The Project Vote Smart Debacle
I have been watching with interest the conversation on the Council listserv about Project Vote Smart's announcement today that they would no longer send free voter education materials to libraries as ALA would not write them a letter of endorsement.
My first job after I got my undergrad degree was working for PVS as their library relations person. I joined up right before the 2000 election and during my tenure I more than doubled the program from about 90 libraries to nearly 300.
I eventually quit because I felt that PVS was far more interested in getting their name out there and getting advertising than about helping libraries. Unfortunately, in my youthful stupidity I signed a contract that said I'd work there through the election, which I had to break. For this reason, PVS will either deny I worked there, or disparage my efforts. I had it go both ways until I finally took them off my resume in disgust. I've tried to have very little to do with them since then. I do have an admitted distrust and dislike of their organization.
Their actions today were not unusual. This is not an organization that is good at communicating. They use strong arm tactics like this to get concessions that they want. Their "board" (which is only their President, who acts unilaterally) will issue edicts such as this seemingly out of the blue. I don't doubt that no one at ALA had known they were to send a letter, and I don't doubt that they had no clue the publications would be cut off.
My theory is that PVS is not doing well financially. The library program is very expensive and they were probably looking for a reason to cut it. I definitely wouldn't blame ALA and I wouldn't blame the Library Program Coordinator at PVS, Kira Buscaglia. I'm sure she is just following orders from the President of PVS, Richard Kimball. I would place the blame for this situation squarely with him. As a former employee, I can say this sort of thing happens there all the time and he is the only one behind it.