Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Undemocratic ALA Muzzles Members

Library Journal Logo
The American Library Association [ALA] is "anything goes" for children.  Yet it "muzzles" its own members, "stifles" free speech, and is "undemocratic," according to a Library Journal editorial. 

One wonders what the ALA has to hide and from whom it is hiding.  Is the ALA censoring its own members?  As the Annoyed Librarian safely predicts, also in the Library Journal, "The ALA will continue to abuse the word 'censorship.'"  It appears it will also abuse its own members by insisting on censorship:

"Blatant Berry, Eroding ALA Democracy; Virtual Participation Must Not be Second-Class Membership," by Editor-at-Large John N. Berry III, Library Journal, 15 February 2011, emphasis added:

Long before Midwinter, more than one ALA unit actually forbade and prevented individual members from access to electronic discussion lists because of what were deemed “inappropriate” postings by them.  These members were muzzled by whomever in that unit had control of the list in ­question.

At the Saturday meeting of the board of the Library Information and Technology Association (LITA), an ALA division, board member Jason Griffey was set up to stream (broadcast over the Internet) the session to LITA members and others.  Some board members protested that such streaming would force them to be less candid.  Later, they also argued that because they had hired a consultant to tell them how to improve board sessions, streaming that consultant’s comments would encroach on his intellectual property.  The LITA board voted to stifle Griffey, and he disabled the stream.  To add insult to injury, the consultant had advised the LITA board that once they had voted on an issue, all board members should agree to go along with the decision and not publicly oppose it, a bizarre bit of undemocratic wisdom.


There can be solid reasons for members of boards to meet fact-to-face, but they were not apparent at Midwinter.  That makes discussion of “tiered” membership for virtual participants sound like second-class membership.  It violates the purpose of ALA’s open meeting policy and ALA democracy.


ALA leaders must ... protect the ALA democracy we fought for decades ago.  Virtual participation is coming, but it must not bring second-class membership in ALA.


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