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Peter Hepburn's picture

GLBTRT Councilor's reports, Annual 2013

Hello all!

So that was Chicago….

An unusual conference this year, I have to say.  In the first place, I was returning to the city I’d just left in January after 12+ years working at one library there.  Many asked me if it was weird to be back.  No, it wasn’t, though I did feel a certain pull to accommodate catching up with as many friends as possible.  Second, it wasn’t nearly as unbearably hot and humid as usual – happily enough!  Third, Council turned out to be quite a set of sessions this time around, and not entirely for the better.  So let me offer this up as your RT Councilor:  thoughts on the conference that just was.

Before reporting on Council activities, a series of thanks to everyone who made this a successful conference for me and for all of us.

Our new RT chair Roland Hansen and his partner Bill arranged a great space for the RT social at Ann Sather, and the food and beverage were both generous and good.  I’ve posted photos from the event (and from the rest of my time at Annual) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/liberrianph/sets/72157634392842923/.  I did not otherwise make it to any other RT meetings or events save for the Executive Board meeting (yes, I get to go to ALL of the fun things, I know), but I can only hope people found them to be engaging and worthwhile.

David Vess shepherded the RT through a last set of functions as chair.  I’ve worked with him a lot on the RT over the past handful of years, and I remain a huge fan of what he has done for us.  Meanwhile, our new chair-elect Ann Symons was a welcome presence at the Executive Board meeting and the social.  With Roland, treasurer Dale McNeill, our board directors, and our committee members, we have good people in place to keep the round table moving forward.

At Council, I often find myself talking over issues with a core group, most sitting near me, among them Gina Persichini, Karen Schneider, Matt Ciszek, John DeSantis, and John Sandstrom.  RT members all, and all of them offering good thinking and clear voices at Council.  There are other RT members on Council, too – Larry Romans, take a bow! – and while we don’t all share the same view on each vote, it’s good that we can talk about the matters coming before Council.  Especial kudos to John DeSantis for being elected to serve on the Committee on Committees and to Karen for being elected to the Planning and Budget Assembly.

And how wonderful that Courtney Young, a member of the GLBTRT, is now installed as President-Elect of ALA!  The inaugural brunch was a terrific moment, and her proud smile really lit up the room.

Finally, thanks to Todd Krueger and Martin Garnar, my conference roommates of some years now.  It is immensely helpful to have two great friends (and fellow RT members) as my sounding boards and voices of reason when we’re back in the room.


It was a busy and sometimes contentious set of Council meetings this year.  At the first meeting, we had 8 resolutions before us.  8!!  An unusually high number, though three were postponed and one was referred to committee.  By the end of conference there would be more resolutions as well as action items within committee reports.  Busy!

I’ll address a few of the resolutions individually, certainly, though none had direct impact on the RT.  I also found myself thinking a lot about the time spent on resolutions that were arguably not as well-written as they should have been or had little to no actionable outcomes and found myself wondering why resolutions were coming to Council so late in the game when they could have benefited from discussion on the Council list well in advance.  Like much of ALA, Council lapses into concentrating its work into the days leading up to Annual and Midwinter.  When resolutions are being modified by the movers when presented on the floor, I’m left to ponder whether the six months between Council sessions could have been better spent.

Council tackled resolutions and action items on such disparate things as lauding the Freedom to Read Foundation for supporting intellectual freedom issues in videogames, reaffirming support for basic literacy in libraries, and changing how committees report to Council.  In most instances there was little debate, usually only Councilors speaking in support.  There were, however, three resolutions that had somewhat bumpy rides to their final outcomes.

1.  Divestment of fossil fuel holdings from the endowment.  This resolution came up in Seattle at Midwinter and was ruled out of order since the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC) had not yet weighed in on it as required.  Ultimately, both BARC and the endowment trustees were not supportive of the resolution.  In Chicago, the resolution came to the association’s membership meeting and was voted down, and then to Council in an amended form.  After much debate, it was voted down again.  I voted in favour of it.  I agree with the arguments that ALA can (also) take other steps in controlling its environmental impact, and I respect those who say that it’s not a library issue.  Still, I thought it was actionable and responsible and that the cost in terms of the endowment was not so significant as to vote against it.  I was happy to see John Sandstrom bring forward a resolution the next day advocating a smaller step for the association by way of setting up an opt-in plan for Councilors to receive documents electronically rather than through the enormous amount of printing that awaits us at each session.

2.  Prayer at ALA meetings.  This was sent to Council with time enough before Chicago to get some feedback from all of you on the list.  In fact, I heard from at least a few of you, with differing opinions.  In the end, however, the Executive Board voted to endorse the resolution in principle.  By the time it passed, it had been further refined, but the essence of it remained that all ALA units will refrain from prayer in meetings.  It has since occurred to me that this doesn’t preclude prayer in any other type of ALA gathering (award brunches, for example), but I’m not sure whether Council will recognize or close that particular loophole.

3.  Edward Snowden.  This resolution came to the membership meeting, where it passed, and then on to Council.  It passed relatively easily in Council I.  Given that it was written so as to laud his role in spurring a national dialogue, not much more, I voted in favour.  I was not surprised, then to see a resolution in support of Bradley Manning yet again when we got to Council II, nor was I surprised that it now included language mentioning ALA’s support of Snowden.  Manning did not pass, and then things got, well, weird.  At the end of Council II a motion came forward to have us reconsider the Snowden resolution and send it on to the Committee on Legislation (COL) and the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC).  Council erupted, but in the end, passed the motion.  I supported this motion.  ALA committees are in place to offer guidance on matters, and sober second thought is often helpful.  On to Council III where IFC and COL brought forward in their reports a joint resolution meant to replace the ones on Snowden and Manning, deliberately stripping out the names.  Council again erupted, and it seemed to me that most of the debate focused (unfortunately) on how we got to this point rather than the content of the joint resolution.  Like most of Council, I supported the new resolution – it was very well-written and focused on the issues, not the individuals.

There were other resolutions and action items in various reports that came to Council beyond these that I’ve detailed.  Council actions should be linked from the page at http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/council soon.  All the votes we took in Chicago are a matter of record, and you may see how we each voted on the link to attendance and voting.  For those who are interested, I tweet actively (and frantically at times) during Council, pushing out all that I can to the conference hashtag.  Feel free to follow me at https://twitter.com/phepbu.

A lengthy note, I know.  There was much business to share after all.  In closing, I again thank all of you for contributions to Annual and the work of the Round Table.  I am sorry I did not and could not talk to you all.  I invite any and all of you to use the list to debate the actions by Council, and I similarly invite you to contact me directly with questions or conversation about them.



Peter Hepburn

GLBTRT Councilor