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In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

  • 1.  In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 01, 2022 11:23 AM
    Hello all,

    I've grown pretty weary over the last two years. I know that everyone has. But as I've seen ALA and now many other librarian groups either insisting on having in-person conferences (often with no or very limited virtual/hybrid presence) or pushing heavily to shift back towards in-person conferences, I wanted to speak up and say that I think this is grossly irresponsible. I recently heard at a meeting that ALA national was fully intending to not only be 'in person', but to strictly limit virtual offerings as well. I've heard similar sentiments from other ALA groups. Covid-19 hasn't gone anywhere and despite the CDC's mandates, the CDC reported 13,663 Covid-19 deaths in the US within last 7 days. While getting vaccinated and wearing masks can prevent most of us from suffering the worst ill-effects of Covid, we can absolutely still get and spread it. There are vulnerable populations that we can spread it to, not to mention that the more we continue to spread it around the greater the chances are that it will mutate further.

    I'm personally not ready to risk myself and other people by hopping back into a giant germ-soup with thousands of other librarians in the same building. But aside from my own lack of readiness for that, I think it is irresponsible for our organization to push for it. Many of us have spent the last two years fuming over other people holding large events regardless of the dangers of Covid-19 and now, while its still rampant, we're heading back into these events as well.

    I applaud the round tables and groups that have continued to look to virtual models or are at least providing fully hybrid options for people who do not want to contribute to the spread.

    Daniel Wilson
    Director of Library & Learning Services
    American InterContinental University

  • 2.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 01, 2022 08:19 PM
    Not to mention the equity issues for those with compromised immune systems. I'm agree with you that at minimum, hybrid makes more sense.

    Lucinda Amerman
    San Jose State University School of Library & Information Science

  • 3.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 02, 2022 08:30 PM
    I want to thank those who have mentioned support for those who are disabled and/or immunocompromised. I'm a retired librarian and have no interest in attending any large gatherings. My daughter has a disability and is an academic librarian who receives little to no support for her disability. Your response heartens me. 

    Judy Looby 
    Charleston Carnegie Public Library Retired 
    Charleston, IL

  • 4.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 03, 2022 06:34 AM
    I think with COVID still an issue, we should at least have a hybrid conference.


    Elizabeth Boniface

  • 5.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 02, 2022 07:03 AM

    I completely agree. In an ordinary year, were COVID not an issue, I would be attending this year's ALA Annual because its location is convenient to me. However, my partner is immunocompromised and it will still be a long time until I can take my mask off in my relatively-unpopulated library, let alone spend any time in a crowded exhibit hall. By holding the event in person, ALA excluding every librarian who is at high risk from COVID or who lives with someone who is. ALA is also, as you said, creating a vehicle for people to bring COVID back to their communities from an atmosphere where it can spread rapidly. We just had a massive surge from a variant that escaped our vaccines; why do we assume we won't have another this summer?

    Dev Singer

    Dev Singer
    Technical Services and Electronic Resources Librarian
    Lasell University

  • 6.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 02, 2022 10:31 AM

    I agree and I am sure there are many others.

    Kind regards,
    Kellee E. Warren
    Assistant Professor and Special Collections Librarian
    University of Illinois at Chicago

    [Kellee E.] [Warren]
    [Assistant Professor and Special Collections Librarian]
    [University of Illinois at Chicago]

  • 7.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 02, 2022 02:20 PM

    Hi all,


    I'd like to thank Daniel for bring up this topic.


    I'd like to start saying I love getting together with other library staff at conferences. I miss in person meetings with committee members, getting to talk to former coworkers who have changed libraries, and learning new things in the programs. The feeling of comradery and the shoring up of moral helps so much.


    However, I have to wonder how many library staff are immunocompromised or have another disability that makes them concerned about going to an in person conference at this time. I'm sure that limiting the virtual offerings is partially to encourage people to travel and be physically at the conference.  However, it does inadvertently exclude a number of disabled staff that would normally attend virtually.


    I also know that with LibLearnX my library was able to have more people attend because they didn't have to pay for travel. With more people attending and a lower cost to attend, staff who were in lower positions could attend.


    Those are just my thoughts.

    Thank you



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    Lynn Johnson (She/her)

    Lead Librarian


    City of Carlsbad

    1775 Dove Lane

    Carlsbad, CA 92011




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  • 8.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 02, 2022 02:22 PM
    It's sad that accommodations are only considered when it's able bodied people wanting them,  and now are taken away with no regard for all the people who actually need them. It's sickening.

    Rachel Paulus
    Reference/ LGBTQ Community Outreach Librarian
    Jersey City Free Public Library

  • 9.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 03, 2022 09:48 AM
    Sadly people needing accommodations need to ask for them, so we are just getting back to the usual.  My son is immunocompromised and uses a power wheel chair for mobility. It would be great if we could apply Universal Design principles to this situation.

    Anne Hancock
    Associate Librarian for Collection Strategies & Curriculum Integration

  • 10.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 02, 2022 09:29 PM
    Now that ALA has gotten a few online governance events under their belt, I could hope that they will be able to make hybrid events a regular thing. As many of my colleagues have stated above, this is an equity issue. It's an equity issue for our colleagues who have very real COVID concerns, whether they are immunocompromised or caring for people who can't be vaccinated. It's an equity issue for our colleagues with disabilities who may have an easier time participating remotely. It's an equity issue for people who, like myself, come from smaller library associations who can save literally thousands of dollars not sending me to represent my state at faraway events.

    I respect that hybrid events are complex and care has to be take to ensure equal access for in-person and remote attendees. But I also think that ALA has had quite a while to start thinking about how to best work towards being the inclusive organization that they aspire to be and hybrid conferences are a long-overdue aspect of this. I wish it weren't being treated like it's rocket science to put together and instead ALA's language were more geared towards making space for all of our colleagues who want to attend and participate. I see you, and I'm sorry this is how it's being handled.

    Jessamyn West
    Chapter Councilor - Vermont

  • 11.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 03, 2022 09:59 AM
    I do fear that we are hurrying back to normal without considering the current infection & death rates. I'm triple-vaccinated so I feel pretty safe, but I have an unvaccinated young granddaughter. In two weeks I'll be attending the CUE conference in Palm Springs, which they have said will be totally hybrid. This makes me comfortable going - if there is plenty of space in a room and it seems safe, I'll attend that session in person; if not, I'll sit outside and watch remotely.  I think for while all conferences should be run this way. Yes there is work and cost involved but a slow return to normal is a better way to include everyone.

    Cathy Rettberg
    Head Librarian
    Menlo School

  • 12.  RE: In Person Events are Still Irresponsible

    Posted Mar 03, 2022 10:22 AM
    Hi colleagues,
        Thank you for sharing your valuable perspectives.  You bring up good points.
         I see a lot of calls for hybrid conferences.  I agree that that would be awesome.  I admit as I'm helping with my own chapter conference though that there are not only complex challenges with that, but significant financial challenges.  I admit that I'm not completely in the know of what ALA can financially handle.  In my chapter's case we are faced with paying for the minimums of our venue's contract and lodging contracts.  They require a minimum amount of meals and rooms to be booked, otherwise, you just eat the cost.  We also have to pay for a virtual platform to host the virtual side of things and pay for all the needed seats.  Our venues often require us to use their video services rather than bringing in our own.  We also had far less sponsors and exhibitors for virtual.  Though they try adapting, many expressed that the return on investment was much lower versus in-person connecting in exhibit halls.  Though we regularly encouraged members to visit the virtual exhibits and rooms, many just didn't do it.  (And I get that it's easy at home or the office during a virtual conference to do other things or step away rather than go to another virtual room.)  This is a significant loss of conference revenue as well.  We tried juggling these increased costs while at the same time, trying to accommodate our members' needs and calls to not increase conference rates while budgets continue to struggle.  Our chapter also can't take a third year of budget losses as we lost a conference and then hosted a virtual one at a loss to help our members out.  The virtual conference was a much smaller loss, but it's all adding up.  These aren't complaints, they are just realities were are facing.  For our chapter, it's basically coming down to either providing only a virtual conference, or an in-person conference because combining both was cost prohibitive unless rates were raised significantly.
         I understand the scenarios are different when we are talking about about hundreds of chapter members versus thousands at a national conference and  ALA likely has more venue options available.  Maybe ALA can figure it out.  There's just a lot to calculate and manage and I don't claim to be an expert.  As many have already honestly shared, in-person only will exclude many from participation.
        All the best and safety to each of you!  Thanks for giving me more to think about and consider.

    Daniel Mauchley
    Library Director
    Duchesne County Library