ALA (officially) Opposes Closure of Salinas Libraries


The governing body of the American Library Association, of which I am a member, passed a resolution opposing the closure of the Salinas, California library system. While there have been and will continue to be far too many stories about libraries in crisis—cuts in hours, staff, and materials, this is the first time that a community the size of Salinas will have had its library service wiped out completely. Two of the libraries are named for Cesar E. Chavez and John Steinbeck, who not only represent the spirit of Salinas, but whose words and work belong to the world. Most certainly, efforts will be made to restore service in some form, but for a library to most effectively serve its community, there needs to be continuity. When service is restored, there will be a gap: Staff who have served their community long and well will have moved on, and cancelled magazine and newspaper subscriptions will be represented by empty spaces on the shelves. More than personnel, materials and service gaps, there will be a credibility gap. Any community with a library takes that service for granted. Even to those who don’t regularly use the library, or ever use the library, there is the knowledge that there is a library there, just in case. Without drastic, immediate action, Salinas will be without this safety net by June 17, 2005, the last day employees can work. Doors will be locked to the public before that. ALA does not have the authority to keep the doors open in Salinas, but can provide its voice and support to the people who live there. I hope that ALA will be prepared to help, without question or hesitation, should this shameful situation happen elsewhere.

The resolution, which was brought forth by Michael McGrorty, follows. This is ALA at its best.“Therefore be it resolved that the American Library Association strongly opposes the closure of the Salinas system, which opposition arises from recognition of the ALA policy statement, Libraries an American Value, which provides, 'Libraries in America are cornerstones of the communities they serve. Free access to the books, ideas, resources, and information in America’s libraries is imperative for education, employment, enjoyment and self-government.':

And be it further resolved, that this resolution be communicated by the President of the American Library Association, the Governor of California, the Mayor and the City Council of Salinas, California, the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, the President pro tem of the California Senate and the Friends of the Salinas Public Library.

And be it further resolved, that the President of the American Library Association draft a statement concerning this resolution for distribution to the press, the public, the community of Salinas and the nation."


They oppose torture too. It seems that they are going to be perceived as the boy who cried wolf, albeit in this case too little and too late.

An education, or if you will, propaganda campaign before the referendum might have helped. Bringing the full weight of the ALA down on them at this point is really funny because it is far too late and of little consequence.

While "Councilor" sounds all fancy and powerful, we've got little impact over day-to-day ALA staff operations. When stuff like this happens, email exec director Keith Fiels and let him know. He's a real stand-up kinda guy and wants to know about and fix this sort of thing. Keith has even more credibility in my eyes since I learned that he was a children's librarian early in his career. How cool is that?

Then I support you, in your quest, and stand by ready to help.

The ALA needs to get activist for the real issues facing us today, budget crises, the lack of a national accreditation standard for paraprofessionals, and low pay for librarians.

And while we are at it, how about speeding up the paperwork for new member applications? Last year somebody got me a membership back in the start of Nov as a Christmas gift, I didn't get the frickin' paperwork till the middle of Feb.

Amazing isn't it?

Just don't make it an 'official' committee. Official means all those full-time ALA staff running around pulling their hair out trying to keep everything legal and ethical. Pick some sympathetic voices, write something up, circulate *extensively* and it should fly through at Chicago.

I was tempted to reply

"By commenting on a library issue, doesn't the ALA risk diluting its message concerning its bread-and-butter issues, such as Cuba and torture?"

but then I thought better of it. (Too "snarky" for only my second comment.)

Nevertheless, even though I am very new to the profession (technically, I'm not even in the profession: graduated from library school, but unemployed)*, I believe this is the first time I've seen the ALA actually comment on an American Library-related issue. I'm sure that the ALA does something to support libraries, but it would be very hard to realise what this is based on its public voice.

*Check out my blog: The Unemployed Loser Librarian.

Yes, yes, yes! That's what I meant. I think we might be agreeing on something here, Greg.

Actually I disagree. A resolution shouldn't have to be passed everytime a crisis happens. Council should be reserved in its actions and requiring a live meeting keeps that built in reservation in place. We elect a president for a reason. Salinas was necessary because there was nothing on the books before it. What should happen now is some councilors should spend the next 6 months hammering out a simple but solid resolution that empowers the president to act when a crisis like Salinas or the Tsunami occurs.

This is one of my problems with ALA, or Council, anyway. They couldn't pass a resolution because resolutions come from Council and Council only meets twice a year. There is a small, but growing group of us who would like for Council to be able to do our work whenever it needs to be done, not just twice a year. One of the reasons I've decided to be involved with ALA is that I believe it can be a much better organization. Organizational change is hard and takes a long time (look at your own library), but I'm committed to doing what I can to see that ALA works smarter and more efficiently.

Not only are they against torture but they passed another resolution to join up with some group to promote a national healthcare system and another one to rail against the concept of a national ID card. (more about these in the future on my site) Yes, way too many pots boiling, however...

The Salinas resolution sets (I assume) a precident that councilors can come back to under future and potentially similar circumstances.

As a conservative I think California deserves to lose a whole library system for being dumb enough to blow a few billion on stem cell research but as a librarian and brand spanking new ALA member, I support the resolution.

For once, I agree with mdoneil. This resolution is too little too late. The fact of the possible closing was known months ago. I should know, I broke the story back in September. Where was the ALA then?

They should have given full court press to this issue. They should give a little press to the current budget problems in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
--But they remain silent . . .

Freedom to read means nothing, if the books are locked away in shuttered buildings.

Cried wolf in that they keep protesting things that are not library related - like the torture resolution- and when something is library related they are just written off as those people who pass resolutions about anything.

My suggestions include limiting the scope of resolutions to those integral to libraries and librarianship.

Also effective early involvement in problems such as the Salinas closing would have certainly more effective than a post hoc resolution condeming the action. Public education would have done a great deal before the citizens of Salinas voted. As the ALA wishes to create an advocacy epidemic it would best serve as the fomite to begin, and no better beginning would have been an effective education campaign to encourage the voters of Salinas to save their own libraries. Why wait until the patient is on his death bed before beginning treatment?

The ALA makes misguided attempts to advocate for libraries, librarians, and paraprofessionals. It attempts to speak for the tortuted and against the destruction of international libraries. It seems the ALA has lost its eponymous goal. It is indeed the American Library Association not foreign, not librarian, not paraprofessional, not any thing else but American and Library. If it were to solely advocate for libraries so that they recieve adequate funding, so that their worth the community is known, so that they are more fully utilized by all their stakeholders then they would be doing a service to librarians, paraprofessionals, the freedom of information and the freedom that information brings. Reagan had it right, if the ALA would stick to libraries then the benefits would trickle down to the staff and the patrons.

Having too many pots boiling at once makes the ALA a very ineffective cook.

Why "cried wolf?" Your other comments are to be expected and not entirely out of line, but I don't get the wolf thing. There's nothing bogus about Salinas. My hope is that this type of resolution will not be necessary in the future and that ALA will develop a template, a toolkit, a strikeforce, whatever, to help communities before it's too late.

It seems to me that this is exactly the sort of thing that ALA needs to be working on, and I don't understand why you are so dismissive of this action. I intend to stay with ALA for a long time, to help drag it kicking and screaming into a more efficient way of doing what it needs to do, rather than offer "we think this sucks" resolutions. What are your solutions, Matt? As a member of Council who is often frustrated with the inefficiency of ALA in general, and Council in particular, I am open to suggestions, but impatient with non-productive badmouthing.

A library closure, in a smaller town, happened in my subregion some years ago. As well as there being public outcries, the libraries in the surrounding towns prohibited citizens from that town from checking out library materials.In the short term it sounds a heartless tactic, but it was intended to apply pressure on the town with the long-term goal of preventing the closure.And it (among other protests) worked!

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