ASCLA (Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies) Division
Report on the 2015 American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco
June 25 - July 2, 2015
By Alec C. McFarlane
United for Libraries (United) and Association of Specialized and Cooperative Agencies (ASCLA) Division Member
ASCLA Special Interest Group Leader: Bridging Deaf Cultures @ Your Library
Lets call this The Report That Almost Didn't Happen, I only had about 72 hours to get and go to San Francisco... and only because of perseverance, of raw determination, of one Alice L. Hagemeyer and because of the generosity of Ron and Catherine "Kay" Hirano. Due to the depletion of prior funding support, I was unable to attend the last meetings in Philadelphia or Chicago, and to get back into the groove was extremely important. To them I dedicate this report.
In accordance with our larger objectives at the ALA I needed to find somebody to bring to San Francisco, somebody who would benefit from exposure to the ALA system. On a short notice I was able to get Dan McClintock to join me for the expedition, all 1,083 miles by Dodge from Los Angeles and back. McClintock is notable on his own in that he is one of the co-founders of a new nonprofit dedicated to the performing arts: the DTG or the Deaf Talent Guild, appearing soon at theaters near you. As an actor, writer, organizer and artist McClintock was taken by the Comic Section of the ALA Exhibits; fertile seeds have been planted. Dan would tell me; "I was impressed by the businesses that do preservation of films and TV Media archives (as well as) the conversion of print books to digital media. I saw how wide and diverse the literature section was at the ALA Conference and that impressed me as well." It actually requires something of an artists mind to capture the immense possibilities of such a gathering in just a few days but I believe McClintock and DTG will be engaging people at Libraries and Museums in the near future as well as promoting the many talents that people bring to the performing arts, careers that often start in a Library or a Museum.
New ALA Member:
We also welcomed Michelle Aguilar as a brand new ALA and ASCLA member. Michelle and her husband Oskar Aguilar were Alice and my hosts while at the last ALA in Anaheim, escorting us around town after hours. In return we got the Aguilars guest passes to some ALA events and the exhibits. Michelle was attracted to what she saw and she has since followed that through by becoming a member and getting sponsorship for her attendance to the conference here in San Francisco. With a background in education, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and government contracting, grant writing, as well as social work and counseling, Aguilar will be looking closely at other divisions within the ALA to find things relevant to her work and objectives. Expect to be seeing her and hearing her name for a good long time around the ALA.
On ALA Formulae:
Last minute plans are not part of the ALA formulae, but the interpreting services as run by Karen Aguilar and the services of the ALA Staff made everything possible for me and my friends. Up to and including one very-last-45 minutes-before-the-meeting interpreting request. I personally managed four ALA programs and four other important meetings. For comparison, my previous –and well planned ALA meeting schedule would have had anywhere from 16 to 24 meetings, programs, and events over a four or five day period; both within and without the ALA auspices. While we have less than 6 months to plan for Boston, I am now developing plans for an off-site program and I expect to be able to get meeting space for the ASCLA SIG Bridging Deaf Cultures @ Your Library (BDC). At this meeting I expect to outline the work we have accomplished to date and the work we envision for the DCDL or the Deaf Culture Digital Library. We are now working on a National scale, with at least 5 states, territories or commonwealths that have formed or are forming groups to support DCDL legislation in their jurisdiction. This includes several strong groups in California alone as well as others in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Boston, Massachusetts and others. We want to find ways to build upon what we have; to form a working committee to produce a proposal we can send to the ASCLA Board and on through the ranks of ALA.
With almost 25,000 official registrants of the ALA conference, it is literally impossible without advance planning and coordination to meet people, but I would be fortunate to catch a few notable people like Mike Marlin, the Director of the California Braille and Talking Book Library. Marlin has long been an important advocate and sounding board for me and I have kept him in the loop with our work on the Deaf Culture Digital Library (DCDL). In addition I would meet Orkid Sassouni, who has worked for 14 years at the Deaf Services Center of the SFPL Library as a Technical Assistant. She is currently attending the Library School at the University of North Texas hoping to earn her MLIS degree. In the Academic arena I would also meet Jaime N. Smith, a Metadata and Catalog Librarian from Gallaudet University.
ALA Programs Beehive at Moscone:
Given the situation I faced without advance planning, my first order of business was to get Aguilar and McClintock into the thick of things to the extent possible. The meeting choices were basically made on Aguilar's needs of the moment and they focus largely on Digital Content and Preservation. I gave McClintock an Exhibit Pass and set him loose. All of the meetings Aguilar and I attended had relevance to my work with the DCDL and therefore I make a rundown here:
The first meeting we made together was “ aming and Enhancing Visual Literacy: Using the New ACRL Framework to Develop Effective Art Instruction.” While the technical details and the graphic presentation made the point, Aguilar and myself had trouble getting beyond our existence; we are deaf and visual and the program lost some of its flavor after the main points were made. The points we took to heart were those of uniformity and means of projection: how can you best guide, in a technical system, a person to the collection of work you wish to present? This is beyond mere visuals, but of enabling people to find the content they seek or one wishes to promote. The IT backbone of any library system, again, is not the mere stacking of books on a shelf. I can see this as a field upon which many deaf people can find employment; think win-win they do technical stuff while collecting and staging relevant materials for, say, the DCDL.
The second program I attended was “Libraries and Book Collections as Essential Cultural Institutions: A Historical and Forward Looking Perspective” and this featured three authors and their books: Matthew Battles, Sasha Abramsky, and Scott Sherman. The three authors were fascinating characters and the room seemed far too small for their prominence, but one, a New York Post reporter, had my attention. Scott Sherman, the Post reporter, had written a book "Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Library" (Melville House) about the NYPL 42nd Street Public Library and a Bloomberg donation dedicated to the Remodeling of the Structure and the Re-Arrangement of the Collections. The $300 Million Dollar story was and is worth reading for many reasons, but as a United for Libraries member and a Library Friend I stood up near the end of the program and asked why we hadn't heard about the NYPL Library Friends. Sherman said, frankly, that the Library Friends had no influence. The story was about power, about shenanigans of the operators (supposedly the plans of renovation and reorganization were NOT publicly disclosed by the bigwigs in charge in a timely manner), and of big-name big-influence donors and actors. In other words, everything that is wrong with the picture.
I speak as a United member when I say that this book, this episode, needs not only a deeper look but a broader context: precisely what is it we do? And more precisely what is missing in what we do as Trustees, Friends, and Foundations; how can it be that Library Friends have no voice on 42nd Street? I will argue that this is a vast and untapped source, and yes, this is it: the voice of the people and the matter of a participatory democracy in action is to be found in Library Friends and their ability to corral and exemplify the voice of the people. And the voice of the people surely can raise $300 million dollars, they did more than that for President Barack Obama more than once. If you ask me it was a waste of money, not because of Obama, but because of a ludicrously expensive political system. As a builder of more than 30 years, I can build more than ten grand libraries with $300 million or do 300 grand library remodels (a million bucks a piece is 'grand' if you ask me).
The third program I attended was the “Preservation Showdown” where there was a panel supposedly pro and con on the question of digital preservation. While a lot of valid points of relevance, of duplicity, and of sheer fragility were illustrated by the panelists, it was never a question of whether items should be digitally preserved but of whether some things were either possible or practical. The case point for the materialists, or those who want to preserve original content, products, and materials, is that there is no substitute for tactile engagement. Seeing a picture of a Mountain is not the same as being there. The case point of digitization is that to digitize is to make forever and further to digitize is to enable analysis & distribution. My question at the same event was relative: the technology of digitization is maybe 50 years old and I have things that are more than 300 years old. How do I preserve the digital element itself? The answer I got was Open Source; non-proprietary software and language platforms. As long as we stick with the Open Source stuff, we have a future... or at least that is what they said.
Dinner Outing with the Hiranos:
The ALA is no stranger to big events, but the Gay Pride Parade was as big as they come: more than one million people were supposedly within a 10 block area of downtown San Francisco. The results of the SCOTUS decision were on full display in San Francisco. It is within this context I would get a 2 hour plus meeting with Ron and Kay Hirano and Michelle Aguilar at the Golden Era vegan restaurant at 395 Golden Gate Avenue. The food there was exemplary and we ordered individual plates and a lot of spring rolls to go around. The Golden Era is highly recommended. The prevailing topic we had during our dinner was of the Bay Area Deaf Community and its history. Ron Hirano's professional career was as a Designer/Draftsman, Engineer, and Project manager. Ron is also an Author, whose family was interred in a Japanese Concentration Camp during WWII, and who has been a lifetime resident of the Bay area; he was even a graduate of the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley in 1952.. Ron is now an Octogenarian with commensurate historical knowledge and curiosity. The dinner was like attending another program at the ALA where the many aspects of the deaf community and Hirano's life actually weave a beautiful tapestry. Part of Hirano's life can be read in his book: “The Life Story of Mother Delight Rice and Her Children” (ISBN 978-0-98840070-0-8) Delight Rice, who received a Honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet in 1955, the same year Ron would graduate from the same school. Rice would live in Berkeley until her last days; she would pass away at 81 on October 9, 1964.
Our meeting would reinforce the celebration of life, food, drink, and friends. We ended our meeting with an agreement to follow up on Berkeley and plans for DCDL.
Closing Days at ALA:
The fourth program I attended was on Monday the 29th of June and related to “Providing Context for Digital Collections” and this was a highly technical presentation by the people at the heart of digital manipulation; people making things work. These same people, highly adept IT professionals, basically ran over the current programs, programming language, and methodologies I couldn't repeat if I wanted to but they also verified, indirectly, that Open Source programming language was key.
The sum of the parts of digitization, for me, is that anybody who does not believe in evolution need only look at 50 years of digital history to see the folly of Moore's Law. Not that he was necessarily wrong but that the law was not new. The realization, for me, is that the “Digital” in the “Deaf Culture Digital Library” will probably be moot –or otherwise fall out of use in far less than 50 years; the word will literally disappear from the vernacular simply because digital is the existence; we lose the need to identify what it is.
Sacramento or Bust:
On the matter of deafness, of culture, and of the library, these things are here to stay and these things represent our keys, which gives way to our succeeding trip to Sacramento where we met with a local deaf advocate. At the Oak Park Brewery, 3514 Broadway, Sacramento. We, McClintock and I, had a great meeting with Kate “Jc Wordsmith” Shepherd over beer and grub on the down and dirty politics of Sacramento. Actually, according to Shepherd, the Mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, was instrumental in the creation of the Oak Park Brewery to begin with. The local lesson of Sacramento, where this location is maybe 1.4 miles from the California Capitol itself, is that degradation, poverty, and other social ills of variety impact people near and far. The Brewery itself is a wonderful remodel and repurpose of a building and grounds that directly contributes to the overall appearance of the neighborhood and its character. This theme of economic revival resonates at the library where new, remodeled, and re-purposed Library and Museum buildings likewise contribute to the economic revival of a community. Think nothing less than Minnesota and something like a 7 to 1 return; where the Minneapolis Public Library actually contributed something like $7 for every $1 the legislature invested in Library Funding. This is about the community: people, businesses, and activities that take place around a Community Center. I believe Shepherd will help us work with people in Sacramento to get the DCDL on the Legislative Agenda in January 2016 when the new legislative session opens.
California School for the Deaf, Former:
The return trip included a stop at the California School for the Deaf that once existed on the Berkeley University Campus and has since been relocated to Fremont. The scene where the school is located is remarkable, not for the trip there but for the view you get when you turn around! Located off to the NW corner of the Berkeley Campus Map, it is off the beaten path. This school is relevant in that it was closed in the 1980's on the pretense of geological faults, but where these very same buildings are not only in existence today, but still in use by the University. At least one building dates to 1932 and in this context there are people looking at the former California School for the Deaf buildings as possible Library or Museum facilities celebrating Deaf History and Culture. Specifically California Deaf Culture that began in 1860. All of the digital-oriented programs were perused, in part, on this pretext: how can California Deaf Culture and History best be preserved?
Our visit to the University offices yielded the fact that most staff and facility were not on grounds at this time of the year but I got the necessary contacts and basic information sources I would need to begin evaluating the potential of this property, something I am doing by way of my company, the New Image Associates Construction Consultants and the first step is to verify the status of the property with the University. Of interest is whether or not there are current plans for the property or whether they may be part of any long term plans under development. In my initial report to the interested parties, I will make note of the practical location barriers for a Library setting. The location is not only off the beaten path, but up a steep hill; matters that are not conductive to a public library setting. On the other hand I will note that it can be made conductive to a Museum setting given that these are often destinations of unique value in and of themselves. My conclusion will basically say that there are valid grounds to present for making at least one of the three buildings a viable Museum of Deaf Education, Culture & History.
With so much more in the Bay area to see I was tempted to hang around another day or two, but with no advance notice, planning, or permissions I decided that we would head on down South to Los Angeles where I am now based. There is a lot more coming, keep an eye on this space.
McCormick Place, Room West 192a
Saturday, January 31, 2015, 10:00am to 11:30am
All members are invited to attend the Leadership Session immediately following ASCLA Board I to help brainstorm, strategize and learn! More details will be posted to the ASCLA website as they become available: