Friday, March 31, 2006

Response to NMRT Question: Fostering Collegiality

Here's my reply to another question from the New Members Round Table

"Question: Many new librarian professionals encounter colleagues that have been librarians for several years and, in many cases, decades. Oftentimes, there seems to be a ‘disconnect’ or reluctance, from one side or the other, to meet in the middle where a collegial relationship can flourish. As ALA President, how might you encourage communication between the generations and nurture these relationships?"

In most circumstances, library workers can accomplish very little on their own.
Collaboration is a key philosophy for success within the library field. The ability to work well together in the workplace can lead to grant funding, increased productivity, enhanced reputation, good morale, and personal fulfillment. How do we encourage good collaboration and collegiality? How do we adopt an attitude of accepting, welcoming, and seeking roles as mentors and team members?

First, this may be a topic that can be explored through a research approach to gather a view of communication styles among library employees. Such a study might ascertain the extent of this concern, the role of management style in influencing workplace communication, and perhaps even lead to identifying successful communication models or best practices.

Second, we might review whether library workers concerned about this issue have sufficient resources to enable them to address this topic in their work settings. Librarians might welcome resources such as bibliographies, case studies, and opportunities to discuss their concerns with others. Managers might want support in leading their employees in successful team building.

Third, we can suggest ways that library staff can reward collaboration and especially to recognize good mentoring teams. Workplace incentives may include local recognition, support to attend conferences as mentoring teams, and so forth.

Fourth, we all need to learn how to communicate better with each other and to build a community of trust. Experienced employees, especially those nearing retirement, have much to offer and are in privileged positions to serve as teachers and mentors but may need to learn how to adopt these new roles. Newer employees need to learn what they can bring into this relationship as a fair exchange.

One strategy we can use to help staff to negotiate the transition to retirement is life term review. This is a process of integrating an individual’s past and present through recollection and reflection. Life review may also be initiated through shared memories of communal activities. Group life review session of librarians might begin, therefore, with members commenting about their experiences at professional high points such as special conferences or institutes. Often, individuals who are supported in recounting their professional pasts naturally expand this role of sharing into own of nurturing and assisting others.

As President of ALA, I would encourage developing programs and strategies to record and learn from the wisdom and experience of long-standing library employees.
Finally, sometimes we build our supportive communities outside of our own organization. We become refreshed and enlightened through the opportunities we bring to each other.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Response to NMRT question: LIS curriculum

I continue with another reply to a question forwarded from the New Members Roundtable.

Question: "There is some concern within our profession about whether library school graduate programs are really preparing future librarian practitioners. In your opinion, how can library schools improve the MLS curriculum so that new professionals feel prepared as they begin their career? What role can you, as ALA President, play in seeing that the MLS curriculum is reflective of what is needed in professional librarian positions?"

There is some sentiment that LIS schools have moved away from preparing librarians as they focus on preparing graduates for emerging careers in areas such as usability, knowledge management, and digital content management.

Let’s start with considering what is going on in LIS programs to identify the trends that are strongly influencing LIS education.
1. The evolution of the iSchool.
There is a perception that the best LIS programs have reinvisioned themselves over the past five to ten years as schools of information. The iSchools are starting to band together to seek money, discuss large initiatives, and to present a block front of interest. In general, these iSchools are considered more advanced in use of technology and are highly involved in hot initiatives such as digitization efforts and development of digital libraries.
2. A growing focus on competences
One of the counter efforts to the iSchool movement and changes in LIS school curriculum is the current national focus on competencies. They are often documents that identify the types of skills and areas of knowledge that an entry-level information professional should strive to acquire and be able to demonstrate.
3. Increasing attention on continuing education
This concern stems from the recognition that it is difficult for librarians to keep abreast of changes in the field and that we all face the need to retool.
4. Increasing recognition of the needs and roles of library support staff.
5. The arrival of distance delivery LIS education.
The primary criterion for selecting an LIS program has long been geographic proximity: students attended programs close to where they lived. Distance delivery means students can attend such programs from almost any location.
6. Changes in student enrollments and demographics.
In our strong residence program at UT-Austin we are seeing a trend of admitting a larger percentage of younger students. Distance delivery programs may be attracting the more traditional student body of second career and part-time students.
7. A challenging employment scenario predicts an impending librarian shortage.

How do we respond to these trends and ensure our commitment to preparing the next generation of librarians?

The January 2003 issue of American Libraries featured an article by Dr. Elaine Yontz on “How You Can Help Save Library Education.” She identified fourteen strategies for practitioners to become involved in librarian education. Her suggestions are meaningful and action oriented. In short, she reiterates my belief that librarian education is everyone’s responsibility. Specifically, how would I continue to contribute to the education of librarians if I were also to serve as ALA President?

First, I plan to continue my direct involvement in educating librarians. I teach classes that are firmly placed in the realm of librarianship: Public Libraries, Library Instruction & Information Literacy, and advanced reference courses in the social sciences and humanities. My students pursue careers in public services with half of them planning for careers in public librarianship with the other half intending to work in academic libraries. One of the motivators of agreeing to accept a nomination as President of ALA was the strong belief that this experience will help me inform my classes.

One of my three platform issues is supporting LIS education through practice. Employers want students to be prepared to contribute to the workforce from day one. Increasingly, job vacancy announcements ask for one or more years experience even with entry level positions. As a result, new graduates are expected to know more and to continue to learn on the job. As ALA President, I would like to collaborate with ALISE (The Association for Library and Information Science) and librarian practitioners to explore ways to encourage and provide LIS students with field-centered experience. One step might be the development of a national fieldwork database linking practitioners interested in engaging with LIS education with students and faculty.

As a two-time recipient of the University of Texas at Austin’s Award for Academic Advising, I am very concerned with the quality of advising that students receive during their programs of study. ALA can work with ALISE to provide recommendations on advising students and supporting their interests in pursuing careers in librarianship.

Finally, I would like to explore the possibility of involving ALA units in recognizing new graduates who have focused their academic preparation on librarianship. This might include establishing a new graduate academy or certificate program to reward students who have completed at least four graduate electives in a focused area (such as reference), have completed a Capstone or other practical work while a student, and who has joined ALA and the relevant ALA Division (such as RUSA).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Response to NMRT Question: Salaries and Predicted Librarian Retirements

Earlier this month, the NMRT hosted an online ALA Presidential Candidates' Forum.
This post is my reply to a question about salaries and the predicted wave of librarian retirements.

NMRT Question: The literature touts an upcoming shortage of librarians due to the “graying of the profession.” Yet new librarians, even experienced librarians, face a tough job market and are often forced to take low-paying or part-time jobs. On the other hand, librarians complain about the lack of pay equity in the filed. How can we fight for equitable salaries when the supply outstretches the demand? What will you do as ALA president to address these issue?

There are numerous predictions that the rate of retirement will soon exceed the rate of new professionals entering the field. Library Journal predicted that one in four librarians will reach retirement age (65) by 2009 and that half of the 125,000 current school
librarians will retire within the next 12 years. More recently, we are coming to realize that the projected wave of retirements might occur somewhat later, between 2015 and 2019. Given the uncertain economic situation and slowed retirement planning, not all librarians may retire upon reaching 65. We continue to hear at least anecdotal evidence that new graduates are having difficulty securing entry level positions. What can our professions do to help librarians prepare for retirement, provide employment for the 5,000 new LIS graduates each year, and compensate our employees adequately?
It is likely that multiple strategies are needed to address this employment picture. Here are a few ideas that we might want to explore further.

ALA might help librarians approaching retirement prepare for this life-phase and help ensure that their salary lines remain funded.

Librarians approaching retirement can serve as mentors for LIS students and new graduates, helping them advance more quickly in their careers.

Library practitioners might work more closely with LIS schools to provide students with practical experience and help them become more competitive in their job searches.

LIS programs can examine their placement and career services to ensure that they provide new graduates with job seeking skills, especially those related to salary negotiation.

Libraries can commit to hiring new graduates by reserving full-time positions, including residencies, for new graduates.

LIS students can broaden their career search to investigate possible employment in related fields or in companion information settings. Increasingly, graduates of ALA accredited programs are finding new career paths as in areas such as archival enterprise, usability design, and information architecture.

ALA might study how related fields such as education, nursing, social work, and computer science have dealt with similar workforce issues.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, pay equity is defined as “a means of eliminating sex and race discrimination in the wage-setting system.” While we vocalize our support for pay equity within our ALA community, our message has not been heard or addressed by key players. The nonprofit ALA-Allied Professional Association (APA) was established, in part, to advocate for pay equity. ALA members need to support the continuing effort of ALA-APA to define and implement its strategies.

ALA-APA and the ALA Washington Office should direct their energies to supporting national pay-equity legislation, including monitoring the potential impact of legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act.

I have spent the last twenty years as an educator in a top-ten LIS program. I have observed how placement is impacted by the national economy and also by students’ career goals, preparation, and mobility. I have also seen some career paths, such as school library positions, require even greater qualifications. Ninety percent of our graduates are placed within a few months of graduation and many students and LIS professionals around the country use our electronic JobWeb in their job search. However, new graduates still need mentoring through the job search, practical experience, and skills in negotiating salaries to request compensation at least in line with the national salary scale.

Monday, March 27, 2006

PLA 11th National Conference in Boston

As usual, PLA put on a wonderful national conference. I arrived on Thursday afternoon, 23 March, and still was able to attend a number of great programs and other conference events. This was my 5th PLA, having attended previous PLAs in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Charlotte (presented), and Phoenix (presented). I attended these events in Boston:

Thursday, 23 March

1. WebJunction Reception--good opportunity to meet up with the WJ staff and their activities as well as get a photo taken with a larger-than-lifesize cut-out of George Needham, WJ's "I am curious, George" columnist.

2. Library Journal's Reception for the Best Small Library in America--hung around with new friends from Alaska.

Friday, 24 March

1. 8:30 - 9:45. "If the MLS Degree Needed for a Career in Public Librarianship?" Speakers: Michael Gorman, John Budd with Daniel Walters, moderator. Key quote: "There are activities going on in the libary where you need to be a librarian to carry them out." (Gorman)

2. 10:30 - 11:45. "Launching New Library Leaders." Speakers: Sharon Stack, Molly Raphael, Rebecca Teasdale with Joyce Sjoberg, Speaker/Organizer. Key quote from "7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave": Need for trust, need for hope, need to feel a sense of worth, need to feel competent.

3. REFORMA Northeast Chapter Meeting at the Boston Public Library. Loida Garcia-Febo from Queens Library chaired this well-organized meeting. Great to meet fellow REFORMISTAS.

4. 4:00 - 5:15. "Recruiting Public Librarians for the 21st Century: Lessons Learned form IMLS Grantees." Speakers: Mary-Carol Lindbloom, Bud Pierce with Hedra Packman, Speaker/Organizer. Key quote from Mary-Carol: Lessons Learned: "the Students are our most valuable resource!"

5. 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. All Conference Reception at the Boston Public Library. Wonderful venue, good company, live music, tasty food sampling (mashed potato sundaes, clam chowder).

Saturday, 25 March:

1. 8:30 - 9:45. "Empowering Library Staff to Meet the Technology Needs of Spanish Speakers." Speakers: Laura Staley and Yolanda Cuesta with Hector Marino, Speaker/Organizer. Great list of resources, including advice on gathering information on communicating with prospective patrons and developing culturally responsive programming. Spanish speaking patrons may prefer to bring family members to training events and gather in groups at workstations.

2. "Children Books and Cultures." Speakers: Oralia Garza de Cortes, Elva Garza, and Pat Mora with Rose Trevino as Speaker/Organizer. I made a quick stop to pick up material on dia de los ninos/dia de los libros.

3. 10:15 - 11:30. "Innovation Down Under: What's New in New Zealand. Speakers: Jane Hill, Sue Sutherland with June Garcia, Speaker/Organizer. Key coverage of libraries in Aotearoa-New Zealand that are innovative as community space, sustainability, and the destination library. All provide "extras that create ambiance to bring in new customers" and are "sources of nourishment and replenishment."

4. 11:45 - 1:00 p.m. Closing Session featuring Paco Underhill. His "signage triage" comment reminded me of Marvin Scilken's view on library signage--make them look professional. "There are distinct opportunities in the library where people are willing to absorb information."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Congratulations, Fine Arts Library, UT-Austin!

Last Friday the University of Texas Libraries announced a new $1 million endowment gift to the Fine Arts Library, funding that will be used to make more improvements to the FAL facility, purchase new materials, and support programming. Students in the Information Resources in the Humanities reference class and I toured the FAL during our last class before spring break on 7 March. Head Librarian Laura Schwartz (iSchool alumn) showed us the newly renovated library space, including the creation of new digital media work spaces, reconfiguration of the reference stack areas, new carpeting, window treaments, a cafe style study booth, new furniture, and installation of more electrical outlets for laptop use. You'll find the press release on the award at The FAL was also recently highlighted in a feature article on the University's Website. You'll find this article, "Hang Out with the Arts: Eclectic Staff, New Media Resources Attract a Creative Mix to the Fine Arts Library," archived at

Congratulations, FAL, in demonstrating how a skilled library staff can use their gifts in providing good library service.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Reply to a Question: Use of Library Workers

I've received a question about my use of the phrase, "library workers" on my Website. I mention that I will stand with ALA members to support equitable salaries and benefits for library workers. Here's a slightly edited (a few typos corrected; a few words added) version my reply.

Thanks for checking in.
I use the phrase, library workers, for several reasons.
One is that I am the only international member of Te Ropu Whakahau, Maori in Libraries and Information Management. Te Ropu Whakahau uses the phrase, library workers, to refer to library personnel since many people of color are often in library support positions.

A second reason is that I work with many tribal communities. My students and I run a national reading club for Native children at 24 sites, including 24 schools and 2 tribal community/public libraries. Many of the excellent staff at these sites have various job titles.

Third, ALA is starting to heighten its recognition of the roles of librarians and others who are involved in the library workforce. Last summer ALA hosted its first cocnference within a conference for library support staff. These workers are often left out of our professional activities.

So, I used the phrase, library workers, to be more inclusive. I certainly consider myself a librarian. I'm in the midst of my twentieth year as a educator of librarians; half of my students end up working in public libraries, the other half end up working in academic libraries.

My students and I have learned a great deal through this campaign process. I know that these experiences have helpd inform me and will impact my teaching in the future--in positive ways. One of the leasons we've learned is that people do react strongly to what the candidates say. Just encourage your colleague--and others---to follow their hearts and minds and vote, and continue to be involved in ALA. We need everyone to share their passion and contribute.

The Association of Writers & Writing Programs Visits Austin, Texas

This morning, the last of our friends in town for the AWP meeting have left for their respective homes, a number returning to the snow and uncertain weather of the midwest. Austin is also hosting the SXSW Film Festival and Interactive Conference, SXSW Trade Show, and, starting on Wednesday, the SXSW Music Festival.
We hosted Roy Boney, Jr., Cherokee animator and comic book artist, for his first visit and speaking enagements in Austin. In addition to presenting at last Friday's "Native Expressions" event, Roy gave a nearly two-hour presentation at the Will Hampton Branch of the Austin Public Library on Saturday. He highlighted more of his claymation projects with children and youth at tribal schools and his own animation work. You'll find more information at Roy has presented and done book signings at the San Diego Comic-Con International ( Roy's "Plugin Boy Soap Opera" ( had a strong online following. This series is on hiatus while he is illustrating "Dead Eyes Open," a comic book series published by Slave Labor Graphics ( San Jose and carried by our own Austin Books and Comics.

The students and I are preparing for some library visits this week. We're heading to Bastrop where a Capstone student is providing the library staff with training on the use of TexShare databases. We're also working on the final details in organizing a day-long trip to east Texas to help a tribal librarian prepare a grant.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Native Expressions

Today, our Honoring Generations community was involved in sponsoring our first half-day Native Expressions conference, "a public event featuring and celebrating indigenous scholars, authors, creators, and thinkers." Karen Buller (Comanche), President and CEO of NITI (the National Indian Telecommunications Institute) lead off with a talk about Native peoples and IT. She described the status of the digital divide in Indian country as an analog divide; telephone penetration for Native households is still less than 65 percent, compared with over 98 percent across the general U.S. population. She then provided examples of NITI's work with language preservation, cultural curriculum development, virtual museums, economic development, and policy initiatives.

Roy Boney, Jr. (Cherokee) is an illustrator, graphic novelist, and animator. He currently is the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Fellow in the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock where is completing work toward a master's of art degree. He provided examples of Native language claymation projects with tribal schools. He repeats and expands his talk tomorrow in a hour and a half long presentation at the Will Hampton Branch Library of the Austin Public Library.

The afternoon program brought a welcoming audience to hear poets Jacob C. Jimenez (Hispanic) and Heid Erdrich (Ojibwe) read. Jacob is an up-and-coming poet from San Antonio and Heid is on the faculty of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Jacob read from his works in progress. Heid read from her most recently published collection, The Mother's Tongue, and previewed a collection under development.

We appreciate the opportunity to meet, connect, and strengthen our community of indigenous educators and writers.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Replies to Questions from the Library Research Round Table

I also received some questions from the LRRT. Here are the questions and my replies:

1. What do you see as the role of research in developing ALA initiatives (e.g., 21st Century Literacy)

21st Century Literacy is one of ALA's five Key Action Areas. The others are Diversity, Education and Continuous Learning, Equity of Access, and Intellectual Freedom. Each of these key action areas could be informed through research findings and provide rich investigative areas for future research. For example, I recently led a team of researchers in conducting the first study of ALA's Spectrum Scholars. Results of this survey of the first five years of Scholarship recipients will soon be available on the Office for Diversity Web site and will contribute to our understanding of Diversity, Education and Continuous Learning, and Equity of Access.

2. How can research inform the policy debates regarding E-rate, the USA PATRIOT Act, and other relevant issues facing libraries?

Research in LIS can greatly contribute to ALA's involvement in issues including protection of privacy rights and other public policy issues. For example, ALA has been directly and deeply involved in national-level discussion of the USA PATRIOT Act and has contributed to the wariness in Congress of providing a unanimous extension to all provisions of the Act. In 2005 ALA and two foundations (Carnegie and Ford) contributed funding to a study on Athe Effect of the PATRIOT Act on Privacy on U.S. Libraries@ (Dr. Abby Goodrum, Principal Investigator), the results of which have provided evidence to the U.S. government's use of the USA PATRIOT Act to secure patron circulation records in public libraries. These research results have been reported internationally and have contributed to a broader discussion of the impact of this legislation. Such studies not only inform ALA members and practice at the individual library level, they also can lead to greater visibility of ALA's principles and dedication toward the public good.

3. What Library and Information Science curricular content will best serve the profession in the 21st century?

It takes a supportive professional community to prepare new professionals. Contributing factors include the skills and backgrounds students bring to their programs, the LIS coursework they complete, student employment, involvement in professional organizations, and direction during the placement process. Once in the workforce, new librarians then begin a process of constant retooling.

The Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies 1992 provides this guidance on LIS curricula:

"The curriculum of library and information studies encompasses information
and knowledge creation, communication, identification, selection, acquisition, organization and description, storage and retrieval, preservation, analysis, interpretation, evaluation, synthesis, dissemination, and management."

At the same time the standards states that:

"The curriculum provides the opportunity for students to construct coherent programs of study that allow individual needs, goals, and aspirations to be met within the context of program requirements established by the school that will foster development of the competencies necessary for productive careers."

How can LIS curricula be best developed? What is the optimal balance of theory, attitudes, ethics, values, and skills? How can all of this be accomplished in a curriculum of twelve to fourteen graduate classes? Students continue to enter LIS programs from a variety of undergraduate programs. For many, their LIS programs are their first introduction to the field. How can curricula be developed to provide students with a broad foundation while allowing students opportunities to explore possibilities as well as hone their focus?

Successful LIS curricula can take a number of forms. These include, among others:
A. Prix-Fixe menu model: All students take the same courses, all of which are required. Requirements might also be sequential with students progressing through a series of pre-requisites.
B. Puu-Puu/appetizer platter model with entrée: Students complete a smaller set of core classes and then sample from an array of coursework, developing individualized programs of student.
C. Donut or no-core model. Students have no requirements and instead, take a series of electives that support each other rather than build on a central core.
LIS programs usually offer hybrids of these models with all requiring some courses of all students. Core classes typically include one or more survey or introductory courses on user clientele, information settings, issues, policy, and ethics; one on organization of knowledge; a management class; reference or search strategies; and research. Many programs have a required culminating experience such as fieldwork, a Capstone project, master's thesis or some other written report. This final project often provides exiting students with an opportunity to apply their skills in an LIS environment.

The required research class for master=s students enrolled in ALA accredited programs helps students prepare to be consumers of research by developing critical skills in evaluating research reports. Many students also receive some experience in conducting research in this class or others in their programs of study. Students in doctoral programs take additional research coursework in preparation for their dissertation studies.

LIS programs become known for their strengths, while students still often select their programs based on geographic proximity. Federal funding, such as grants provided through the U.S. IMLS can help support curricular innovation and encourage students to relocate to participate in these new initiatives. The best that many LIS programs can do is prepare the new professional for the first 2 to 5 years of his or her career. LIS programs might do best to focus on instilling enduring professional attributes, focusing on building a philosophical foundation and reinforcing attributes such as flexibility and self-initiative. The unifying theme is a focus on users. An idea LIS curriculum would, therefore, provide students with a foundation of professional beliefs, help them express these beliefs in core areas such as reference and organization, introduce and involve students in their professional organizations, and help them acquire a critical eye so that they could contribute through writing and engagement in research.

4. How can LRRT help ALA evolve in the coming years?

Given its size, ALA must always work to improve communication across units.
In addition to the Office for Research and Statistics, These units include research committees in ALA Divisions, the standing Research and Statistics Committee, and the Research and Statistics Assembly. LIRT can contribute to communication on issues related to research by participating in cross-unit discussion and remaining attuned to research oriented activities across ALA.

ALA has just approved a new strategic plan, ALAhead to 2010. LRRT might take the lead among ALA Round Tables by preparing an action response to ALAhead to 2010. While affirming the Organization=s Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Key Action Areas, the plan also introduces six Goal Areas, each of which can be achieved if supported by research and evaluation. The first two Goal Areas are listed below, along with one or the two identified Strategic Objectives illustrating where LRRT can play a pivotal role.
Goal Area I: Advocacy/Value of the Profession
LRRT can help ALA achieve its goal in Advocacy through contributing to the first Strategic Objective: Increase support for research and evaluation to provide evidence regarding the value and impact of libraries. LRRT can contribute by providing venues for discussing approaches to studying library impact/value and by identifying relevant studies and helping to disseminate findings.
Goal Area II: Education
LRRT can contribute to the third Strategic Objective: Make ALA continuing education programs and publications affordable and accessible in a wide variety of media and formats,@ through developing tools to measure and evaluate continuing education offerings through ALA. LRRT might seek to answer questions such as: Are ALA members using available CE clearinghouses, such as those available on, and to what extent are they being used? What are the most effective methods for delivering CE content? What are the experiences of those offering online CE to ALA members? How are ALA members using the information they are receiving through CE? How has the ALA-APA (Allied Professional Organization) contributed to CE for ALA members? For example, how effective is the new Certified Public Library Administrator Program?

5. What can the ALA President do to support research in the profession?

The ALA President can do much to support research in LIS. Here are just a few options available. The President is afforded a budget to support his or her programmatic initiatives. The budget can support planning meetings, publications, Web content development, and speaker events at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Meeting. Past Presidents have sponsored monographs, pamphlets on key action areas, tool kits. Past Presidents have sponsored special events at ALA conferences. Recent events were Michael Gorman's education forum, Carol Brey Casiano's sponsorship of advocacy institutes, and Carla Hayden's equity of access invited program. The President has numerous opportunities for addressing research interests, needs, studies, and results at public speaking events as well as in the ALA President=s Message continuing column in American Libraries. The ALA President can shore up his or her conversations with librarians and those outside the field through including results of relevant research. We know that this is an especially successful approach in speaking with legislators and other elected officials.

Response to Steve Marquardt on Cuba Issue

William (Bill) Crowe and I recently received an email from Steve Marquardt, Dean of Libraries and Copyright Officer, South Dakota State University, asking us to reply to two questions. You’ll find Bill’s reply on his blog.

Body of Email Message:

Dear Loriene Roy and William Crowe,

On behalf of several dozen librarians concerned about Cuba's independent
libraries, I am asking for your response to two questions.

In addition to Cuban violations of the freedom to read, we are concerned
about the ongoing criticism of our professional association by the press
and even by our own invited keynote speakers (Carolina Garc=EDa-Aguilera, Ray Bradbury and Andrei Codrescu), regarding ALA's failure to join major human rights organizations* with a call for the release of Cubans imprisoned for operating independent libraries.

Our reluctance to fully support human rights also undermines the credibility of our efforts to protect privacy rights in the Patriot Act.

A stronger ALA position on human rights has the support of significant
sentiment in the Association membership, based upon the response to four presentations on this issue that I made to state and regional library
associations last autumn, as well as the 75% of the 591 respondents to
the recent AL Direct poll who expressed support for a condemnation of
the Cuban government for locking up library workers. My own informal
e-mail poll of candidates for the 2006 Council election indicates that
more than 80% of respondents who have expressed an opinion to date on
this issue support an ALA call for the prisoners' release.

Former ALA President John Berry has written, "I love these people. I
wish Castro would let them go." ( Current President Michael
Gorman, in comments televised by C-SPANs Book TV after the Andrei
Codrescu keynote speech, said, "These people should not be in prison and
should be freed immediately. They should never have been sent to
prison." We are wondering if you share these sentiments.

Therefore QUESTION ONE is: Would you support a strengthened ALA
resolution calling upon the Cuban government to immediately release the
persons sentenced to 20 year prison terms for opening independent

The second question concerns the incineration or destruction ordered by
the Cuban courts that tried the defendants and imposed the sentences.
Several of us who consider book burning a crime against the intellect
and worthy of mention on ALA's "Book Burning in the 21st Century" web
have requested the Office of Intellectual Freedom to cite
the book burning in Cuba. For proof of these explicit orders in the
Cuban court documents, see the following pages hosted by Florida State
or review the attached digest that I have compiled.

Therefore QUESTION TWO is - As ALA President, would you request that
ALA's "Book Burning in the 21st Century" web page include a report of
the Cuban government's destruction, by incineration and other means, of
hundreds of books, magazines and pamphlets seized from Cuba's
independent libraries?

I thank you in advance for your responses, whatever they may be. And
good luck in the election!

* Major human rights organizations calling for the release of the
imprisoned organizers of independent libraries and reading rooms include
Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First,
( Freedom House, the International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, and Amnesty International (also and Even the French Communist Party (, within a month of the
arrests, issued its demand the prisoners be released. However, the ALA
Council on 14 January 2004 voted down an amendment that "calls for their
immediate release" and limited its policy response to the independent
library prisoner issue to the following paragraph: "ALA joins IFLA in
its deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political
dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003 and urges the Cuban Government to
respect, defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19
of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights." (The
complete report approved by ALA Council is at

Steve Marquardt, Ph.D.
Dean of Libraries and Copyright Officer
South Dakota State University
Box 2115, North Campus Drive
Brookings, South Dakota 57007-1098
FAX: 605-688-6133
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of South Dakota State
University or any of its employees but me.

Loriene Roy's response:

Certainly, this is an issue that has long been discussed by ALA members and those actively involved in ALA’s committees and other units. Like many others, I have followed these discussions as they have stirred up much emotion. It is clear that some ALA members want ALA to take a stronger stand while other members feel uncomfortable with pressure arising outside of ALA to support what is clearly a very political issue. I understand how important it is for people to be heard and I believe that there are processes in place to allow them to do this.

First, I encourage those interested in this issue to review materials available on the ALA Website, all of which are easily found by typing in “Cuba” in the search box at You will find links to a number of reports that document the organization’s careful consideration of issues related to intellectual freedom and open access to information in Cuba. Included are reports of the Latin America and Caribbean Subcommittee of the International Relations Committee’s report of 15 January 2001, the report of ALA members visit to Cuba in May 2001, links to IFLA’s 2001 resolution on the U.S. and Cuba, and ALA resolutions from July 2001 and January 2004.

Second, should ALA members feel that there is new information on this topic, the policy-setting process of the Association allows for the introduction of resolutions calling for a vote by ALA Council. There are several approaches to introducing resolutions; for example, Councilors can bring forth such resolutions as can ALA members through membership meetings. ALA’s Handbook of Organization outlines the process to follow and there is ample support available, including the services of the Resolutions Committee, to secure help in drafting resolutions.

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom provides rich resources including not only the text of ALA’s IF policies but also advice for librarians dealing with challenges to materials, information on privacy, and coverage of timely issues. The “Book Burning in the 21st Century” page offers a sampling of cases currently dating from 8 March 2001 to 10 October 2005. It is likely that the OIF and, possibly, the Committee on Intellectual Freedom, have guidelines governing the inclusion of content on the Website that each ALA member, including the ALA President, would want to review before entertaining suggesting the addition of any content.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

!Feliz cumpleanos, Dr. Seuss!

Many libraries across the US celebrate reading on March 2, Dr. Seuss's birthday. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read with first graders and Pre-K students at the Metz Elementary School in East Austin. Librarian Don Bos organizes a week-long series of events for "Read Across America" that feature many community members reading in the school library and in classrooms. Today's featured readers included Elizabeth Polk (AISD Library Coordinator), members of the Travis County Sheriff's Office, Principal of a local high school, an iSchool student, the CEO of the Lone Star Council of Girl Scouts, parents, an iSchool librarian, other local librarians, Delia Q (an indigenous IT specialist from Ecuador), and myself. I read two picture book titles that are also well received by tribal school students: "My Big Dog" (Susan Stevens Crummel) and "The Dumb Bunnies Go To the Zoo" (Dav Pilkey). My friend, Delia Q read "Green Eggs and Ham" in Spanish to the pre-K class. One of the goals of Metz is "to produce fluent critical readers (in 2 languages)." The library has many titles in Spanish and bilingual signage flourishes. The children are bright, kind, and eager to learn.