ASCLA Bridging Deaf Cultures @ your library Interest Group Section
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.
This is a quick post, I just received this link and I intend to return to the subject matter. This is the Master Document with all relevant links to various committees, papers, languages, and much more. The CRPD, as you may recall, has yet been ratified in Congress. Last I was there on Capitol Hill, Kerry was chair and Harkin and McCain testified in support, among others. It is in legislative limbo for all I know at this point in time.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Attendees to the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia
ASCLA Special Interest Group: "Bridging Deaf Cultures @ Your Library"
The enclosed attachment underlies the precarious position we are in, and by that I mean that we are in our infancy both as a SIG within the ASCLA and as a new library prospect. The bill is a PDF of the proposal put forth in the Maryland General Assembly by Delegate Eric Luedtke; HB 653 on the 31st of January 2013 (Right, not January 31, 2014, we all understand the clerk was busy at the time). The historical references are MD HB 390 and SB 571 of 2012 and you should have access to some of this information via the following ALA link: http://connect.ala.org/node/156827 (the BDC site) or MD.gov. The record will show that Mr. Luedtke was our first supporter next to Ms. Montgomery, and further that they have both spoken and acted on behalf of the deaf community --not as a singular but as part of a whole. I have been championing this law, along with Alice L. Hagemeyer, in Maryland since our first formal proposal to the MAPLA or the Maryland Public Library Administrators in January of 2011 was presented. This says, of course, nothing of Alice's work since maybe 1974. While this bill --at the moment-- is rather weak until cross-filed in the Senate, the historical record should be conductive to its passing. Operative words: Should be. And this is only at the state level: for Maryland.
In regard to this Mid-Winter Meeting, I owe everybody here an apology... and also much appreciation. People came because people cared, and the issue is obviously very much alive in the minds of ALA members/attendees. I was unable to make the trip to Philadelphia and I can tell you just one thing: it had nothing to do with the weather -- I was born in the South Side of Chicago. In any case I set up this meeting and I am the BDC Chair or Leader and have been since its inception. I am a relatively new ALA member now having been here for the past three years, but it has been an education in itself. The first rule, of course, is to be on time, and for that I wish not to waste your time any further. The DCDL bill and this Mid-Winter meeting have a direct relationship: continuity. This bill was filed after the fact of this ALA meeting.
At the Chicago 2013 meeting we had more than 50 people there and related reports should be available to all of you via the same BDC link. Anyone who does not have access to these reports can ask me, but in lieu of a lot of attachments and links I am trying to keep this simple. The Chicago meeting, for me, showed broad interest within the four types of libraries and therefore I wanted to take this to the next step. The question naturally is what that "next step" would be, and I am including Mike Marlin here because he is a friend and one of the people who would know a thing or two about how to work our way up the ALA ecosystem. And by no way the only; there are an incredible amount of talented people swirling around and within the ALA and we need to bring together some of these minds and take the DCDL up through the ranks of the American Library System. The key reason here, of course, is that deafness knows no boundaries. Further, as Mike will tell you, the needs of the blind and the needs of the deaf are different, as with a host of other things. The NLS has its historical roots going back to 1931 and it provides a critical need and service, and a close reading of this bill shows the DCDL in Maryland will also supplement the NLS by helping coordinate deaf related things that are of interest to their deaf-blind members -- among other things.
While we are on the subject of the NLS it is worthwhile to recall that the NLS got it's last installment of a particular, 6 year, $75 Million Dollar IMLS grant back in 2011 or 2012 and that grant was specifically and purposefully designated to convert their collections to digital format. Without limitation this includes large print format, audio books, and Braille readers. This kind of funding would be almost immeasurable in terms of impact upon the deaf community, and especially where ASL or American Sign Language (and it's many variants, dialects, and origins) is not a written language. Never mind the fact they are developing written form(s) of ASL, the language --in it's many forms and roots-- can only be captured in video as art; as a real time thing akin to an ancient spoken language recording... only it (ASL) is something like the third most studied foreign language in American academia.
Man on the street: You get the picture? If not, try talking underwater, through glass, or at a Rock Concert. (Standard presentation icebreaker)
My understanding is that we need membership to set up a committee or a task force and to put forth the necessary proposals for consideration at the ASCLA board level, and naturally because this SIG is under the ASCLA. It follows that this report, or proposal, if accepted by the ASCLA board, could then go on to the Councilors and forthwith. This is an oversimplification but yet without the schematics we need people.
In Philadelphia I was going to lay out my case, and ask people to step forward with ideas and suggestions of their own with the hopes we would produce a list of people who were interested in working further on the concept. This is still doable via email as we go along with the matter of building the structure or concept; building a framework for the next meeting. We should have another slot reserved under this SIG at Las Vegas for the Annual, and all and any advice, comments, or suggestions, either private or public as in emails or postings at BDC are welcome at any time. I am an ASCLA pre-conference programming planner and I have posting privileges within the ALA Connect system, and I am also a member of United for Libraries. Furthermore I should say this: I am first a Library Friend.
Now, further disclosure is in order where I am also a candidate as a Friend-at-Large on the United for Libraries Board. My candidacy and biographical information should be accessible, but again do not hesitate to ask for, or of, anything. The motive at United parallels the motive here at ASCLA, to wit, I want to make OSD's or 'Organizations Serving the Deaf' key players in the implementation of the DCDL nationwide. For those of you who share the principles of a PPP or a Public/Private Partnership: I believe this is a key element that is critical not only to the creation of the library, aka the DCDL, but for the deaf community itself where the OSD's out there are largely weak and ineffective. This is, of course, not a singular to the deaf community but a matter to be found anywhere. People, working with their Organizations, bring forth things to the world stage... so to speak. The matter of recreating or transforming the library, as in the Molly Raphel initiative, depends a lot on the community and my board position would be to facilitate that by bringing forth partnerships of various nonprofits, the community, and the library. This is trivial only if I cannot show that the deaf exist in every corner of the earth: and I like to say the deaf should be world leaders given that "Deaf Culture" is considered a singular no matter where you come from. Further this would still be trivial only if we weren't having problems today. This speaks no less to Barbara Striplings initiative on the Declaration for the Right to Libraries, and where equality is unambiguous.
To be honest, I have no idea what I will have to do as a United Board member (yes, it's a 3 year, no miss commitment) , or how much of an agenda I would be able to push, but the win-win prospect seems pretty plain to me. And, no, this is not a personal campaign platform (only United members can vote for me) but part of a cohesive plan that I have been carrying out for a while that is largely public record, up to and including this SIG. This is why I'm here at the ALA and that is why I am fortunate that Alice L. Hagemeyer is my mentor. This is all bigger than me, or Alice, and she always says she loves the library because you are always welcomed as a person, a "people first" matter that precedes any given handicap, race, religion, or whatnot..
This brings us a full circle. Those of you who are interested in making this a national project, understand this: we need you.
(1) The "attachment" referenced here is the same as posted before on this BDC site and as at this link: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2014RS/bills/hb/hb0653f.pdf
(2) Maryland State Delegate, Eric Luedtke, Maryland State Senator, Karen Montgomery, and Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards were included as recipients in this original send on 02/05/14.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The word only recently came to me, the Maryland General Assembly has proposed again to consider the Deaf Culture Digital Library as in HB 653 and as filed January 31, 2013 by Delegate Eric Luedtke:
We will need to cross-file this bill in the Senate and we are hopeful that State Sen. Karen Montgomery --who was a prior sponsor of the same basic bill-- will refile for us this year. The point with this law is the creation of a new library, not only in Maryland, but in the rest of the nation as is the ALA's general mandate.
The ASCLA LSSP SIG "Bridging Deaf Cultures @ Your Library" was created by Alice L. Hagemeyer, Honorary ALA Member, with the intent of advocating for a Deaf National Library aka the Deaf Cultural Digital Library (DCDL).
The DCDL is under consideration in Maryland and we want to push this beyond those borders. The purpose of this meeting is to form a Task Force or similar in order to advocate for the DCDL through the ranks of the ALA and Nationally. All types of libraries are involved, and all types of members are needed.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The long awaited report has been released today by the Maryland Department of Education, under which the Library serves. This report means that we can engage again with our legislators in Maryland and share this nationally. This is a model that we will be promoting and that the library community should be watching.
As good as this may be, we believe there is room to strengthen and improve upon this and there may yet be changes --improvements we hope-- at the legislative level and the law may well have an impact nationally. Our Legislative sponsors, Delegate Eric Luedtke and Senator Karen Montgomery have expressed interest in making Maryland the first in the nation to pass such a law and we are optimistic given our legislative history of this bill.
Comment at will, we understand this is just the beginning,
Ladies and Gentlemen
The recently uploaded file:
Commentary on Bridging Deaf Cultures @ Your Library Program in Chicago
Was eBlasted out to our key supporters, including, but not limited to our legislative sponsors that include Maryland Senator Karen Montgomery, Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke, and Maryland Delegate Craig Zucker (just to name three of 14 sponsors of our bill). Only yesterday, Alice Hagemeyer and I brought her family in tow to an annual picnic for Delegate Zucker. Mr. Zucker was a co-sponsor of the Maryland Bill to create the DCDL or the Deaf Cultural Digital Library. Senator Montgomery and Delegate Luedtke were the two sponsors from each house; where the bills were cross-filed in the House and Senate. (See: MD SB 571 and HB 390 from 2012).
At this picnic there were a large variety of people, including the Montgomery County Executive, Mr. Lebbett, and the Montgomery County Sheriff, along with a large delegation of legislators, staffers, and residents of Maryland's 14th District. This letter and its references will be shared with many of these people that we have just met; part of our ever-expanding network of people.
Maybe people like you.