Thanks, JoAnne, for arranging for the ALA Council community on Connect to be publicly viewable! For all: April Hathcock made a short link to this discussion. (And thanks to those who tested access!) Please distribute to any who would want to follow Council's discussion: https://tinyurl.com/Meeting-Room-Discussion
I've seen so much engagement from non-Councilors and non-members on this topic, and I'm glad we're having this discussion in the open. Remember, this discussion and the way we have it isn't just inside baseball: it affects library workers in all corners of our field, and it also is informing whether non-members ever want to engage with ALA and whether members want to stay involved. (See, for a couple of examples, Kate Deibel
and Amelia Gibson
.) If we're serious about ALA remaining relevant, we need to embrace what we hear from all parts of the library community.
Back on the topic of the resolution itself: I'm strongly in support of rescinding the new interpretation and letting the IFC working group bring back a new version that we can consider and debate properly. Like a lot of you, I missed the crucial change in the flurry of activity at Annual, and I'm sorry about that. Moving forward, I plan to be more careful and thorough in reviewing potentially-revised documents, even ones we expect to be straightforward.
I hear what a lot of councilors and members have said in the last couple weeks: supporting free expression is
important, and it's hard, if not impossible, to pin down an objective and universal definition of what hate speech is. Intellectual freedom is one of our profession's fundamental ideals.
That's all true, but it's not the point here.
When I talk about "hate groups" and "hate speech", I am referring to groups and speech that intend harm. (I'm trying to find the Twitter thread from someone a week or so ago who gave me that language, but it's evading me.) Hate speech isn't just words: words mean things. In this case, we're talking about words that threaten the physical safety and question the human validity of our patrons and our colleagues. That's not a well-intentioned disagreement about ideas. It's harm.
White supremacist groups and other groups that intend harm are fundamentally antithetical to our patrons' and our colleagues' safety, and to our notions of intellectual freedom. They're not in our spaces or our social media feeds to have a friendly dialogue and exchange of ideas. They're there to assert their dominance and to enact exclusion and elimination of all groups that stand in their way.
I'm a rule-follower. I like when we can set up structures that we all agree to and abide by. It comforts me to know what the system is and to navigate it, even if I disagree with the system. Most of our profession is this way, and members of Council especially. We'd like to think that if we set up a consistent system of rules and rights and interpretations that can't be used against us, then we're safe.
But we are not safe. Groups that intend harm do not operate like that. The rules are less important than their mission, and we cannot believe they will operate nicely just because we let them use our spaces to discuss their plans and beliefs.
The broader topic of intellectual freedom is complex and nuanced, sure. But the question of whether libraries should enable the endangerment of vulnerable segments of our communities is not
complex. We should not, because we should
value the safety and humanity of the communities we support, both among our patrons and among our staff.
Also: while all this is crucial for us to consider, for the resolution at hand, this is still
not the point right now.
The issue at hand is whether to rescind the interpretation approved at Annual and to let IFC proceed with drafting a new version, which we (Council) will then debate and amend and hopefully eventually approve. The amount of debate that has happened after what we assumed was a routine vote proves that we as Council need to do better and give this interpretation the time and debate it deserves. I would urge all of you, whether or not you're OK with the interpretation as it stands, to vote to rescind so that we can all give this issue proper consideration and continue the conversation rather than shutting it down.
Sent: Jul 26, 2018 09:02 AM
From: JoAnne Kempf
Subject: Resolution to Rescind Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2017-2018 ALA CD#19.6_62617_act).
As Loida noted in her message yesterday, the ALA Executive Board met on July 20, 2018 and unanimously voted to allow an on-line vote of Council on the Resolution to Rescind Meeting Rooms: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2017-2018 ALA CD#19.6_62617_act).
Discussion of this resolution will now proceed in this ALA Connect space from Thursday, July 26 through Thursday, August 9.
On Thursday, August 9, discussion will close and the poll will open. ALA Council will then proceed to an electronic ballot and vote on the resolution via Connect poll from August 9 through August 16. The ALA Governance Office staff will provide a link to the poll which will only be open to Councilors. Please note that this is not an anonymous poll as people's names will be associated with their votes the way they are in open Council meetings. The results of the vote will be announced on August 17.
As a reminder, for an on-line vote to be valid, at least 50 percent of Councilors must participate. According to the ALA By-laws, approval of the resolution in an electronic vote requires a 75 percent majority of those voting Yes or No.
The resolution is attached here for reference.
Dir/Office of ALA Governance
American Library Association