ALA makes voter registration deal


Anne writes "

A letter
posted at PUBLIB yesterday says that ALA has made a deal with a firm named Working Assests to have people come to their public library to register to vote. ALA will receive a fee for each registration made on the site through a library. No mention of what the library will get besides more demands for internet access. We do have a lot of people who come to our library desk and ask IF they are registered to vote, many on Election Day because they can't get through to the Board of Elections office."


The linked email immediately jumps from "we're obligated to do something new" to "this is a bad thing because of demands on staff".What about thinking of the positives. New people coming to the library who may not have been there before. Maybe while they're casting their vote they'll think about including their opinion about libraries in their preferences.We should be welcoming more people rather than just complaining that it makes more work. Isn't that what we're here for?

Rollercoaster? My reference to censorship was in reply to your question about "morphing" and that particular fight was long ago. Now, as for the ALA...Yes, I'm quite aware. We need to look no further than the ALA's lack of courage regarding the situation in Cuba. Yes, hypocrisy abounds. Yes, the feigned appearance of non-partisanship is wrong. No, I don't have a problem with anyone coordinating voter registration. The more voters, the better, as it gives us an opportunity to at least pretend we're a modern democracy.

Censorship???? Wow, what a rollercoaster this is.

Let's follow this censorshop line with ALA if you may be so kind to indulge.

How does an "anti-censor" advocate support, or at least fail to criticize, an organization that portrays itself to dues paying members as non-partisan, while partnering and profiteering with a like-minded liberal PAC? All under the benign veil of civic service.

What about all of those ALA members in good standing who happen to be syndicalists? Where's there seat at the table?

Wouldn't a more consistent response, at least for those who loathe censorship, be that ALA partner with PAC's of every ilk or simply step aside and let the library folks handle voter registration as well as they always have?

Would you have a problem with your local "non-partisan" public library having the John Birch folks coordinate voter registration?
I've never needed ALA's assistance with voter registration in my library and I am not sure many of my fellow colleagues have either.

Let's be frank. ALA in "not" a non-partisan organization. A past ALA president is a colleague of mine and I correspond with this person on a regular basis. Trust me, he/she sees ALA becoming politically active from the left.

I have no problems with partisanship. It's the feigned and insidious appearance of non-partisanship that is wrong. As an anti-censoree you should be appalled too.

FYI I have included ALA mission statement. Any thoughts on how a liberal PAC like may support this?

" provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all."

Alas, "morphing" was actually quite easy, the impetus being nothing less than a good, oldfashioned fight against censorship...There's no need to do me any favors, as I thought I was also clear: "voters in general". You seem alarmed that so many who would register would be Democrats. As far as I know (though you may have the inside scoop), the ALA isn't asking for any signed affidavits as to who or what the voter will vote for.

Gales, I think the more interesting question here is how a Goldwater Republican morphs into an anarchist. Am I to believe this syndicalist once supported a guy who wanted to nuke Vietnam?

I'll forget your gentle jab re "voters in general" as a favor. I think my post was clear enough.

My question is why are people paying a group to register them to vote? Registering by mail is free, minus the postage. You can also register in most states when you change/get your driver's license. We hand out free registration forms all the time; we just don't collect them.

I am not sure if ALA should be supporting a group that charges for what is normally a free service.

Is it just registering Democrats which has caused your displeasure, or voters in general (I was a Goldwater Republican, myself, but found my way to good oldfashioned syndicalism over the years...)

Our library receives a big bunch of the mail-in voter registration forms from the Secretary of (our) State and people come to the Reference desk to get them to fill out and send in. This also gets us on the SoS's newsletter so we're aware of deadlines, etc. -- in our state you have to register more than 30 days before the election.

If it's close to the registration deadline, I'll tell people they might just want to go to the county courthouse to register. That's a bit of a hassle for folks because it's in another town, but the courthouse has extended hours near the deadline to make it easier.

Actually this is Anne who made the original post. I'm sorry that Fiona thinks we're so lazy and such whiners. Yes, it would be nice if more people came into the library and thought we were great and started to use the library. We have a great institutional belief in "traffic builders". Here we do tax forms, all ordered and sorted for distribution to branches by one of my staff members, and generating hundreds of questions that we can't legally answer. We (Reference) send faxes for the public. It used to be free until people started leaving 40 at a time. Now we charge, but we're cheaper than almost anyone in town and open longer hours. We provide more than 1500 public computer appointments per month on 11 aging computers -- all manually booked and we take telephone reservations in advance. All of these things do bring people into the library and most of them never use the library's core resources. Instead they complain and they hold us to blame for everything that goes wrong and that we can't do including telling them if they're registered to vote. Oh, we do also write and maintain web pages, order books, weed the collection, answer reference questions, index the local newspaper, handle 200 magazine subscriptions (still manually), provide a genealogy and local history service, process over 300 ILL requests per month, and other such library stuff. Due to staff shortages 3 of us have just finished over a month of more than 55 hour weeks (7 days a week) with 99% of that being time on the ref desk.
    This library did voter registration manually years ago, but they stopped because the demands on our staff were so heavy that other things (like checking in books) weren't getting done.
      It's one thing to "welcome people", but it's another thing for ALA to make money off it without considering the impact on the whiners in the trenches.


Another reason ALA should be considered a political action committee, rather than a non-partisan, not-for-profit org.

These guys are now profiteering by pushing folks to a blatantly pro-liberal PAC for voter registration! Shameful. Can you imagine if ALA had coordinated this effort with AmeriPAC?

This isn't about getting people to register to vote, this is about registering new Democrats while picks the pockets of these "newbie" voters.

Folks, ALA is destroying the overwhelmingly "non-partisan" support that American public libraries have enjoyed for years. East Huron Street may seem far from Main Street, but their day is coming.

Registering to vote, or assisting persons to register to vote is all well and good. However why should librarians direct someone to an organization that has a particular political bent to register to vote. Paying libraries to register to vote at a particular site seems unethical to me. Liberal, Conservative, Feminist, Zoroastoran, it does not matter the politics of the site a librarian should not reccomend it. Help people find the site if they ask for it otherwise perhaps

would be more appropriate.

Nearly every library I've worked at (at least the public and academic ones) has offered voter registration forms and assistance. When I worked for Project Vote Smart, placing voter information in libraries, we provided access to online forms/websites through which one could register. It sounds like ALA is getting money for placing ads(?) for Working Assets in libraries...that's the only way it makes sense to me.

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