William Sannwald Answers Your Questions
William Sannwald was the first ALA Presidential Candidate to ring in with the answers to your questions. The questions are bolded, followed by the answers.
I was overwhelmed with the number of questions I received from librarians in the US and from around the world (the total was somewhere around 50). Normally I am lucky to get 10 responses to a call for submissions from people, so this seems to be an important topic for the LISNews audience. I chose what I felt were the best ones, omitted the duplicates (most popular were questions on pay and image), and ran them through a spell checker. What you see are the unedited questions I received, more or less in the order I received them.
I did move the very first question to the first position in this list, it struck me as being the simplest question, but yet the hardest question to answer.
They were free to answer or ommitt any of the questions. I removed the names to protect the innocent, and did not number the questions.
Why should I continue to pay my dues and remain a
member of the ALA?
Being a member of ALA makes one part of the collective
voice of libraries and librarians in the USA. It also
enables members to have access to the programming and
publications of ALA, including American Libraries as well as
Divisional Journals and Newsletters.In addition, involvement in
the association creates a bond and allows for a lifetime of
friendship with other members.When I look back at my career, it
was involvement in ALA that was one of the things that helped me
develop my appreciation of and skill in the craft of
At present, ALA throws the weight of its considerable
influence into absolute opposition of filters in all libraries.
Doesn\'t this make its claim to favor a local library solution on
this issue somewhat disingenuous? In the upcoming battle to
challenge mandated filters for libraries receiving E-rate
discounts, wouldn\'t the ALA\'s position be stronger if it really
did promote a local solution by taking a more balanced approach
that recognizes the ethical complexities of the problem?
Filters dont work very well as was evidenced when students
at Penn State University Beaver College were unable to access
their schools home page because of filtering. I think
that the legislation Congress passed that mandates the use of
blocking software on computers in public libraries is not only
unfortunate, but also may be unconstitutional.I am pleased that
the ACLU is challenging the legislation, and I believe that ALA
should as well. However, I am a proponent of local control. Each
library has its own group of stakeholders, and libraries must
respond to local conditions.I have found that if a library
listens to and respects the various and often conflicting points
of view from the librarys stakeholders, that a solution can
be found that satisfies our commitment to intellectual freedom,
as well as keeps local stakeholders happy.I think in most cases,
ALAs position can work for local communities.
Do the candidates support the ideas about the need for
a re-introduction of national public library standards supported
by the American Library Association as I urged in my March 2000
article in American Libraries?
National Standards are but one measure of determining
adequate library service, whether the issue is the size of a
building, per capita spending for materials or staff, or any
other service measure. I have been involved in over 40
library construction projects, and the first question I get from
decision makers is how large should the building be.I still use
the 1967 Public Library Standards that have never been rescinded
(0.7 sq. ft. per capita), as a starting point for determining how
large a building should be.However, in good planning, standards
are just one of the methods for determining service needs along
with unique local conditions, financing available, bench marking
(or best practices) and the political will of key library
stakeholders. ACRL has done a good job with their standards, and
I believe they are helpful.This last summer I sat on a committee
that developed standards for the San Diego Unified School
District in order to implement improved library service as the
result of passage of a large ballot measure.The standards
developed were very helpful in improving school library services.
I would support the development of standards that can serve as
guidelines for local communities.
Would they support the idea of a method for ALA to
identify and get the funding to provide for "genius grants"
for the libraries that can be identified as having clearly
superior best practices so that library students and other
libraries can learn from the best?
One of the great things about librarianship is that best
practices are shared freely.I know that I have borrowed good
ideas shamelessly throughout my career. OCLC for example
has an office of research that collects information and
disseminates it to the library committee. I think this would be a
great idea if funding were available.If I were elected President,
I know for sure I would not want to be on the Genius Grant
committee, and have to tell one of my colleagues who submitted an
application that they might qualify for MENSA, but they were not
quite to the genius level.
Since the Federal State Cooperative Service is
indicating that it may put a halt to "early release" of
library statistics (thereby virtually assuring that the numbers
will be three to four years out of date when published rather
than the current 2 years) would they support a program to have
ALA collect and publish all data from the 50 states?
This would mean getting the currency of the PLA Public Library
Data Service dataset with the comprehensiveness of the FSCS
I have been a member of the PLA PLDS Advisory Committee for three
years.I use statistics all the time in making decisions, and
having up to date data is essential. If there is a need (and
it seems that there is), I think this should be done, but at a
Division Level or levels rather than as an ALA project, and I
What will you do as ALA president to fight for fair
use in an online world where content providers are fighting to
destroy fair use?
This is a difficult issue because trying to apply todays
copyright laws to an electronic world is like trying to decide
the Microsoft Anti-Trust case with legislation that was adopted
to control Standard Oils vertical and horizontal
integration at the start of the 20th Century.It
applies, but it is different. I believe that what is happening in
the current music industry shows the difficulty of using current
laws to control an entirely new world.Fair use is, and I believe
will continue to be one of the tenants of whatever legislation
and settlements are required to cope with the on-line environment.
ALA needs to have a place at the table when new laws are written
and changes are made to guarantee that citizens have access to
fair-use of materials in their libraries and classrooms.
The ALA has for many years been a proponent for
libraries, but many members feel that the ALA has not been a
proponent for librarians. What will you do as president, to
demonstratively increase the status and pay of America\'s
professional librarians? As ALA president, how would you address
the issue of the relatively low salaries paid to public
librarians? Do you believe there is a brain drain, and if so,
what are the implications?
Salaries for librarians are often not equal to those in
other professions.I supported comparable worth in San Diego that
saw salaries increase by 28%, equaling other city professionals,
and would work to increase salaries. I would provide
assistance in helping libraries develop a case for comparable
salaries. Im not sure if I have enough information to
determine if there has been a brain drain from
libraries, but I do know that my library has seen some good
people take other jobs for a variety of reasons. I think that
librarians have to do a good job of recruiting great people to
the profession, and we need to do a better job of making sure
that their salaries and benefits will keep them. I became a
librarian because of the influence of my town librarian, and
through a discussion I had with Arthur Curley, a former President
of ALA who was the Director of the public library in an adjacent
community.We have done some interesting things in San Diego to
attract good people, help them get their library degrees, and
offer them challenging jobs at a competitive salary to keep them.
Many professional organizations provide liability
insurance coverage for their members, but the ALA does not. With
the increase in legal and personal attacks on librarians,
trustees and other advocates over the censorship and filtering
demands and other situations, will ALA investigate the
professional liability coverage of all ALA members through their
Personal liability insurance is good idea, and another
reason to be an ALA member if the idea is implemented. It should
be an option of membership, just as ALA offers other insurance
programs through private vendors, because not all members need it
or want it.One of the tangible benefits of ALA membership is that
it does provide support for intellectual freedom.
ALA has been slow in responding to the call for
contracting out of library services in all libraries. Certainly,
the preeminent professional organization for libraries should
address the issue more strongly, and at least, provide a
checklist of issues for libraries, directors and trustees
contemplating the contracting out some or all of library services.
Also, the publication of a handbook outlining the pros and cons
of contracting out, and what to look for and look out for, are a
minimum response that has so far been lacking by ALA. What will
you do to make the ALA more active in the issues of contracting
A number of Divisions have had programs on outsourcing,
and some literature has been published. If there is not a book on
the subject, Im sure that there will be.One thing that ALA
and itsDivisions do well is respond to current issues, and
outsourcing is a hot topic.I agree that ALA should play an active
role in developing checklists and guidelines for outsourcing that
will help librarians when they are confronted with the issue.
The growth of unions among libraries and professional
employees has increased greatly over the past few years. ALA has
often taken the position of directors and managers, although most
of the members of ALA are not in management positions. This is
also a topic most often not covered in library schools. A survey
of the strength of unions, and the issues that are raised among
the libraries which have become unionized has never been done.
ALA should take an active role in keeping track of this trend of
the unionization of library technical and professional workers.
What would you do to make sure the members become aware of the
issues raised by the unionization of library staff? How to handle
a union election? What unions are active in libraries?
I was a member of the building trades union when I was
sixteen, and currently have a withdrawal card from the union
because I have not worked as a pipe fitter for a long time.
I am a member of the California Faculty Association and support
the Union.In my current job at the library, I am not eligible for
union membership, but made sure that my secretary became a member
of the Union Board of Directors. I think unions are fine for
libraries, because they provide strength in economic and job
issues. I believe there is a resurgence of the union
movement for white collar and professional employees (Verizon,
airlines, etc because of changing economic conditions).Usually
union organizers are good at letting potential members learn of
the benefits of membership, just as management can describe the
pitfalls. ALA is an educational organization and not a
union, and I would encourage programs and publications about the
topic be developed to help our members decide the pros and cons
of union membership.
Since we are living in an increasingly globalised
world, what international initiatives or projects do you envision
the ALA initiating in the near future?
ALA and its Divisions and affiliates do a good job in
promoting globalization.Other organizations such as IFLA and
INTAMEL also allow contact with libraries and librarians from
other countries.I know I have had dinner and social contacts
at a number of ALA meetings with librarians from abroad as a
result of ALAs involvement.ALAs International
Relations Committee and Round Table, as well as Division
International Relations Committees promote globalization.
Heck, we even have a Canadian running for ALA President, and he
has a much better chance of getting elected than if I were
running for President of the Canadian Library Association which
means we are not doing bad in the USA on globalization.
What will you do to make ALA more welcoming to new
librarians and to help them develop themselves professionally?
The New Members Round Table is a great place for
librarians to become associated in ALA, and I applaud their
efforts. I think that the Association members need to do a
better job in helping new librarians join ALA and get involved.
I got involved in ALA through the efforts of mentors who
helped me get appointed to committees and allowed me to get
active in the profession.I believe it is the duty of seasoned
members to mentor new librarians and get them more involved in
Every candidate for ALA president this year is male,
which points to a larger underlying issue of men being
disproportionately represented in the higher ranks of both
professional associations and administrative positions in what is
still a female-dominated profession. What do you intend to do to
address this imbalance?
John Berrys election last year broke a string of
six female ALA Presidents, so I dont think there has been a
great imbalance in recent nominees for ALA President.
However, the issue of women in the profession is a real one. I
believe in cultural diversity, whether that diversity is sex,
ethnic background or life experience.Of the five major libraries
in San Diego, females head all of them. Some of the recent
major appointments to academic as well as public libraries have
been women. This may signal that more women are rising to the key
leadership spots in the profession, but the numbers of top jobs
held by women is not proportional to their numbers in the
profession. This is an issue not only in libraries, but also for
the entire work force.The "glass ceiling" has been a
topic of discussion in both in the profit and non-profit sectors
for a number of years, and Fortune Magazine presents a growing
list of women each year that have broken through the barrier to
achieve key jobs. I think women who are successful in any
industry, including libraries, are those who network, find a
mentor, make the right job choices, have developed a career plan,
and use their networks and contacts to reach their career goals.I
would hope that some of our outstanding men and women members who
have reached their career goals, would mentor younger librarians,
and ALA conferences and activities are a great place for this to
There has been a recent trend of non-librarians being
considered, hired, or appointed for high-visibility library
positions. How do you intend to promote the MLS as the basic
degree for librarians and ensure that librarians are the first
choice for any such position?
I think that appointing non-librarians to those jobs is
often a mistake.Again, this is a matter of local control and if a
City or University thinks that the best person for the job is a
non-librarian, I dont think it is ALAs job to tell
them they are wrong. We have terrifically talented people in our
profession who I believe can more than adequately fill any
library job in this country. We need to publicize the
great job that librarians are doing, and the successes they have
had in some very difficult jobs.Library Journal has their
librarian of the year, and this is a great showcase for
successful librarians.We need to do more of this, and market our
success stories.The MLS gives people the skills and background
they need to function adequately on their first day on the job-maybe
not as well as they think they can, but adequately.
How would you improve our cities\' public libraries
response to freedom of information related requests for
legitimately public cities\' archives?
Public records are public records, and if documents are
so classified, they should be open to the public.
What will you do as ALA president to fight for fair
use in an online world where content providers are fighting to
destroy fair use?
I believe I answered this in a response above.
What do you see as the most worrisome provision of
UCITA? Would you support proposed amendments to exempt public
libraries, or would you favor solidarity among libraries of all
Probably the most worrisome, is the extra work that is
required of librarians, the threat to fair use, and the tension
between copyright and contract/license law. I am pleased that a
coalition of the major library associations has come out for
tabling and reconsidering UCITA.
What segment of the public is served least by public
libraries? What do you think contributes to their being
underserved by libraries? What, if anything, should ALA do about
All segments are not served as well as they could be due
to a lack of resources.The one segment I have been concentrating
on lately is young adults. Libraries do a fine job of
serving children, but once kids enter the teen area (11-17),
public libraries seem to lose them.Maybe it is due to the fact
that YAs no longer think the library is cool, and it is up
to us to make them realize it is cool.During the last two annual
conferences, I attended a number of programs that YALS conducted,
receiving invaluable information that I incorporated into the
planning of our branch and main library.We need to listen and
understand YAs because libraries can be such a positive
factor in their lives, and because they can benefit from the
library. One of the strengths that libraries have with their
stakeholders is our role in serving children and young adults.
I think that ALA can help to leverage this strength by
publicizing the benefits of strong youth programs in helping our
children and young adults develop into responsible and educated
citizens by having access to information.
Are the proprietary interests of library automation
vendors essential to libraries\' long-term success? Which ecology
of software do you think would most benefit libraries: the
Microsoft model, where source code is proprietary, or the Linux
model, where source code is available? What, if anything, should
ALA do to encourage the development of free library automation
projects like Koha.org?
I know very little about Koha. I know it is an
operating system out of Australia, but that is about it. Im
not a big fan of Microsoft even though I use a PC.I had an Apple
II and about seven Mac products since 1984, and I am waiting to
buy a new Mac with system X software that I believe is Linux
based. At this time, automation vendors seem to have the market
for library automation systems.Very few libraries have developed
their own systems because of the initial cost and upkeep.The
investment that vendors have made, as well as a reasonable
profit, is paid back to the vendors by charges to libraries.In
classic buy or make theory, these shared costs should be less
than if libraries developed their own proprietary systems.Perhaps
Koha may have an impact, but Im not sure. It seems to
me that it makes sense to buy from a vendor if it is cost
effective, and use the savings to provide people and materials to
better serve our customers.Because the market structure for
library automation is an oligopoly, costs seem higher than they
might be based on the intrinsic nature of the product and the
services received from vendors.
Please relate your opinion about paying exorbitant
fees ($20,000 - $70,000) for keynote speakers at the annual
conference to the very high cost of membership in ALA and its
divisions. (If it would help, you can compare Jimmy Carter and
his fee to Colin Powell and his fee, and tell us which had the
most value to us as librarians?)
This year I have been involved in getting a vendor to
pay for the speaker at the ACRL Presidents program, and the
cost is below the range you mention. Whether you agree with his
politics or like him as a person, Colin Powell has been and is a
significant leader, and justifiably a role model to a lot of
people (especially immigrants and African-Americans).I personally
would not have approved his fee, but I wont second-guess
the people who authorized his fee and his speaking at ALA.
Over 2 million people are imprisoned in the U.S.
Library services to these individuals is varied from locale to
locale. Would you consider a national initiative to develop
awareness and service provision to these "Least of our
Brethern," as they were characterized by Larry Sullivan in
AMERICAN LIBRARIES,May 2000?
I think this is a great idea. Everyone has a right to
library service, and it is important to extend service to the
imprisoned. Hearing some of the success stories of people
who have been imprisoned and used educational opportunities to
change their lives, I would applaud a campaign to tell that story
in order to gather more support to serve this segment of the
population.This underserved segment of the population deserves
better library service.
A number of graduate programs in the field have
removed the word "library" from their name within the
past several years. How do you feel about this change, and
what implications do you believe it has for the profession as a
whole, and ALA in particular?
My library school made even a bigger change going from
Rosary to Dominican!I have no problem with name changes.What is
important is preparing students for jobs working in libraries or
library related fields.I think it is just a symptom of the
changes taking place in libraries due to the electronic age. And
yet the word library has magic in it. It is a word that
conjures up feelings and emotions that transcend the lives of
almost all of us. People like libraries, and I dont
think we should be ashamed of being librarians.
Do you feel the ALA accredited MLS programs are
training librarians very well for a career, it was a big joke
that you spend all the time in school, and then learn to become a
librarian your first year on the job, what is the point of
forcing us to get a masters degree?
I learned a lot in library school, and hope that I
taught something to my students when I taught in library school.
Yes, there is still a lot to learn on the job because library
school is not just a trade school, but rather an educational
experience that exposes students to the field of librarianship,
some of its key issues, and the tools and resources that
libraries need to serve their customers. It eases the transition
to the job. I teach in the business school at San Diego State
University, and our MBA students are encouraged to get experience
in the work world before they return to full or part time MBA
study. Most library school students do the same today, and their
job experience enriches their academic studies. I also think it
is important for library schools to keep in touch with their
graduates to maintain a dialogue on what helped the graduate in
their first job, as well as what educational opportunities might
have been added. It should help library school faculty in their
teaching, and keep them in touch with the work world.
What will you do the move some focus onto special
librarians and academic librarians, it seem the major focus of
the ALA is on the public sector.
I have been active in PLA and just recently in ACRL, but
even more active in LAMA because I like the interaction with
librarians from all types of libraries.One of my best learning
experiences is as a member of OCLCs User Council where all
types of libraries come together to discuss key library issues. I
have enjoyed learning the unique issues that confront different
library segments, and would speak for all types of libraries if I
were President of ALA.I have worked in public and special
libraries, teach at a University, and been active in structuring
cooperative projects with school librarians. If I am elected
President, I think I could be an effective spokesperson for all
types of libraries.
How would you have handled the "Boy Scouts"
thing that happened a few years ago? Do you think that the ALA
should spend any time or resources on such things in the future.
This goes back to what is the ALA about, there are very few
librarian Boy Scouts, why did the ALA concern it\'s self with this
when it has precious little time and money to even get the job
done for librarians?
I hit all the stops from Cub Scout to Explorer in my Boy
Scout career, and even worked one year at a scout camp. I no
longer have my uniform, and dont think I could fit into it
if I had it.The Boy Scouts are wrong to discriminate on sexual
preference or any other diversity issue. However, as we
experienced here in San Diego this week where a scout leader was
convicted of molesting young scouts, scouts need to screen the
people to whom we entrust our children. But this screening should
be much the same that schools use, and does not involve the
personal preferences of the leaders. If the Boy Scouts do
discriminate, I strongly believe they should not be entitled to
When is ALA going to catch up with the rest of the
information profession and take the word "library" out
of its name? (Should be asked with a ;-) voice)
Never I hope!I like being in the company of those famous
past and present librarians like Casanova, Chairman Mao, and
Rupert Giles (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer).I may wear a beanie with
a propeller at times, but I would rather be known as a librarian
than an information geek
William Sannwald WWS @ sdcity.sannet.gov
(I broke up the email address to hide it from spam-bots. -Blake)