The Social Responsibilities Round Table works to make ALA more democratic and to establish progressive priorities not only for the Association, but also for the entire profession. Concern for human and economic rights was an important element in the founding of SRRT and remains an urgent concern today. SRRT believes that libraries and librarians must recognize and help solve social problems and inequities in order to carry out their mandate to work for the common good and bolster democracy.
Learn more about SRRT on the ALA website.
Hello SRRT folks,
When I saw the agenda for today's meeting, I noticed that something difficult happened at the in-person meeting at Annual, and it sounds the kind of thing I am familiar with from my time on SRRT Action Council years ago. I count myself as a SRRT "veteran," and I wish the word were less accurate. (I've been hurt, and have hurt others.) I have reflected a lot on the way I behaved at meetings back in the day, and the way those meetings felt, and I'd like to share a few thoughts.
Even as an observer at the meeting today, I could feel the tension. I had no problem with anything that people said, and really appreciated a lot of it, but even so I could feel my blood rising just from being in the group, even muted and as invisible as I could be. It's a feeling of anxiety and anger mixed together. It's fight-or-flight feelings. These meetings bring this kind of feeling up in men in particular. I don't know why that is, but maybe it's related to whatever reason men are overrepresented in SRRT to begin with.
There is a problem that I think we have in common with most values-based groups. I think it often most strongly affects people who have strong feelings about the values and principles that these groups are based on, because they care the most about things turning out in accordance with those values, as they interpret them.
Two me these two things, the fight-or-flight feelings and the rigidity and controllingness that come from a commitment to values, recommend two possible remedies. The first is to deal with those feelings by shifting our attention to them, at exactly the moments when it seems the issues being discussed are of the highest importance. To take a break. Maybe as soon as things start to get heated at a meeting, the coordinator can ask for a minute of meditation on your feelings. If that sounds a little woo woo, please take a minute to think about it.
The second is to loosen up, and to remember that other people's views are just as important as your own.
That inclusivity part though, as we began to see in the discussion of the values statement today, runs into a difficulty. The attempt to formulate that first statement, about SRRT being inclusive of those who share our values and commitments and are well intentioned, had us running around in circles a little bit. Who decides who shares our values and commitments? Who decides who is well-intentioned? Can we really assume that everyone is well intentioned? Back in the early 2000s, as some here will remember, a hard-right blogger began attending SRRT meetings, absolutely with hostile intent. I think it's not unlikely that SRRT will see someone like that again in the future, the way things are these days. When someone like that comes along, everyone would agree that his intentions are bad, except him. This blogger made specific reference to the bylaws and included himself in those the group was intended for. It was extremely frustrating. So, I think we have to admit that we cannot and do not always assume someone is with us with the best of intentions.
And what happens when such a judgment is not unanimous? What happens when someone drops in who is a Bill Maher Democrat, just for an example, who assures us that he's an old school liberal but takes a lot of conservative positions and is a centrist on all the rest? Maybe most in the group would welcome him and give him credit for good intentions, but likely some in the group, with arguably good justifications, would not. It would almost be a worse situation than dealing with a hard right interloper, which would at least unify the group around the question of what to do about him.
It seems like an insoluble problem, one that's at the core of any values-based group, but I don't think it really is insoluble. The answer, or my answer, is: feelings, and respect for others. Dealing with fight-or-flight feelings internally as they come up, even if it means leaving an issue to others for a minute, and remembering to be generally loose and liberal with our judgments, by way of recalling that our own views are not more important than anyone else's, regardless of our experience or knowledge of political things.
If I felt more confident in my own ability to do this, I might want to rejoin Action Council, but really, I don't think I've overcome this problem enough in myself to be the positive influence I'd like to be. But I'm glad to sit in like I did today.
I am a newbie to this committee. So far, I am lurking on posts to understand the committee's culture. Admittedly, I have not attended a monthly meeting. Your letter has encouraged me to investigate this experience. As I lurk, I think about my civil rights experiences in my library. I want to contribute to the conversation but await an opportunity to speak and be heard. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I wish there were contacts to mentor a newbie into committee work.
SRRT members can see our recent activities on our Year in Review page and below are some volunteer and committee opportunities. I would say that every group is open to suggestions and volunteers:
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