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Diedre Conkling's picture

Sexual Harassment and the ALA Code of Conduct

If we want COSWL to be part of this discussion we need to start now!  I have collected a lot of comments that have been made on blogs and on Facebook.  I haven't captured them all but it is obvious that people are moving ahead without us and we should be an important, loud and lead voice in this discussion.  Several of us did volunteer to be on a subcommittee.  Maybe I have missed it but I don't know if we have been approved for this task.
I have been collecting some of the comments being made on blogs and Facebook.  This discussion is NOT happening on the COSWL or FTF Facebook pages, which I find extremely frustrating.
I am attaching what I have collected to date.  Please pay particular attention to http://magpielibrarian.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/beyond-alas-code-of-conduct-what-can-we-do-to-combat-harassment-at-ala-conferences/Then read the Facebook comments posted to a message sent by Erica Findley on my document, pages 13 - 16.  I did make a comment on some of my thoughts, which includes an idea I wanted to propose to the COSWL subcommittee.

We are really missing the boat here.  I think that Mary Ghikas should be contacted by us, maybe you could do this Lorelle, and let her know our interest in the issue and that we are working on this.  (I know Mary and could contact her but I am not the chair or staff for this group so did not want to presume anything by making that contact for us.)  I do think that a working group composed of several ALA groups is not a bad idea but if we don't show our interest now we might not be included in that group.

Sandy Wee's picture

Thank you for bringing this forward Diedre.  Yes, there has been buzz via ALA Council which I meant to forward along with following up with everyone on the subcommittees but got sidetracked yesterday.  I will do it today.  

Thank you all for responding to the subcommittee list.  For those of you who have no responded, I will be contacting you regarding any empty slots.  

In addition, I will follow up with our next few virtual meeting dates. 

Thanks for your patience.




Sandy Wee's picture

Hi Everyone:

In addendum, below is recent email from ALA Council.




I have just learned that the Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship (COSWL) and the SRRT Feminist Task Force are discussing this case. Thanks to Daniel for alerting us. 



Al Kagan

SRRT Councilor


African Studies Bibliographer and Professor of Library Administration Emeritus

University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign




On Oct 4,

Mary Ghikas's picture

Thanks, Diedre.  Lorelle did forward to me -- and Jenny Levine pointed me to your post here.  I think there are a couple of issues here, at least:

(1) There is the issue under discussion:  how to create/maintain an environment of mutual respect at conferences.  The issue of sexual harassment was initially raised in social media.  Because the issue of harassment was raised specifically in the context of conferences, I worked with the chair to put the issue on the agenda of the ALA Conference Committee.  Work on development of the statement on conference conduct moved forward *both* within the ALA Conference Committee *and* within a loose group of interested people who came together in social media.  Most of them, but likely not all, were ALA members.  Andromeda Yelton, a member of the LITA Board of Directors, facilitated the work of the informal group in Google Docs.  In shaping the statement, we utilized ALA policy, previous work in GLBTRT, the ALA Conference Committee, the Google Docs group, ALA staff and the ALA Executive Board -- and, importantly, ALA legal counsel. 

Looking at the current thread in social media, both FB and Twitter, I think there are several additional things we can do: (1) Jenny Levine is proposing that we give people -- in our existing mobile app -- an easy link to the statement/reporting process.  (2) We can talk about informative and/or educational signs.  (3) I believe some training on how to respond in various types/levels of situations would be useful.  I think the closest model is NOT an institutional model (with tends to rely on a supervisory structure) but a campus model.  Lorelle Swader was trying to track down some possible presenters in the Chicago area -- for MW -- and I'll see her tomorrow.   

I think one thing to keep in mind -- and it was very clear in the original discussion that helped in pulling the statement on conference conduct together -- is that this is *not* entirely a women's issue.  This is a people issue.  Several people in the GLBT community were involved in crafting the current statement.  We also have received complaints about actions by women relating to men.

(2) I think the other "issue" buried here is a structural one.  In a social media environment, it is no longer possible, if it ever truly was, to keep discussions within a particular committee or other group. Discussions start in a variety of places and tend to move from venue to venue or platform to platform.  The formal groups, however, have a role within the association. 

So, in the first round of this discussion, I talked with the committee chair -- then Jan Sanders -- and with her permission added this discussion to the Conference Committee's agenda. That didn't mean that the ongoing social media discussion ceased.  But, we were able to build a crosswalk between the formal and informal discussions.  We honored the formal roles -- and also the widespread interest and assistance coming through social media channels. There were many people involved.

It also seems to me that it would be reasonable for the leader of a formally constituted group -- like COSWL -- to step into a social media thread.  You would add the resources -- formal organizational connections, additional information, etc. -- of the formal group to the informal and, based on my experience the last time around on this topic -- you would gain the assistance of people outside your group who have a strong interest in this issue and are willing to contribute creative thinking and significant effort. 

Let me know if I can be helpful here.  I'll check with Lorelle tomorrow regarding possible presenters.  It seems to be that that is a good area for COSWL involvement -- along with GLBTRT and others. Let me know if you have other recommendations, concerns or requests.

I would be interested in what you and your colleagues would see as the task of a special working group.



Diedre Conkling's picture

Mary, thank you for adding this piece to the discussion.  As you probably know, I am aware of the history but I am not sure that all members of COSWL have been. 

I think that what I am hoping COSWL will be able to do is to give some more suggestions.  Those suggestions may go to the ALA Conference Committee or others.  I would also hope that the ALA Conference Committee also realizes that they should be reaching out to others in the more formal ALA structure like COSWL, the Feminist Task Force (FTF), and GLBTRT as well because each of these groups may have helpful perspective and ideas on these issues.

I think that COSWL can take a strong role in the discussion, as a whole.  We may work on other actions like continuing workshops and programs.  I have even thought we might develop, along with others, a core group of volunteers trained to work with victims of sexual harassment.  They might be given a pin or ribbon or something so that they can be recognized by other conference goers as a safe person to give a report of harassment.  This core group could have forms at the ready to fill out to get all of the needed information.  Yes, one of the crazy ideas floating around in my head.

I am concerned when people say this is not just a women's issue so we see no need to work with COSWL.  I dare anyone to name one thing that COSWL has worked on over the years that has not been of importance to all genders.  That is part of the point.  What affects some of us really does affect all of us.  Also, we all know that the majority of harassment cases involve women.  This is VERY MUCH a COSWL issue.