In this month’s Library Journal, John Berry’s latest editorial speaks about the role of ALA in the issues of society. Specifically, the now somewhat infamous ALA Council email list discussion regarding the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and the new body scan devices. The short version is a member contacted a Council member regarding the new regulations and if ALA had an opinion on the matter. From there, the situation evolved into one in which there were people on Council who are wondering why ALA is talking about this topic and there are people on Council who are, well, talking about this topic. From the closing of Mr. Berry’s piece:
I [was] ready to run out and do battle with ALA’s conservatives who would tightly bind the ALA agenda to issues they define as “directly related to libraries.” This debate resurfaces frequently.
Most issues fit the description. Consider the billions we are spending on a war in Afghanistan, billions more in Iraq, billions to bail out Wall Street, the auto industry, and to build infrastructure. You can’t tell me that there wouldn’t be more for libraries if those costs of government were lower. You can’t tell me that libraries and librarians will not be safer if we can make our country more secure. You can’t tell me that one candidate for local, state, or federal office would not be better for libraries than another. Despite that fatuous debate over TSA scanning, I still believe, as I have since I first joined ALA, that every issue is a library issue.
I would ask a reconciliation between the first sentence and the last sentence of that highlighted paragraph, for one sentiment would appear to usurp the other. And in lieu of a long winded post about what constitutes a library issue, I’d rather embrace the latter sentiment and encourage the ALA councilors who read my blog (I know who some of you are!) to take up a list of issues I have compiled off the top of my head.
- Arsenic based life forms (how should libraries deal with life forms that have substituted some basic elements for other kinds?)
- Pluto as a planet (as the ALA represents catalogers, I think it is only fair to the profession that we get this sucker properly classified)
- The BP oil spill (just like emerging information technologies, no one knows what the long term impact will be but seem to agree that it will be bad)
- Mine regulation in the United States (because libraries and mining companies have one thing in common: we both have heavy interests in search technology)
- LeBron James joining the Miami Heat (it’s just like Ranganathan said: ‘every reader his book’. Just substitute the word ‘reader’ with ‘basketball franchise player’ and the word ‘book’ with ‘multi-million dollar sports contract.)
- Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (a military policy that is commonly confused with the approach many libraries have to advocacy and marketing)
I eagerly await discussions and resolutions on all of these issues. I’d mention Wikileaks and the global digital information distribution, net neutrality as it relates to the Netflix v. Comcast debacle, and pretty much anything that has to do with ebooks, but I don’t want to fill up the Council’s agenda with too many “library issues”.