Locating my ALA in 2016

I’ve been reading discussion on ALA Council, Twitter, and blogs following recent ALA press releases and statements from the Committee on Legislation and the Washington Office, wondering where to locate my ALA, and where to locate myself within it as a member leader.

The question I keep coming back to is: where are our lines?

ALA’s communications have focused on the importance of securing funding for libraries over the next four years. And this is important; for both practical and philosophical reasons, libraries have to pay their people and keep the lights on. I hope ALA’s Washington Office lobbies hard for library funding. And yet…

If law enforcement shows up and says, we want all your circulation records, to go on a fishing expedition for who’s reading the “wrong” books, do we say, sod off; come back with a warrant, or not at all?

If Homeland Security shows up and says, we’d like your organization-of-information expertise updating the Muslim registry for the present day, do we say, never again?

If the horse-traders show up and say, nice IMLS funding you’ve got there, shame if something happened to it, have you considered dropping your support for strong encryption, do we say, the ALA Code of Ethics binds us to protect patron privacy and that is a line we cannot cross?

Do we? It seems almost unthinkable that we would not, and yet, that is what’s missing in ALA’s recent communication: the notion that there are lines, that these lines matter for our patrons and our consciences.

Librarians are among the most trusted professions, but we didn’t get there by being conciliatory. Our historical heroes include the Connecticut Four, Judith Krug, Zoia Horn, all the way back to Hypatia of Alexandria. We are, at our best, people who draw lines.

What are our lines?

What are yours?

Write them down.

Hold them.

One thought on “Locating my ALA in 2016

  1. Obligatory disclaimer: this is my personal blog, not LITAblog; it represents my views and not those of LITA; the Board did not see this before I posted it because it is a personal statement, not an official one.


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