Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ALA Blowhards

The Annoyed Librarian discusses another annoyed librarian and American Library Association [ALA] "blowhards."  Here is an excerpt from "Another Annoyed Librarian," by Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 9 December 2009, (and be sure to read the comments) emphasis mine:
The November issue of Against the Grain ... published "The American Library Association and Professional Limits:  The Case for Saying Less," by Steve McKinzie. McKinzie argues that:

"By passing numerous political resolutions on non-library related questions, by heading the recommendations of the ALA’s Social Responsibilities Roundtable, and by indulging its desire for political relevance — by saying, in short, so many things about so many topics — the association squanders precious political capital.  That’s right.  Such actions inevitably undermine the ALA’s unique and valuable role — its voice for librarianship and its advocacy of libraries."

He was prompted for action by the latest Council resolutions about health care legislation, which apparently library associations have some special expertise on that it's important to share with everyone else.

My argument is that such ALA political posturing just makes the ALA in particular and librarians in general look silly.  The ALA Councilors should speak to some non-librarians sometime to judge the response.  When I tell non-librarians about some of the more irrelevant resolutions, the response is always the same.  Why would anyone care what the librarians have to say?  When we speak about library-related issues, we speak with authority.  When we speak on issues of no direct concern to libraries, we're just blowhards.

McKinzie makes a similar point, asserting that "Everyone has had the experience of witnessing the phenomena of someone whose boldly brazen posturing does more harm than good," and contrasting this with the "voices you heed — not because you necessarily agree (often you don’t) — but because you respect their understanding and their advocacy."

When library associations speak about non-library issues, why would anyone respect what they have to say?  For McKinzie, it's the divergence from the ALA mission and purpose that makes these pronouncements irrelevant and endangers our credibility on relevant issues.

There's also the loss of political capital.  By speaking so often on any possible topic, the ALA makes it less likely anyone will take them more seriously when they speak on library related topics.  He concludes that "ALA must, in a sense, regain its focus, remember why we are here and what we are about.  Most importantly, the association should employ its precious political capital for the promotion and advocacy of libraries and librarianship — that and nothing more."
I agree, and I have previously said something similar:
And think about that sentence where McKinzie says, "Everyone has had the experience of witnessing the phenomena of someone whose boldly brazen posturing does more harm than good."  Banned Books Week, anyone?

Speaking of the Annoyed Librarian and BBW, remember:

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