SRRT (Social Responsibilities Round Table)

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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.

What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

  • 1.  What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 29, 2023 11:05 AM

    Hello everyone,

    I am a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and a longtime SRRT member. I have no problem with the substance of the ceasefire resolution that has been discussed here, but the intensely controversial nature of the topic has me wondering some things about SRRT resolutions in general.  I don't want this to be taken as an objection to doing this resolution or ones like it, but I have some misgivings, and I think it might be time to come back to some questions that come up around this kind of thing periodically.  This might be a question for Al Kagan, because he can probably best articulate the reasons behind doing these resolutions.

    I think that the people who might be most strongly opposed to a ceasefire resolution have intense emotions about it, in a deeply personal way, and are people who might potentially join with us on other issues, if we don't alienate them too much. I think that that is a thing to consider, and for me it raises the question of why we do these resolutions and what we really gain when we are able to pass them. There are more granular questions that come to mind as well. What is the point of SRRT resolutions versus resolutions that we take to ALA Council with a realistic hope of getting them passed there? When a general topic, like the conflict in Israel/Palestine, has strong intellectual-freedom or other library-related angles, why don't we consistently take the approach of sticking to those issues when we do a resolution? In this case, I would personally be more in favor of a resolution focused on free speech rights surrounding the issue, which most strongly impact critics of Israel. This would also generate a lot of controversy, but it would be easier to justify its importance within ALA. What is the cost of choosing to do resolutions that are strongly library related versus others?

    Over the years, Al has been the strongest advocate of doing resolutions, especially ones focusing on international issues. I am sorry to single out one person with this, but I think he is probably the person most able to respond thoroughly. I think these questions warrant discussion periodically. Even though I've been there for discussions of these issues in the past, I've never come away totally convinced.

    Rory Litwin



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    Rory Litwin
    President
    Library Juice Academy
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  • 2.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 29, 2023 11:24 AM
    Edited by Mary Moser Nov 29, 2023 11:30 AM

    Hi, Rory!

    I certainly don't want to speak for Al or any members of SRRT, but as a very recent new member of SRRT, and someone who was involved in drafting the recent resolution, I wanted to share my perspective on why this is important. To me, in the big picture, these resolutions become part of the historical record of our organization - they document the issues where we took a stand publicly and what that stance was. It's important to me as a mid-career librarian, with hopefully a few more decades to go, that the professional organizations in which I make my home are brave enough to take a bold stance to publicly declare human-centered values. I was incredibly moved when, in previous threads, Al shared links to resolutions SRRT drafted in earlier times of conflict. I want to be a part of a professional association that doesn't look away in times of atrocity. Libraries are people  - we serve people. Our shared humanity is what makes us who we are, and I want to be able to look back at the end of my career and know that I did what I could to stand on the right side of history, however paltry my actions may be.

    I saw a tweet the other day that was something to the effect of "a liberal is someone who opposes all wars except the current one" and that one really stuck with me. It's important to me, as we continue to do our best to go to work while global catastrophes pile up around us, that I be able to find some way to orient myself professionally to a values system that holds some kind of meaning - a north star that reminds me that what's happening is NOT normal, is NOT ok. It's not ok that people are being killed by the thousands while I type my silly little emails, and I see SRRT and our resolutions as a way to ground myself in that reminder.

    Hopefully, in a few decades, I can look back on these resolutions and remind myself - it's not OK now, it was not OK then, and I was brave enough to say it out loud while it was happening, and I am proud to be in a profession that was brave enough to say it out loud as well.

    I hope this perspective is helpful, and I look forward to hearing from others as well!

    Warmly,

    Mary



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    Mary Moser
    Engagement and Advancement Librarian
    University of Massachusetts Boston
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 29, 2023 08:34 PM
    Hi everyone,

     I am a retired medical librarian and public health educator, and a new member of the srrt group. I helped in a small way to edit the resolution.

    I also belong to the American Public Health Association (APHA) and have been involved in drafting and passing many resolutions addressing police violence, wars, and other forms of racism.

     I question why we do this because the executive director never promotes these resolutions in any meaningful way because he and the leadership want to maintain ties with the Democratic Party.

    We can use the policies locally, nationally, and internationally. In a very practical sense, people who are being attacked or fired for their views can cite APHA resolutions to give themselves more credibility. But the major way resolutions are useful is in involving people in political education and advocacy on their jobs. 

    THIS year, APHA passed a very watered-down resolution on the war and another against shackling incarcerated people seeking medical care. We were able to gather a group of 50 new people to continue the discussion and plan to continue with a study group about these issues. The resolutions provide opportunities for education, activism, and engagement. 

     It is often helpful to put ourselves in the shoes of people who are experiencing horrible things and think about what we would want the public to do. Nazi Germany won medical and public health workers to fascim and eugenics very quickly. We must avoid that. The Lancet published an issue about this recently whereas the Am Medical Assn claimed a resolution against genocide was beyond their scope!

    Karyn Pomerantz
    pomerantzkaryn6@gmail.com
    Retired GW SPH
    co-editor of the
    multiracialunity.org





  • 4.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 29, 2023 08:13 PM
    Thank you for saying this. The recent discussion/resolution left me feeling very unheard and I’ve been considering dropping my SRRT membership. SRRT has remained silent on so many things, and this resolution, combined with the violent anti semitism on the rise, especially in this country, made me feel very uncomfortable.

    SRRT will decide what it decides, but I truly appreciate your saying this




  • 5.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 29, 2023 10:27 PM
    I am also very concerned with the growing antisemitism in the world. Way before the current crisis, I had reached out to the Association of Jewish Libraries to see if there were opportunities for SRRT and AJL to work together or if there were ways to support their statements or resolutions. Since that time, antisemitism has sadly continued to grow. If anyone is currently working on a resolution regarding antisemitism, I would be happy to look it over or help.

    Since I began my involvement with SRRT, I have frequently heard criticism of the things we do cover and the things we don't. Often, there's merit in the criticism and we have tried to address those as possible. There's still things that I feel we don't do enough on (DEIA/B/J is my jam), but we are constantly trying to grow. One thing we have discussed in Action Council is surveying members to help us see where current interests are. In the meantime, all SRRT members are welcomed and encouraged to join or start task forces and to submit resolutions. 

    And just a final FYI: Al is currently traveling and I am unsure of he's ability to respond at this time.



    April







  • 6.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 30, 2023 12:47 PM
    Let me respond briefly to Rory's legitimate questions since he specifically asked me to do so. I am no longer traveling, but I did return with Covid which has been an unhappy experience. (I don't feel that I am at my most coherent.) First I want to commend Mary Moser and Karyn Pomerantz for jumping into the discussion. I certainly endorse Mary's emphasis on doing the brave moral thing in order to live with oneself. I wish more people had that kind of sense of justice. I think Karyn's message said what I want to say in a very clear way. As she said, when SRRT acts, we educate, activate, and encourage more people to get more involved. We have no way of knowing all the ramifications of our resolutions, but many small acts can create a significant impact on society even if we don't change ALA policy in the near term. Let me now try to address Rory's specific questions. First, why do we address international issues? Most people in this country, and therefore most librarians, don't engage very much with international issues. Unfortunately most people are strongly influenced by main stream media which generally give strong uncritical support to current US foreign policy. As socially responsible information professionals, it is our job to provide alternative perspectives, and I argue advocate humane progressive policies within our profession. (Collection development is a separate issue.) As for SRRT-only vs resolutions that we send to the ALA Council, we haven't done very many of the SRRT-only resolutions for some years. And I am now in favor of keeping it that way. I think we have more effect by bringing most of our resolutions to the ALA Council even if they don't succeed. As for advocating intellectual freedom aspects of international issues, we have in fact been doing that for quite some time. We have addressed the destruction and damage to libraries and schools in all of the past Israeli attacks on Gaza for perhaps the last 15 years. We have also tried to defend the right to boycott, so far unsuccessfully, in an organization that supposedly prides itself on freedom of expression. But today we find ourselves in a much worse situation where high Israel government officials are openly calling for genocide or ethnic cleansing of entire populations. In my opinion this means we must now address the fundamental issues and US foreign policy. Sticking to only intellectual freedom issues in the current context would trivialize the magnitude of the current attacks.





  • 7.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 30, 2023 01:51 PM
    Excellent statement, Al. There are many connections between the current assault on Palestinian workers and information issues, such as sources of news, freedom of expression, etc. However, even if there were no connections, we need to oppose US imperialism and Israeli racism. As Al says, "Sticking to only intellectual freedom issues in the current context would trivialize the magnitude of the current attacks." I have learned a lot about global issues through resolutions and similar events as well in ALA and APHA.

    Regarding how to fight back without targeting civilians:
    Soldiers on all sides fraternize and mutiny, kill officers as GIs did in Vietnam (see Sir! No Sir! on Netflix)
    Sabotage planes, ships (as in Vietnam)
    Refuse to load ships with weapons to manufacture war materials
    Blow up train tracks (as fighters did in South Africa)
    Refuse to enlist
    Strike
    Global massive demonstrations that stop business as usual
    Political education to motivate opposition
    Revolts and revolutions (communists in China in 1940s and in Russia in 1917 and 1920s), national liberation struggles to some extent
    Resistance as in WWII

    What doesn't work:
    Voting for the lesser of 2 evils like Biden
    Thinking anyone but Trump- they all support Israel and want Middle East and Ukrainian resources
    Petitions, letters, phone banking, resolutions except as awareness tools

    Invitation:
    The editors of the https://multiracialunity.org blog will host a discussion on the limits of national liberation struggles and nationalism in the context of fighting apartheid in South Africa. Sunday, December 3 at 4pm ET. Email me for the Zoon link, pomerantzkaryn6@gmail.com

    Thank you. (Feel better, Al!)

    Karyn Pomerantz, MLS, MPH
    Co-editor of the multiracialunity.org blog










  • 8.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 30, 2023 02:49 PM

    Thanks Al, and Mary and Karen as well, for stating this so clearly and coherently.

    I would just add that the IF aspect of the current war is in fact addressed in SRRT's Gaza resolution, in the Whereas clause stating that "the freedom of expression of people voicing opposition to the Israeli assault on Gaza is being widely suppressed and many are being punished" which references the October 20 article in Jewish Currents, "A 'McCarthyite Backlash' Against Pro-Palestine Speech". But as Al states, we cannot limit ourselves to just the IF issues in the current context.

    Regarding the backlash against pro-Palestine speech, which has only intensified since the above-referenced article was published, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has compiled a very thorough list of Campus Climate Resources, which may be useful to anyone encountering intellectual freedom challenges on Palestine in their academic work: https://mesana.org/advocacy/committee-on-academic-freedom/2023/11/21/campus-climate-resources

    -- Mark



    ------------------------------
    Mark Hudson
    Retired librarian
    Monroeville, PA
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  • 9.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 30, 2023 03:10 PM
    Good point about these attacks on IF. It reminds me of another positive aspect of resolutions. People attacked for their support of Palestinians or anything else can cite resolutions as a source of credibility, such as claiming such and such org adopted this policy that includes references for educational purposes. Then the resolution authors can pressure the org to defend the people being attacked.


    Karyn Pomerantz
    Co-editor of the multiracialunity.org blog

    I am having trouble typing so please excuse typos and short replies (which may be a blessing).






  • 10.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Nov 30, 2023 03:39 PM

    Thanks, Karyn. This is a very good point as well. People can cite resolutions along with the many statements and letters compiled by MESA. The Campus Climate Resources page also includes a link to Palestine Legal's Know Your Rights page, created to help students who "are facing obstacles and experiencing backlash from Israel advocacy groups and universities intent on censoring, shutting down or undermining their speech activities". https://palestinelegal.org/know-your-rights

    -- Mark



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    Mark Hudson
    Retired librarian
    Monroeville, PA
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: What is the importance of SRRT resolutions?

    Posted Dec 08, 2023 12:12 PM
    I agree.