't see the hub itself, but I did see the wifi USB adapters velcroed to the sides of computers.) Pretty good range... I think I'm a good 300 feet away, and the signal reports it is "very good."

If we can deliver it to the office, we can deliver it to Council chambers.

Posted by kgs at 11:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 12, 2004

Council Updates

Registration for the day stands at 10,000+ -- about 2,000 down from Philly (Midwinter 2003).

Activist Sanford Berman and parliamentarian guru Norman Horrocks approved for honorary lifetime ALA membership. Woohoo!

CD 56 (Policy on Endorsements and Use of Funds) went down in flames. We now continue our lack of clarity related to division endorsements. I am very opposed to divisions piffling money on elections, but that resolution contradicted itself and muddied the waters, and I voted against it.

Council Forum is tonight, 8-9:30, New York/Orlando rooms.

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Wireless at Midwinter

Monday: still have free wireless. I saw two hubs: Instant Internet and "linksys." The former would redirect me to a $25/day service. The second is the open free hub, wherever it is and whoever is providing it.

Posted by kgs at 10:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

ALA Technology Peeve #1: The Current Reference File

From time to time on Council list, I have vented, fruitlessly, about the Current Reference File. But why stop there? Let me bore you folks, as well! Seriously, it's an important issue, a very pivotal issue in terms of moving ALA to new technologies, and one the ALA young'uns should think and talk about.

To explain the Current Reference File (henceforth, the CRF), we need to step back one level and discuss the ALA Handbook of Organization. This is a print publication, currently over 200 pages long, distributed annually by mail to all ALA members. The Handbook includes ALA bylaws, the policy manual, information about the divisions, contact information for key ALA members (those on committees, for example), and other important information.

Because the Handbook is a large print publication, expensive to compile, print, and distribute, it has been longstanding practice to print only portions of policies and other key documents in the Handbook itself, and to refer members to a resource called the Current Reference File. For a lengthy paper document, this makes sense.

Access to the Handbook is a Good Thing. Not only do we have a paper version, with the expected companion resource, the monstrously large PDF version also placed online, we also have a really useful digital version. The Handbook has been faithfully recreated as a Web page, which is a seemingly Good Thing, as well--except for a catch. The reproduction is faithful to a fault: all of the policies truncated in the print version, for perfectly reasonable cost-saving measures, are also truncated in the online version.

This is how the Policy Manual refers to the CRF:

"The full text of pertinent position statements, policies, and procedures is retained in the 'Current Reference File' at ALA Headquarters. Outdated policies will be retained in an historical file at the ALA Headquarters. Both of these files will be available at the ALA Headquarters and at the Midwinter and Annual meetings."

This is exactly the case. These files are retained at ALA, and paper versions of these documents are literally placed in a large trunk and shipped to every ALA conference.

Most of you by now can appreciate just how antiquated ALA is in this practice. You understand that these days, nearly all documents shared among ALA members start as digital content, and all of them end up digitized in the process of becoming formally part of ALA's content history. You also appreciate that the justification for omitting content from a print manual disappears entirely when the document goes online. (As for additional space required for the content, I would be extremely surprised if the entire omitted content took up more space than that on the tiny USB flash drive I stuff with key materials and pop into my dress pocket on the way out of the hotel room.)

The embargoed CRF documents may occasionally see limited paper publication during the earliest part of their life cycles, when members of ALA review, revise, and consider these documents, but for the most part, early on, these documents exist exclusively online, scattered across divisional lists, portions of the Web site, and personal collections. It is only in the process of producing a paper document, which is used to generate the online document, that the documents are "disappeared" in the manner of Latin American dissidents.

The net result of this antiquated practice is that when you read the policies in the Web version of the Policy Manual, you get the "resolved" clauses--the action items--but you do not have access to the "whereas" clauses which frequently provide crucial background to the logic that went into the policies, and you are also bereft of the many outstanding background materials that ALA members produce in the course of drafting ALA policy.

These background documents--reports, backgrounders, and so forth--are an important part of the historical record of oru association, and also deserve our attention and respect as resources generated through the blood, sweat, toil and tears of ALA members, either on personal time or through the largesse of their library institutions.

On the Council list, I have repeatedly recommended that the items in the Current Reference File should be placed (and organized!) online and linked to in full from the Policy Manual (as well as other ALA documents). Councilors understand and appreciate my point, but I have not made similar inroads with ALA staff. My last request met the response that it would take too many staff resources.

I'm sympathetic to the fiscal constraints on ALA, and I accept some blame for not tackling the problem more directly. After all, I'm not simply suggesting we convert and link to existing documents (although that is part of my request). I'm recommending that ALA change its process, so that the online, Web-available version of the Handbook becomes the "Current Reference File." Implicit in my questions, my pleas, and my requests is the understanding that business as usual would change with respect to all ALA policies and related documents, and that we would anticipate the availability of these documents almost as soon as they became the law of our association.

And if we did that, it's possible we could evaluate automatically printing and mailing close to 100,000 bulky manuals every year. Maybe the paper handbook could be restricted to information that is best distributed in paper, or we could boil it down to several pages that outline the full handbook and explain to members what it offers and why they need it. Imagine how much paper--and money--we would save if every handbook, every year, were several hundred pages shorter.

Sometimes people object to electronic formats because they are hard to read. I prefer reading the New York Times in paper. I don't have the same problem with the Handbook, because I read short portions for it on an as-needed basis. And frankly, even with the best indexing, I'll put online keyword access against a paper index any day. As I sit here in Council on my live, free wireless connection, ask me what I would rather do--thumb through a heavy paper manual (wearily lugged from home to conference to Council chambers and back), or nimbly keyword search an online document.

I am not looking for much right now--just a sympathetic comment that this issue would go on the docket at some vague point in the future. Or shall we do it ourselves, and call for action with a timeline attached, create a task force, and do it that way? I just feel that ALA staff can make this happen without extensive member involvement in planning and guidance.

These are not a huge number of documents. If they can fit in a trunk, along with many other things we drag to our conferences, they represent a reasonable, none-too-ambitious digitization project any library would tackle if it wanted to improve access for a core collection. And of course, once ALA commits to providing these documents online, linked from the Policy Manual and elsewhere, there won't be any more retrospective conversion, because we will be placing documents online and linking them from the manual in "real time."

ALA, would you like to step up to the plate? Or shall we help you get there?

Posted by kgs at 09:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Wireless at Midwinter

Son of a gun! I booted up my laptop in the Council chambers, only to find an open wireless network I could attach to. I'm a fur piece from the hotel, and it appears to be a different network, anyway.

After an amazingly tough year, ALA is in the black. Kudos to ALA staff, who faced budget downturns, SARS at Toronto, and other challenges.

Posted by kgs at 09:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

Midwinter Report

The Cuba resolution I submitted to ALA Council will be on the agenda Wednesday morning, January 14 (Council III). It comes up then because that's when IRC presents its report, and it is germane to the IRC's report.

It's interesting how the process can affect outcomes. A report supposedly six months in the making isn't get on the agenda until the last day of Council. Is it because the report actually isn't ready? Is it because some ALA committees can only work face to face? Or is there also an element of preempting serious discussion and action on an item by placing it late on the agenda?

Meanwhile, I had the honor to give Beth Givens permission to distribute my August 2003 congressional testimony on RFID in an IFC session today. (By now, anyone outside of the library world has given up on this posting. Apologies for the acronym soup.) I sat in on today's discussion, which was brief. I'm sitting in on IFC tomorrow, to listen to discussion both about Cuba and RFID, and will report back then, as well.

Things done today:

Sat in on Council orientation for a bit;
Presented on LII's history for an Internet Portals IG session;
Sat in on IFC;
Chit-chatted with many buddies;
Had a power lunch wth the Web Advisory subcomm chairs and the chair;
Met with resolution committee to discuss the Cuba resolution;
Cruised the exhibits fairly seriously for two hours.

Now off to the UIUC GSLIS party, and dinner with friends. (Last night's PUBLIB party was a hoot. Pictures to follow (sorry--left my USB cable for my camera at home at the last minute). Kudos to Michael McCulley for arranging it, and Ebsco for buying us drinks and serious noshes!)

Posted by kgs at 04:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 04, 2004

A Long URL Harbinger of Short URLs

Welcome back, and here's a treat! ALA is implementing a major fix for its Web site that will drastically reduce the length of its URLs. Whew! This is the most-requested "fix" requested for the bungled upgrade famously rolled out last April during National Library Week.

More good things are on the way. Can't tell you what they are, or when they will arrive... stay tuned. And welcome to the New Year!

Posted by kgs at 10:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Carla Hayden on Ms. Mag Top Ten List

Carla Hayden, current ALA president, is one of ten Ms. Magazine Women of the Year for 2003. ALA's press release notes, "Hayden drew nationwide attention by voicing the ALA's opposition to sections of the USA PATRIOT Act," and played a key role in forcing Ashcroft into declassifying the Justice Department report on Section 215.

ALA is rarely disappointed by its presidents, but some stand out. We often say "libraries change lives," but libraries are just buildings. Librarians change lives. Rock on, Carla!

Posted by kgs at 06:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

Wireless at ALA: Empty Your Piggybanks

Ouch! Based on preliminary phone calls, it appears both San Diego and Orlando conference centers charge conference attendees $4.95 an hour or $24.95 a day for wireless access. I have a second call in to San Diego to reverify these costs, which are at least a couple weeks old.

I'm somewhat breathless at these costs--not to mention suspicious of industry price-fixing. I realize a conference hot dog costs $5 because it is crafted by hand by sausage artisans hired specifically for our very own conference. Internet wireless, though, is fairly inexpensive to provide. The Philadelphia conference center charges $40 for an entire conference, and Monterey, which just hosted Internet Librarian, and which is not exactly in a low-rent district, charges $10 a day. This is a reasonable cost for what you get, and more fun than a conference hot dog (even if the conference center is making a mint even at $10 per diem).

ALA conference committee members, take note. When you're evaluating convention centers, cost out attendee wireless Internet access (if they are clueless and ask "cell phone?" or "exhibitor?" reply, "no, 802.11 for attendees"). It's not the only or the most important factor--but it's one to add to the mix.

Posted by kgs at 07:51 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

ALA and Cuba: More Bad Press

Nat Hentoff brought ALA sharply to task on this issue, and I can't say as I blame him, even though I don't know who told him that the Washington Times is a credible publication.

Appearing to agree with that shrill pest, Robert Kent, makes me squeamish. Nevertheless, allow me to fully distance myself from the faction in ALA that appears almost Stalinist in its refusal to recognize the very real human rights violations in Cuba, particularly those related to the right to read. This faction hypocritically splits hairs over the definition of "librarian" in order to turn its back on the imprisonment of the people who regardless of their formal education are resisting, as Hentoff put it, the "censorship of ideas," and have been arrested, tried, and found guilty of--get ready--providing small personal "libraries" of books that are hard or impossible to procure in Cuba. (And in library school, we told you providing access to information was a good thing to do.)

It is rarely a good idea for ALA to get involved in international relations, but when it does, the stand of ALA should always be on the side of free speech in open societies. It is even more shameful to hide behind what one librarian aptly called the "red herring" of the credentialing of the librarians.

I also condemn the widespread references to "dissidents" in ALA documents, used in these instances to dismiss the work of the Cuban activists, as if dissidence anywhere, but particularly in Cuba, was a bad thing. This double standard is as obvious and glaring as Rudolph's red nose.

Unfortunately, few in ALA seem willing to risk the wrath of the Cuban hardliners. Nevertheless, based on the feedback I get, I am not alone in shaking my head at ALA over this issue.

Posted by kgs at 10:24 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

ALA Campaign Endorsements

As a Councilor, I have an obligation to be up front about my own position on the issue I'm about to discuss. In a nutshell, this stinks.

The ALA Council list has had a flurry of posting activity related to the question of internal candidate endorsements, starting with a resolution posted by a current candidate for ALA president that if approved at Midwinter would allow divisions and roundtables to endorse candidates, and would further allow divisions and candidates to spend their funds to promote their picks.

It's good for ALA to clarify its position with respect to candidate endorsements (and versions of the resolution have been subsequently adopted by ALA members without such blatant conflicts). This came up, in fact, because a roundtable wanted to spend its funds to promote a candidate.

This is painted as a "free speech" issue by some, but I see the original proposal (passionately supported by a determined cadre) as a major disenfranchisement of ALA members.

ALA is already highly politicized, and has a lot of power and decision-making concentrated at the division and office level, and operates on a relatively modest budget for such a large association (as we are repeatedly advised when we ask for new electronic services).

We are constantly told that our membership dollars go to support key legal issues, literacy activities, and improvements to member services. Do you want your ALA dues diverted to annual campaigns? Is that what you paid for?

We are also told that every member counts. Not in this model of misrepresentation, where a handful of people at the divisional level would be able to provide massive leverage to the "company candidate." Candidates, in turn, would be forced to spend far too much time courting endorsements from key divisions in order to get elected.

We are told this is important for communication. If ALA really cared about sharing information about election candidates, it would try harder to connect candidates with members. There are so many cheap, easy tools for this these days. I proposed a candidates' blog as a very reasonable forum that many of us could "attend." We only get a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand people at an ALA candidates' forum. It's 2003, folks. Howard Dean does it; why can't we?

It's my sneaking suspicion that for some time some of the ALA muckety-mucks have been trying to figure ways to replicate the effect of the former practice of announcing only nominated candidates for ALA president and other offices. Once upon a time (the practice only ended in the last five years), petition candidates weren't announced; only those candidates anointed by the inner circle were presented as "the" candidates. Naturally, this provided a huge edge to these candidates, and sure enough, when this practice ended and ALA had to announce all candidates, nominated or petition, the nominated candidates lost their edge. (I crunched through some election results a year or two ago to demonstrate that.)

I support the idea that divisions, roundtables, and other units will neutrally announce "their" candidates. I'm also resigned to the fact that many units will implicitly endorse candidates (or as recently seen at a state conference, rather explicitly, in all but short of a coronation). But as official ALA practice? With funding, to boot?

I like Janet Swan Hill's response, to someone who wondered what other organizations did, that we are not like other organizations and that's a good thing. Let's stay good. Let's use our funds to fight the good fights, let's use our time and energy toward good works, and let's stay the hell away from anything smacking of summer-camp wars--for goodness' sake.

But never mind about me. What do YOU think?

Posted by kgs at 12:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Wireless at ALA Midwinter

... I wish. Liz Lawley commented at Internet Librarian that wireless access for attendees is now matter of course for most of the conferences she attends (as a professor at RIT who has "crossed over" from librarianship). Not so for ALA. We don't request it as a conference service, we don't push it as a benefit (even if we had to pay for it), and as members, we don't demand it.

This points to our chronic time-lag with technological innovations, and begs some larger, more pointed questions about who we are as a profession. Can we really be "information professionals" if we are chronically four to ten years behind the rest of the world?

(Note: I did contact the San Diego conference center about wireless, hoping against hope. If I read the message correctly, it's $25 a day and may be limited in range to the exhibit floor. Our state conference, in Ontario California, didn't offer wireless at all, and I think I'm the only one who missed it. But on the bright side: I once thought that when I returned to California I would be overwhelmed by the vast technical sophistication of the library community, but it turns out that's one less thing I have to worry about!)

Posted by kgs at 06:05 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack