Friday, November 14, 2008

The ALA Knows It Is Liberal and Losing Members Who Are "Disgusted With the National Organization"; Refugees Reach Out to SafeLibraries

The American Library Association [ALA] knows it is liberal and losing members who are "disgusted with the national organization." Refugees are reaching out to SafeLibraries, as you will soon see.

Recent talk among members of the ALA Council has produced truly amazing, biting statements (emphasis added):
The words "disgusted with the national organization" and "supporting liberal views and the political left" were the theme of his concerns. .... I wish I could say this is the only member I have heard from who is dropping or who hasn't renewed for this same reason. I guess what I'm trying to say is I grow weary of hearing this from colleagues over and over. They do not want to say anything publicly because they just do not have the energy for the bullying that they have received in the past. For an organization that shouts "tolerance" we sure seem intolerant of those who disagree. It is especially true in the present political climate when if a librarian or ALA member publicly voices concern over issues, they are called "racists" or "homophobic." I know, I've been called the same thing from some of you.

Source: "[alacoun] Another Member Drops," Susan Pieper, American Library Association, 12 November 2008.

This does not surprise me. I am often contacted by librarians and library directors who apparently feel the need to reach out to me to say what they feel. Why just last week I received the following letter:
Thank you for your letter in the October 15 issue of Library Journal. The double standards of the library community, particularly in the political sphere, in this country are why I no longer belong to ALA. Your letter was refreshing—as is your Web page (, which I hadn't visited before today.
Source: Elided to protect another victim of ALA "bullying" and "intolerance."

No, I won't be revealing from whom this letter originated, for obvious reasons. Actually, I encourage ALA refugees to reach out to me in this fashion. Letters like this are getting common. And I offer assistance according to the needs of the individual.

Now didn't that letter I received just last week sound exactly like what the ALA Council is discussing now? Aren't these admissions against interest by the ALA leadership remarkable?

Liberal bullying and intolerance is apparently a feature of ALA membership. Like ALA Councilor Susan Pieper, I too have experienced it myself.


  1. It was interesting to read this perspective. I recently had a conversation with a friend who is a librarian. She too has heard some negative rumblings among her public library associates. However, they didn’t necessarily pertain to any of the socio-political issues you are describing. Rather they pertain more to academic concerns.

    One of our local library systems has been in the process of performing a major “weeding out” of older books. Many of these are classical literature books and many are even the last copies of out-of-print titles. This is being done in an effort to make way for more copies of Sponge Bob and Harry Potter. She shared that some of her friends see this process as having a “dumbing down” effect on the library and the profession itself.

    They also are concerned about the future demand for professional librarians. Apparently there has been some discussion of eliminating the reference areas (or at the least significantly down-sizing them) and replacing them with more computer stations since everything is going digital. They have already essentially gotten rid of much of the AV and educational reference staff (or at least have reassigned them). The assumption is that the reference staff will be next. Many of the professional services we historically relied on the professional librarian to provide can now be done at home, on-line, by the individual patron.

    As these librarians look into the future they can already see the decreasing demand for professional librarians. They also appear to be well aware of the degrading effect many of these policies are having on the profession itself as the need for their academic expertise rapidly diminishes.

    Many see themselves as becoming nothing more than glorified clerks, as they are being re-assigned to such duties as reshelving books. However, the latest push to significantly increase the circulation of Ebooks will certainly even decrease the demand for this function as well. Many of them also find themselves spending more time in unrelated services, such as hosting games and other similar children’s social activities such as dances.

    It would seem their concerns are well justified, as they appear to be working themselves right out of a profession. As the demand for librarians decreases, so will the membership base for the ALA.

    It almost sounds as if they destroying themselves from within on multiple fronts.

  2. I discontinued my ALA membership six years ago for these very reasons. I felt very alone in my convictions, and did not want to continue to support an organization whose points of view were so often opposing mine.

  3. This looks similar:

    "Fort Worth Episcopals Vote to Leave Liberal Denomination," by Rachel Zoll, Associated Press, 16 Nov 2008.

    The theologically conservative Diocese of Fort Worth voted Saturday to split from the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church, the fourth traditional diocese to do so in a long-running debate over the Bible, gay relationships and other issues. ....

    Interestingly, the responses to Susan Pieper's original email said something about how people should not leave the ALA or it will never change and that those people should not give up hope. Look, the same issue is raised and addressed in the context of this church-related article:

    "Some have encouraged us to stay and fight as the faithful remnant in (the denomination), to work for reform from within," Bishop Jack Iker said in his speech before the balloting.

    "I can only reply by quoting the saying that 'the definition of insanity is to keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results,'" he said. "The time has come to choose a new path and direction, to secure a spiritual future for our children and our grandchildren."

    Any librarians feel the same way? (Please respond anonymously—I don't want to be responsible for job actions taken against you for speaking out.)

  4. The usual method by which conservatives claim some liberal bias in the ALA lies in the fact that they simply wish to control the organization, and claim they are being discriminated against in some way.

    However, after about 30 years of conservative control of just about everything, not many people actually beleive this assertion any longer.

    Most of this assertion of a liberality in ALA lies in the sort of tendency of those who are conservative to imagine in others, what they would actually do themselves if they were to assert any sort of control over the organization which is not liberal, but rather a more balanced organization, politically.

    I quit ALA long ago, because I found it to be too conservative for my tastes. Representing libraries and not librarians.

    As usual the arguments about weeding and replacement that is heard among conservatives is more of the same. The job of libraries is NOT to tell the public what they SHOULD be reading, but to provide them with what they want to read. If it is Harry Potter, then Harry Potter replaces Beatrix Potter. The most elitist members of the library community tend to be the conservatives, who wish to assert their own personal beliefs about libraries and library collections, rather than represent the requests of the public.

    The suggestion that this is some sort of "dumbing down" is equally absurd.

    If libraries had unlimited resources, libraries could keep their classics, and make room for Harry Potter and Sponge Bob, which are childrens and young adult materials, and are a bit more relevant to children and young adults today than Peter Rabbit or Huckleberry Finn are. To suggest that the earlier books are classics, and the newer ones are not, largely is a matter of lack of perspective on the part of the conservative librarian. If it were not for conservatives in general, this point would be moot, because there would be more than enough money to provide room for both.

    Its conservatives who are largely responsible for the budget cuts that make the need to choose one over the other necessary.

    Conservatives create the environment in which making such choices are necessary, and then point out the fact that choices that they do not approve of are made. Its a clever distraction, but it is still a distraction.

    The fact remains that libraries buy Harry Potter and Sponge Bob books because that is where the demand is. It reflects the nature of "free markets"

  5. This blog post sure has attracted interesting comments. Thank you to all you anonymi (plural for anonymous?).

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