What happens at ALA Council during Midwinter and why is it important to have AASL divisional presence?
Learning about ALA opportunities for AASL involvement to benefit our members and our students requires our attendance at a wide variety of meetings. Sometimes this involves advocating for help on school library issues. Other times it’s a chance to learn about the broader aspects of librarianship or to share recent developments from ALA/AASL.
At this Midwinter, there was an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by voting on adding this new strategic direction to the existing strategic directions of advocacy, information policy, and professional and leadership development. This will impact all of ALA in the immediate future and help guide future planning for AASL. After AASL’s leadership in the “Equity to all for school libraries” resolution last summer, continuing our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential.
A Town Hall conversation took place between ALA Council and ALA-APA Council which involved these “thought starters:”
- As we think about the member dialogue sparked by the recent election, what is our intention? What’s the deeper purpose (the big “why”) that is really worthy of our best collective effort?
- What do we know so far and what do we still need to learn about?
- Are there specific areas where our core values are being challenged that need more attention than others?
- As you reflect on the member discussion since the election, what’s taking shape? What are you hearing underneath the variety of opinions being expressed? What’s in the “center of the table”?
- If there was one thing that hasn’t yet been said in order to reach a deeper level of understanding and clarity, what would that be?
The Town Hall session was streamed by American Libraries as a Facebook Live stream. ALA leadership was there to listen, not talk. A follow-up session with answers to questions raised will be in the AL blog.
During council, task forces share their works in progress, like the task force on accessibility which is still gathering data and writing plans to increase inclusiveness and to eliminate barriers due to accessibility issues. Members with insights on accessibility are encouraged to communicate with task force members directly, or with me as your division councilor.
It is important to listen as the division councilor also–whether it is listening to committee reports or listening to AASL/ALA members. Frequently decisions must be made during ALA Midwinter or Annual Conferences on the council floor, so the more members who participate by speaking directly with their councilor or sharing their voice before council at meetings, the better informed the division councilor is to vote.
Councilors elect representatives to committees and to the ALA Executive Board. It is vital that AASL members participate and volunteer for these committees, council, and for leadership roles in ALA so that school librarian needs are highlighted when appropriate and so that our youth are represented.
Councilors also contribute to the creation or improvement of resolutions. Many resolutions are discussed on listservs before we gather at Midwinter, online via surveys, in person during council forum meetings, and on the floor of Council. Division councilors work collaboratively while they advocate for their own youth constituents and seek opportunities to value members who have passed in memorial resolutions like these for:
- McRee(Mac) Elron
- Robert (Bob) Alan
- Valerie Bross
- Sandra (Sandy) Friedman Dolnick
- Nettie B. Taylor
- Ruth Gordon
- John Shuler
- Karen Avenick
- Warren (Jim) Hass
As the AASL division councilor, I worked with a group of councilors and staff from the Washington Office to craft a lengthy tribute resolution honoring Emily Sheketoff upon her retirement. Please read ALA Tribute #1 to learn more about how Emily Sheketoff impacted school libraries during her seventeen years as director of the ALA Washington Office.
Committee presentations offer opportunities to contribute to the dialogue about library issues such as intellectual freedom. Did you know that more book challenges from school libraries were received than from public or academic libraries?
A report from the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) contained 7 exciting new checklists for practical guidance on implementing the Library Privacy Guidelines, including a checklist for students in K-12 schools. ALA CD #19.8 (page 25) is a Question & Answer on Makerspaces, Media Labs and Other Forums for Content Creation in Libraries that many school libraries may find helpful. The IFC also presented a resolution on access to accurate information ALA CD#19.10 (page 35). With the importance of teaching discernment in news and information, this resolution supports the critical role of librarians of all types in teaching information literacy skills that enable users to locate information and evaluate its accuracy.
The Committee on Legislation and the Intellectual Freedom Committee’s Joint Working Group on the Resolution on Gun Violence Affecting Libraries, Library Workers, and Library Patrons presented their substitute resolution (CD#42.1). The task force had an extremely difficult job to raise member concerns on gun violence and the lack of research on gun violence while allowing local community agencies ways to encourage discussions and to provide training and education for library workers related to the presence of guns in the workplace. The final resolution was thoughtful and linked to integral aspects of librarianship and improving our work environments.
Council also received reports from the ALA Treasurer, Policy Monitoring Committee, International Relations Committee, Resolutions Committee, Committee on Legislation, Constitution and Bylaws, Professional Ethics, and the Freedom to Read foundation.
Being a divisional councilor is a commitment of time but it is very rewarding as a service to the organization. I encourage others to consider serving in this position, and I appreciate the opportunity to represent AASL and our profession on council.
Read other ALA Midwinter 2017 reports from AASL’s For the Record:
Author: Diane Chen
AASL Representative to ALA Council