Is there more than learning and socializing? Reflections on ALA midwinter

As I shared in a recent post, I enjoy reading (and sometimes participating on) the writing boards at conferences and in libraries. I found the one below on one of the welcome walls at Midwinter in Boston.


ALA sponsored conferences are large events, and it can be difficult to really “know” people in the community if you just attend sessions or even present from time to time. In my early career, I went to ALA gatherings to learn and to share with other school librarians… and then I happily went home with a bucket full of ideas (and a long list of books to read). To the majority of other attenders I was only “known” because of the name on my badge, and I was content with that.

Last year, that changed. During the annual conference, I joined ALA’s SRRT (Social Responsibilities Round Table), and almost immediately…I received a personalized invitation to join other librarians in bringing about social change. And they actually meant it. I wasn’t just a person with an ALA name badge to them, or another member of their committee, or a name on a listserv. I was someone with whom they shared core values related to human dignity, rights, and justice. These principles bind people together in strong ways.

Has the subject heading “illegal alien” ever bothered you? If so, SRRT might be a good fit for you, too. At midwinter, just days ago, SRRT sent a resolution to the ALA Council to drop the subject heading “illegal alien” and to adopt something more politically neutral. Since 1969, this round table has tackled issues related to what is fair and just in library services. The ALA Council passed the subject heading resolution with only one dissenting vote.

Have you ever wished that more female STEM biographies were represented in Wikipedia (for more information see Callahan & Herring, 2011)? If so, SRRT’s Feminist Task Force is working to change this. At midwinter, feminists gathered in the Uncommons to work on Wikipedia entries for female librarians who have made significant contributions to librarianship. Alongside of five other feminists, I learned how to make content additions to Wikipedia and was warned about the cyberbullying that may follow. And then together WE DID IT. We added to the small-but-growing body of knowledge about women in STEM.

Learning and socializing at ALA and AASL are fine and wonderful! But ALA also offers service opportunities that can change the world for the common good. SRRT is one group to find these opportunities, and there’s always room at the table for school librarians who identify as social justice advocates.

Very truly yours,




Callahan, E., & Herring, S. C. (2011). Cultural bias in Wikipedia articles about famous persons. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. DOI: 10.1002/asi.

Author: Julie Marie Frye

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Professional Development

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