After getting back into the conference-going groove with NASIG, I attended the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC, from Friday, June 24th through Monday, June 27th. A big part of the reason I attended the conference in person, rather than virtually, was that I had business to do with Core. Now, you may be asking yourself: What is Core? What business did Steve have with it? Do I even care? Well, if you’re still reading, I’ll tell you.
For many years, my primary involvement with ALA was with a Division of the organization called ALCTS (Association for Library Collections and Technical Services). For those of you are unfamiliar with it, ALA has Divisions, which are then subdivided into Sections. A few years back, due to financial and administrative considerations, the membership of ALCTS voted to merge with two other ALA Divisions called LITA (Library Information Technology Association, I think?) and LAMA (Library Administration and Management Association, maybe?). This new combined Division was called Core. I guess ALITLAMLCTS was deemed to unwieldy. Anyway, back in 2019, when ALCTS was still a going concern, I was elected the Vice Chair/Chair-Elect of the Continuing Resources Section (CRS) of ALCTS. I was Chair of CRS for all of 3 months and then on September 1, 2020, the new Core Division was established and all of the Sections of ALCTS, LITA and LAMA were disbanded. The new Core leadership invited the people who were the last elected Chairs of the five former Sections of ALCTS, including me, to form the Leadership Team for a new Section of Core called the Metadata & Collections Section (or MCS). Our quintumvirate (that’s like a triumvirate, but with five people) selected a Chair and got down to business. One of our major charges was to re-establish the dozen or so Committees that used to be organized under the Sections of ALCTS, making sure that they all had Chairs and full memberships, which was somewhat difficult back in the fall of 2020 for reasons I’m sure you all understand. I’m still on the Leadership Team and one of the major reasons I attended ALA was to participate in the in-person meeting of the MCS Committees. Also, I am running for Vice Chair/Chair-Elect of the Metadata & Collections Section in our first ever election (there’s a whole other story about our struggle to hold an election that I won’t share here, but I’ll be happy to tell you). If you are a member of Metadata & Collections Section of Core and haven’t yet voted in the election, which runs through Monday, July 11, I would greatly appreciate your vote. You can vote here.
I attended several sessions that had nothing to do with Core that were very interesting. One was “Librarians, Free Speech, and Anti-Boycott Laws,” which was presented by the Social Responsibility Round Table. It was about the hot button issue of state legislatures passing laws requiring contractors (and others) to pledge that they will not participate in a boycott of Israel. These laws are clear violations of First Amendment protections for expressive behavior. The thing is, this issue extends beyond support or opposition to Israel, as the same language is being used in laws preventing contractors (such as pension investment firms) from boycotting the oil industry and firearms manufacturers. The right wing organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) writes draft legislation that they shop around to state legislatures and they have jumped into the anti-boycott game with both feet. The speakers pointed out that it would take very few changes to one of the ALEC anti-boycott laws to make it illegal to support Black Lives Matter or Planned Parenthood or any other cause. This is scary stuff.
Another interesting session was “Social Justice and the Kerner Commission Report: The Consequences of Inaction,” a panel discussion organized by GODORT (the Government Documents Round Table). The Kerner Commission was convened by executive order from Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to investigate the 158 urban uprisings that flared up across the US in the summer of 1967, the so called “Long Hot Summer.” Chaired by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, the Commission was tasked with answering three questions: 1) What happened? 2) Why did it happen? 3) What can be done to prevent these events from happening again? The work of the Commission was grounded in empirical research and the Commissioners found their work eye-opening. Strangely, for a government document, the Kerner Commission Report was one of the best selling books of 1968, even if it didn’t make for comforting reading. In the introduction, the Report made the stark declaration, “This is our basic conclusion: Our Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.” The report identified 12 grievances that provoked the uprisings, but number 1 was policing. In the 158 cities that saw disturbances, all of them had stewing social problems but in almost every case the precipitating event was a police encounter. The Commission issued a long list of policy recommendations to address the problems facing “the ghetto” (sorry to use their outdated terminology), but they were all quite expensive and there was no political appetite for paying for it. Johnson was a lame duck in 1968 and the U.S. was about to elect the “law and order” Richard Nixon, who had no interest in spending money on these problems. Among the recommendations for police reform were: ending “Stop and Frisk,” stopping police contempt and abuse of citizens in policed neighborhoods, establishing civilian accountability boards, having police get out of cars and do foot patrols. Not only were these recommendations not implemented, many police departments went in the opposite direction in the 1970’s. Other policy recommendations from the report are still waiting to implemented, including: massive investment in low-income housing, education, and welfare programs, universal pre-K, and establishing a universal basic income. The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?
In closing, it was nice to get back to the ALA swing of things. Jeff and I re-started our tradition on Sunday nights at ALA of getting dinner together, picking up a six-pack, and going back to our room to drink beer and watch a game. In this case it was the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and we were happy that the team were both rooting for, the Colorado Avalanche, won.