Skip to content

LITA Councilor Report, Midwinter 2005

LITA Councilor Report, Karen G. Schneider
ALA Midwinter 2005, Boston

(Updated 3-9-05 to address John Berry’s comments about LITA CE)

On the non-tech front, Council at Midwinter 2005 was relaxed, orderly, and productive (Council III, on Wednesday, ended early–I don’t know when that last happened). Boston was colder than a box of frozen beans, but the venue was fun and attendance was up by over 20% from Midwinter 2004 in San Diego. Councilors worked hard on a rough draft of a resolution about the Salinas library closures to make it a workable document.

This was also the third ALA conference to offer free wi-fi for Councilors. It is not known how many Councilors took advantage of wi-fi, but a number who did remarked favorably on its usefulness. ALA has indicated it will try to make wi-fi affordably available to more ALA members at ALA Annual 2005.

Technology-flavored ALA Council actions

The Policy Monitoring Committee included an information item in its report (accepted in toto by Council) noting that it is “studying ways to make the text of current ALA Policies and the Current Reference File more accessible to the membership,” and that PMC welcomes “Council’s insights, ideas, and suggestions on this topic.” As LITA Councilor, here is my predictable recommendation: for God’s sake, ALA, put the #@!%& content online. Does ALA need a resolution to this effect, or shall we study it another five years?

Council approved several updates to the Intellectual Freedom Manual, including “Access to Electronic Information, Services, and Networks,” which now notes that the Internet “allows libraries to fulfill this responsibility [to provide information] better than ever before.” Good job, IFC, and kudos to IFC for sharing this information with Council well in advance of our meeting.

A resolution about RFID passed easily. The resolution had been modeled on language by the Book Industry Standards group and crafted with close OITP scrutiny. The resolution resolved that ALA “affirm established privacy norms,” adopt the BISG’s “RFID Privacy Principles,” and continue to “monitor and address concerns” about RFID.

Councilors, including the LITA Councilor, objected to language in a resolution about the omission of school media specialists from the presidential program, No Child Left Behind. The resolution said that the funding formula for NCLB “favor computer-based technology over books and materials that support reading and learning.” This language was eliminated from the final version of the resolution which was subsequently passed by Council.

A resolution banning cell phone use in Council meetings received lively objections from a number of Councilors who in arguing against this resolution talked about the many ways they use cell phones—to check email, keep time, etc. The resolution failed.

At Council III, Council passed CD #20, “Resolution Opposing GPO’s Decision to Eliminate Print Distribution of Important Government Information.” This resolution was not made available to most councilors until the informal Council forum session late the previous afternoon. (I attended both Forums, as I do whenever my schedule permits.)

While I voted for CD #20, I later expressed two concerns to LITA Executive Board. The first is the belated presentation of important resolutions not based on last-minute information. This has the effect of forcing Council to shove through resolutions on important issues without really discussing them. The other question is about the resolution itself. While no one on Council is “against” government information, and many of us are concerned about funding and making available this information, I am not alone in seeking a more flexible approach to government documents than expressed in this resolution. As I read the resolution, it is unbending in its position that paper continues to be the preferred format for government documents. Are we well served by this position? If our focus is paper, who in our profession is ensuring that electronic documents are correctly created, organized, managed, and preserved? I believe this needs more discussion within LITA and within the profession at large.

Other issues

John “Library Journal” Berry dinked LITA’s CE offerings in the December 2004 issue of LJ. If you feel LITA CE gives you some bang for your buck, consider a letter to LJ to express your thoughts. Berry wrote: “If you really want or need continuing education (CE), there is a lot of it before Midwinter, at dozens of other ‘PreMidwinter Institutes and Special Events,’ most of which begin and end on Friday, at prices ranging from $10 to $300 depending on the event, its sponsor, and membership status. We don’t list them here because we don’t feel most of them are worth the price. Midwinter has become a moneymaker for ALA units but doesn’t always deliver value per dollar spent.” (My emphasis.)

In other capacities, I attended the Website Advisory Committee meeting, where we discussed the online community software as well as the successful and salutary roll-out of the new Google search engine for I also attended Top Technology Trends for a few minutes as a panelist, but had to adjourn for ALA Council meetings. This could have been avoided if ALA would just go the extra mile and simulwebcast the transcripts it broadcasts within the Council chambers. It continues to baffle me that an organization dedicated to information access would be so close-hold with its own proceedings.

PLA had a blog for this conference which went quite well. I contributed some content to it.

We lost several wonderful ALA members this year, including fellow Councilor Peter Graham (an endearing man who once mocked Internet urban legends by posting on the Council list that he had been kidnapped in a conference city and some do-gooder had stuffed an extra kidney in him) and intellectual freedom champion Gordon Conable.

A hard loss for many of us in the tech arena was Anne Lipow, a wonderfully kind and witty woman who for several decades was a major leader and innovator in library technology. Anne’s friends gathered at ALA in yet one more memorial service for her. We don’t get too many like Anne: brilliant, kind, insightful, forward-thinking, and focused on those we serve. Goodbye, Anne. I hope we honor your memory.

Posted on this day, other years: