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Jim Casey’s ALA Council Report

This is a report on ALA Council from Jim Casey, ALA Councilor at Large, PUBLIB member, and director of the Oak Lawn (IL) Public Library. Jim does such a thorough job with his ALA reports that I really can’t top what he has to say (even when I disagree with him–and we sat next to one another but couldn’t have been farther apart on the Cuba issue). Useful and insightful. Thanks, Jim!

ALA MIDWINTER MEETING in San Diego, California, January 8-14, 2004
Notes prepared by James B. Casey

This was the first Mid Winter Meeting in San Diego for Diane and I and the weather and program itself were excellent. As of the end of business on Monday, attendance at this Mid Winter was at 10,788, a full 26.7% behind the 13,664 recorded for by the same period at Mid Winter
2003 in Philadelphia. Although a beautiful location and near to the Los Angeles area, San Diego isn’t within reasonable driving distance of as many very large cities as is Philadelphia — New York, Baltimore, Washington, Newark, Boston and even Pittsburgh and Cleveland (from which
I drove with a carload of impoverished colleagues back in 1982).
Vendors made some ominous noises about low floor traffic in the exhibits and are reviewing their attendance at future Mid Winter Meetings.

OLPL Trustees Shirley Barrett and Marian Sullivan continued their service on ALTA Committees and joined us for a pleasant dinner on the evening of January 10. (ALTA = Association for Library Trustees and
Advocates) Diane continued in her position as Chair of CCS Policy and
Planning Committee and is the CCS representative to the ALCTS Planning Committee. (CCS = Cataloging and Classification Section. ALCTS = American Association of Library Collections and Technical Services). I began my seventh year as a Member of ALA Council and secured petition support for re-election to another three-year term as a
Councilor-at-Large (Spring 2004). Election results will be posted on
May 3.

COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION – LEGISLATION ASSEMBLY. Following a brief meeting of the GODORT (Government Documents Round Table) Legislation Committee, the Committee on Legislation hosted its Legislative Assembly. Reports were given by members relative to issues currently facing ALA Washington Office Lobbyists. Great concern was expressed about the tendency of the Bush Administration to go beyond the normal behavior characteristic of administrations to “put their policy stamp”
on web sites and documents. It was noted that the Bush Administration
has frequently removed information provided in government studies that contradict their policy positions under the guise that such findings are
“out of date” or “archived”. ALAWO reports that: “In August 2003, the
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division issued ‘Politics and Science in the Bush Administration’

Click to access pdf_politics_and_science_rep.pdf

which reports numerous instances where the Administration has manipulated the scientific process and distorted or suppressed scientific findings.”

The Government Printing Office has also been pressing to reduce access or charge for previously “free” (that is, paid for by tax dollars) documents and that Congressional Research Service Reports have become less accessible than at any time in the past. According to ALAWO (ALA Washington Office): “On November 11, 2003, 59 organizations and 3 individuals wrote to Representatives Mark Green and Christopher Shays to express their dismay at the discontinuation of the ‘Index of Congressional Research Service Reports.’ [A copy of the letter is on
the site] On November 21, 2003, Rep. Christopher Shays
introduced HR 3630 which would ‘make available on the internet, for purposes of access and retrieval by the public, certain information available through the Congressional Research Service web site.'” ALA Washington Office has been actively promoting the public’s “Right to
Know” information created and paid for by tax dollars. Restrictions
emerging since September 11, 2001 have posed a major problem for public access to government information.

Considerable support has been building from Congresspersons on both sides of the political aisle to affirm Privacy Rights in the wake of the
Patriot Act and proposed Patriot Act II. Also, good news came in the
form of expected approval of very good funding for LSTA during the next fiscal year. In this one area, the Bush Administration has proven to be a very positive force (or possibly, via the influence of the First Lady).

Another threat emphasized in this Assembly was the introduction on October 8, 2003 of HR 3261 “The Database and Collections of Information
Misappropriation Act” out of the Republican controlled House. This
bill would make it more difficult for libraries to obtain ‘fair use’
exceptions to the kind of ‘shrink wrap’ or ‘click wrap’ contracts that are designed to maximize profit at the expense of open access.

The ALA WO BRIEFING was led by ALAWO Director Emily Sheketoff. She
announced that May 3-4 would be the National Legislative Day program in
Washington, D.C.. She also promoted the virtual Legislative Action
Center prepared by the WO staff This web site
offers a “scorecard” which shows how congresspersons voted on various
issues. She urges us to become acquainted with this site and to thank
supporters of Library positions and question those who oppose us. The
notion of a ‘groundswell’ of opinion can sometimes strengthen our
lobbying efforts.

Emily made the unexpected announcement that a firm by the name of
Working Assets has joined forces with ALA
Washington Office to encourage voters to register on-line at their
public library. The web site to which
prospective voters are to go is
National publicity would encourage voters to come to their public
library to register to vote. For each registration secured at a public
library facility via the web site, ALA will receive
$1.50 and for each change of address update $.50 will go to ALA.
Cooperating libraries will be eligible to apply for grants from ALA.
After this session, I asked Emily whether or not this program had been
reviewed with PLA or any other public library group before being
launched. She indicated that the whole agreement had just been hammered
out with Working Assets the night before and that no literature or
detailed information was available. I urged Emily to hold back on this
project and on the publicity until she had conferred with public
librarians as to the impact on public expectations and demand emerging
suddenly in an election year (primaries are a few days or weeks off).
At this point, I am uncertain that my warnings were heeded.

E-Rate was discussed in the most favorable terms in the sense that we
need to continue defending the program from Congressional critics and
emphasize how enormously helpful it has been. Although some $376
million have reportedly been received by Libraries during the past six
years (and about $63 million per year), there are still a vast majority
of libraries which do not participate. In a room with about 80 to 100
people in attendance, the speaker asked how many were currently applying
for E-Rate. Only about 20 of us raised our hands. “That’s
encouraging!” He said. I did not find it so and shudder at what
Congresspersons would hear if they venture to randomly call public
library administrators from their districts to ask how important (or
even relevant) the E-Rate has been to their libraries during the past 6
years. Lynne Bradley, ALAWO Staffer, indicated that the E-Rate is not
under direct attack, but that efforts will be made during February to
embarrass the program with allegations of “waste, fraud and abuse”.

PATRIOT ACT challenges continue including a new bill (HR 3037) which
would allow “administrative subpoenas” (subpoenas which can be issued
automatically and without the authorization of a judge) for business

ALAWO Staffer Rick Weingarten indicated that many important battles lie
ahead for “the soul of the Internet”. Major trends he noted were: 1/
Increased costs for access. 2/ Assault on anonymity. 3/ Telecom
collision (?), and 4/ Privatization.

As in past Conferences and Mid Winter Meetings, I have been impressed by
the vast amount of detailed knowledge handled by the ALAWO and by the
ALA Committees dealing with these issues. Although the news is often
bad, our efforts to stem the tide have been laudable.

The local political scene for libraries had been adversely affected by
past budget cutting and worse was expected after the announcement by
newly hatched Governor Arnold “the Terminator” Schwarzenager that future
budget cuts would also be massive. This tightening of the budget
situation may have had an impact upon the ability of attendees to come
to San Diego from elsewhere in the “anything but golden” State of

SESSION. This session included reports from the ALA Executive
Director, the BARC (Budget Analysis and Review Committee) and also from
the Endowment Fund. On the whole, 2003 saw very large gains in the long
term investments – far better returns than in past “up years”. The
endowment fund increased from the area of $11 million to $18 million
through investments and property sales. On the other hand, the APA
(Allied Professional Association) raised only $5,992 from Member
contributions during its first year (2003) while the projections of 2002
had been for about $48,000 raised by this source. I urged that the
executive leaders of APA find a way to make the donation mechanism on
the ALA Membership renewal forms more apparent and less obscure.
Donations to the APA are provided as an option on the renewal forms, but
the fact that they must be solely from out of member pockets (cannot be
paid with tax money or reimbursed) needs to be made clearer and the
reason for the contributions needs to be presented more clearly.

ALA RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE: In my third year as a Member of the
Resolutions Committee of ALA Council, I was able to assist with the
checking of Resolutions submitted by Councilors on a number of
occasions. In one case, I assisted the past President of ALA with
editorial and format changes at the ALA Office until well after 10 PM.
My term on Resolutions Committee ends in June 2005.

COUNCIL I: This very brief session included several reports from
Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels on Executive Board actions since
the Annual Meeting of 2003 and also on the implementation of Council
directives from Annual Conference. A Resolution of little practical
importance which consumed a considerable amount of discussion time was
on ALA Election Endorsement and Use of Funds. The elections in question
were internal, ALA elections and not national political elections. This
resolution prohibited ALA from expending monies on endorsement of any
particular candidate for ALA office (President and Treasurer), but left
endorsement issues to the governing bodies of each of the various Round
Tables and Divisions. The resolution was, as I recall, rejected. –
Council was unanimous and enthusiastic in awarding Honorary ALA
Memberships to eminent cataloger and former Council Member Sander Berman
and to internationally known and respected Librarian Norman Horrocks.

Following this Council Session were speeches by candidates for ALA
Executive Board (including Nann Blaine Hilyard from Illinois). All
gave excellent speeches and answered difficult questions – including one
from me concerning the willingness of the candidates to insist upon
Librarian credentials as qualifications for filling of senior management
positions in ALA. We learned on Wednesday, January 14, that Janet Swan
Hill and Nann Blaine Hilyard were elected to the ALA Executive Board for
terms commencing in July 2004. Both are extremely well qualified and
will serve the Association well.

COUNCIL FORUM: This is an informal caucus of Councilors which generally
occurs late in the evening prior to Council I or Council II. In this
case it was Monday evening and the two topics under discussion involved
some intense disagreement. The former President of ALA – Maurice
Freedman – indicated his outrage that the law firm retained by ALA over
many years (Jenner & Block) had agreed to take on divine, Inc. as a
client. Divine was the company which (it has been charged) squandered
many millions of dollars which had been paid by thousands of Libraries
across the country Faxon – RoweCom to purchase periodical and journal
subscriptions. At least $50 million and perhaps $100 million in
precious subscription dollars vanished in an Enron type maneuver which
left libraries across the United States in an extremely difficult
position during late 2002 and early 2003. Dr. Freedman presented a
resolution for discussion at this session which would set a specific
policy requiring legal counsel retained by ALA to not accept clients who
are (or have been) in litigation with ALA and also to refuse clients
whose actions have materially damaged ALA, libraries and publishers.
— I assisted Dr. Freedman with the wording of this resolution so that
it could appear on the Council III agenda and was unable to remain for
the discussion on whether or not ALA should pass a resolution deploring
the Castro regime’s treatment of dissidents in Cuba.

COUNCIL II: This long session saw the rejection of a seemingly simple,
innocuous resolution to replace the 1892 vintage motto of ALA and the
delay to Council III of a resolution demanding the repeal of the Patriot
Act. As usual, Council debated issues at length. Another seemingly
harmless resolution deploring the closure of Clark University Library
School (in Georgia) was debated and battered at length and also referred
to Council III (if not later) because it lacked specific remedies for
prevention of future Library school closings. The Treasurer’s Report
for 2003 was competently delivered and revealed the near miraculous
completion of the year with a small surplus. (In the wake of the SARS
disaster in Toronto, it was feared that lost revenue would preclude any
black ink for the year.) I took issue with ALA’s long term projections
of healthy U.S. economy and a rise of the Dow Jones from 10,000 to
15,000 by 2010 with the observation that the price of Gold bullion has
gone from $260 per ounce three years ago to $426.50 today (+64%). Gold
price increases have generally reflected long term pessimism and a
perception of global and economic instability. — A new dues category
for “support staff” of $35 per year was debated at length and ultimately
passed. It was argued (convincingly) that some “support staff” earn
more money than MLS librarians (even directors) who work for
inadequately funded libraries. The strong advice from Council urged the
Committee to work for a graduated scale of dues which is triggered
solely by salary. Those earning the most should pay the most.

For the first time I can remember, the President of ALA did not travel
to New York City to discuss the Newberry and Caldecott selections on the
Today Show. President Carla Hayden stayed in San Diego and elected to
appear on a Fox news segment. Dr. Hayden indicated to us that she would
have been unable to attend any of the key meetings at this Mid Winter
with a transcontinental flight required for appearance at New York studios.

COUNCIL III. This session was shorter than expected due to the very
sensible decision of Council Members to withdraw resolutions which would
have consumed vast amounts of time, but which were also probably doomed
to failure — Resolution on Human Rights in Cuba and Resolution to
Repeal the Patriot Act. In point of fact, the reasonable objectives of
both resolutions were achieved via outstanding Resolutions presented by
the International Relations Committee (on Cuba) and Committee on
Legislation (Patriot Act). ALA will deplore limitations on
Intellectual Freedom in Cuba without demanding specific action to
release prisoners held by the Cuban government. This, in effect, kept
the focus on Intellectual Freedom and avoided ventures into specific
“foreign policy” measures. Committee on Legislation (COL) kept focus
on calling for repeal of specific portions of the Patriot Act and headed
off demands for total repeal of the act. Thus, the successful strategy
of opposition to the Patriot Act will probably grind forward through
2004. COL also achieved overwhelming support for opposition by ALA to
HR 3261 – the “Database and Collection of Information Misappropriation
Act” and thereby indicated strong commitment to fight against
encroachments on “fair use” in the digital age. — Among the
disappointments was the rejection of a portion of the excellent
resolution presented by Past President Maurice J. Freedman entitled
“Resolution to Establish ALA Policy for Retaining Legal Counsel”. It
called for the expression of great disappointment by the ALA Executive
Board with the ALA law firm Jenner & Block for representing “divine,
Inc.” against charges by the U.S. government in grand jury inquiries.
The other segment of this resolution was referred to BARC (Budget
Analysis and Review Committee) and will therefore probably not resurface
before Annual. Those of us who felt that ALA needed to step forward
NOW and demonstrate a determination to begin holding “corporate friends”
to accountability were disappointed. The divine, Inc. subsidiaries
RoweCom and Faxon were all designated as “corporate champions” of ALA at
the very time when they were accepting tens of millions of subscription
dollars that were allegedly being diverted by devine, Inc. to other
schemes. The affiliation with ALA gave devine, Inc and RoweCom a
fascade of trust and respectability which may have prompted less
trustful libraries to keep on sending in money despite rumors that the
firm may have been in trouble.

This session of Council ended at about 12:20 PM.

CONCLUSION: This Mid Winter was in one of the most beautiful sites any
of us can remember, and also proved to be reasonably productive when it
came to sensible resolutions on the difficult issues of Cuba and
continued opposition to the Patriot Act. It was less productive with
regard to ALA formulating a stronger representation of “due diligence”
when it comes to holding corporations and the Association’s Law firm to
accountability. As before, the Committee on Legislation continued to
work skillfully and well and the ALA Washington Office showed much
effective leadership despite increasingly difficult conditions both on
Capital Hill and in the Administration with issues involving privacy and
access to government information. The International Relations Committee
did a splendid job of devising a resolution on Cuba that represented our
commitment to Intellectual Freedom while avoiding antagonism towards any
of the political parties involved.

My sincerest thanks go to the Oak Lawn Public Library for supporting my
participation in ALA.

James B. Casey,

January 14, 2004

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