Library Juice 2:37 Supplement - September 22, 1999

ALA Council debates the question of political involvement

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Date: Wed, 08 Sep 1999 17:01:58 -0500
From: "James B. Casey" <jimcasey[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: Giving Ammo to FFL Accusations of Bias.

The crew from "Family Friendly Libraries" is promoting its
own Conference in Cincinnati.  (ALA refused to go there
in 1995.  So the FFL has moved into the void that we left.)

The FFL  home page:

Among the arguments they put about as to "What is Wrong
with ALA"? are examples of how we have taken formal
stands on public policy issues not related to Libraries and

"The ALA not only seeks to influence the field of librarianship,
states that their membership is expected to support the ERA, the
concept of a nuclear freeze, gay rights, opposition to mandatary
AIDS testing, national health insurance, and minors' access to
sexual resources both in and out of the library. The ALA has even
publicly lobbied against the Boy Scouts' policy of not allowing
homosexuals to be Scout Masters."

In departing from Library and Intellectual Freedom issues and
adopting a positions which imply bias on "culture wars" issues,
(and in collection development, etc.?) ALA has opened itself
up to this kind of accusation by FFL, Dr. Laura, and others of
that ilk.   The attacks are not convincing to me, but what does the
average citizen think about ALA's real commitment to Intellectual
Freedom?  If ALA is seen to be biased to the extent of taking
formal stands on the "culture wars" and public policy issues of the
day, how can our arguments espousing openness to all viewpoints
be accepted without suspicion?

Let's get back to Library and Intellectual Freedom issues in ALA

James B. Casey -- Councilor-at-Large

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Date: Wed, 08 Sep 1999 18:20:51 -0400
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: "Karen G. Schneider" <kgs[at]>
Subject: Re: Giving Ammo to FFL Accusations of Bias.

My perspective on FFL is that we shouldn't tailor ALA policy to meet their
standards.  Where would it end?  Should we form an FFL focus group and see
how they will react to proposed resolutions?  FFL got its start when it
fought the inclusion of the Washington Blade, a gay paper, in Virginia
libraries.  Should we have backed off from that fight because it was a gay
paper?  FFL also criticizes gay librarians for marching in gay rights
parades.  Shall we pass a rule that this must cease and desist?  Let's stay
away from the slippery slope of letting censorship groups drive our agenda. 

FFL will always take our policies out of context.  That's a fine old tactic
and we see that done all the time by other groups.  Fortunately for all of
us, many of FFL's website diatribes are offputting enough for any decent

Many, many professional organizations take human rights positions as a way
to support their own members.  Jim, as a gay librarian, I do think that the
very least my professional association can do is insure that the
organizations we work with do not discriminate on the basis of sexual
orientation--and if they do, we need to tell them, very clearly, that this
is not appropriate.  Remember, the resolution didn't sever the relation
with the Boy Scouts; it just made it clear to BSA how we felt. If they were
discriminating on the basis of gender or color, you wouldn't be continually
raising the Boy Scouts as an example of ALA extremism.  (Although this
brings to mind that many professional organizations, including labor
unions, have in the past used their white male privilege to exclude women
and people of color, as well as gay people.)

You are certainly welcome to create a resolution that rescinds ALA's
support for gay rights.  Just be sure to make it broad enough to include
all the other groups specified in the policy manual.

As for FFL filling the void in Cincinatti--no, I won't say that.  ;-) 
Karen G. Schneider kgs[at], she_schne[at]
Assistant Director of Technology, Shenendehowa Public Library, NY
Author: A Practical Guide to Internet Filters, Neal Schuman, 1997

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Date: Wed, 08 Sep 1999 19:18:58 -0500
From: "S.Michael Malinconico" <mmalinco[at]>
Organization: University of Alabama, School of Library & Information Studies
X-Accept-Language: en
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: Re: Giving Ammo to FFL Accusations of Bias.
Reply-To: mmalinco[at]
Sender: owner-alacoun[at]

Isn't bias against our own members an ALA issue?  Are
professional organizations not part of society?  Shouldn't
members of a society be appalled at injustice and act to
prevent it?

Or are organizations fora where their members can strut and
make unctuous, high sounding statements while remaining
oblivious to the world in which they exist?

Whenever ALA chooses a conference site by definition it
foregoes numerous other alternatives.  So if the FFL had
chosen to have its conference in a box canyon in Wyoming, it
would have in that instance filled a void that we left.  So
S.Michael Malinconico
School of Library and Information Studies
The University of Alabama
Box 870252
Tuscaloosa, AL  35487-0252

"But to live outside the law you must be honest."

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 11:39:41 -0400
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: mark rosenzweig <iskra[at]>
Subject: Re: "On the Side of the Angels"?

At 4:43 PM -0500 9/10/99, James B. Casey wrote:
>So, by Councilor Rosenzweig's estimation, "they" are
>wrong and tyranical and unjust and "we" are right and
>good and just.  Others might say the same thing from
>an entirely different perspective.
>That is the essense of Culture Wars.  Nobody ever
>wins and everybody is "on the side of the Angels."
>James B. Casey  -- Councilor-at-Large

And where are you, Councilor Casey? What celestial platform do you occupy?

What do you say about the claims of Family Friendly Libraries and their
related organizations? Or is it not your business "as a librarian" to
answer the FFL when it tries to turn libraries into the kind of targets
womens' health clinics have been for enemies of a democratic and pluralist

Do you feel there's something to the FFL charges that homosexual pedophiles
and perverts are using our libraries to corrupt our youth? Well?

What if they claimed Jews were demonic manipulators of world  affairs, or
blacks subhuman, or women constitutionally inferior and subordinate? You
would be "agnostic" in relation to the truthfulness of all such claims?

Or do you believe, for example, that the teaching of evolution is no
different than the teaching of "creationism" in public schools? What about
the world being flat? The librarian has no opinion. He's not going to
pretend to be on the "side of the angels" by saying, to the best of his
knowledge, the world is not flat.

"Culture Wars", my foot! This is about ALA being an advocate for democracy,
rather than being neutral about whether democracy and democratic
institutions (like public libraries) are under attack.

I believe librarianship will have widespread public support if it's seen -
yes,advertised, promoted - as the front-line bastion of democratic values,
equal access and informed choices. That is what we represent at our best.
The public will side with democracy and pluralism: if not, American society
will be transformed in ways which will make a lot of us ashamed to be
citizens of what once was a democratic republic.

Mark Rosenzweig

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 10:52:13 -0500
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: Al Kagan <akagan[at]>
Subject: Re: FWD:"Giving Ammo to FFL Accusations of Bias".

Jim Casey has stated one idea of what a professional organization ought to
be. Here is another.  Professional bodies have a role to play within
society.  They should take decisions and advocate positions to make society
better based upon their expertise.  As librarians, we deal very explicitly
with a whole range of issues related to freedom of expression, promoting of
education, cultural programming, etc.  As intellectuals, we also deal with
widely societal issues that the body wants to discuss.  Our role in Council
is to discuss whatever the members and constituent bodies want to discuss,
as well as put forward our own agendas and opinions.  We should work to
implement our agenda within society, but we should not make decisions based
on public opinion like President Clinton.  We can sometimes make
compromises to be more effective in our work, but we can't let anyone else
determine our agendas.  If we are really professionals we have a
responsibility to wiegh in on important issues.  Personally, I could care
less what the FFL think of what we do.  They are a small right-wing group
and will never agree with our basic principles.

Al Kagan
Africana Unit, Room 328
University of Illinois Library
1408 W. Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801, USA

tel. 217-333-6519
fax. 217-333-2214
e-mail. akagan[at]

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 16:39:47 -0400
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: Mark Rosenzweig <iskra[at]>
Subject: Re: Neutrality vs. Activism? is that the Only Choice?

Jim Casey would have us dis-encumber ourselves from our history and our
responsibilities as we have elaborated them over time, and allow the Family
Friendly Libraries group and Dr Laura Schlesinger to set the agenda of the

Our policies embody, among other things , over thirty years of
democratically  arrived at commitments and positions on various social
issues which we as librarians felt strongly about AND which we saw as
implicit in the values that were embodied  (or which we felt should be
embodied) in librarianship as a profession.

Take Civil Rights. Did we have to have a position on that? Damn straight,
and we had quite a struggle in ALA over the question of segregated
libraries, too. People called that an "extraneous social issue".

We're are opposed to all forms of discrimination and that entiails, more
positively, support for civil rights, womens equality, gay rights etc.
That's a social position and its  concrete entailments.

We're in favor of the right to education and culture for all. That's a
social issue position, too.

We're pro-choice. How could we not be when choice is what good libarianship
is meant to make possible? And so on.

These positions have progresively been made explicit as we develop the
implicit values of librarianship in the real world, a world which we have
--I believe, and hope many of you believe-- a commitment to making a better
place. Or is that, too, an unacceptable social commitment?

The very question which Family Friendly Libraries was founded to fight
against, childrens right to information, is a fundamental social/cultural
conviction of our association and our profession. Should we back down on
this because it too is partisan social commitment?

If so why not let the censors remove the books from the shelves. That will
satisfy them and make life easier for us. We won't have to worry any more
about justifying our partisanship for freedom,equality and access.

Mark Rosenzweig

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From: "Christine Lind Hage" <hagec[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: FFL
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 06:04:28 -0400

I believe that Council should take stands on social issues as they relate to
libraries. Mark Rosenzweig's comments about segregation gives a perfect
example.  As an organization we should not be chastising a group about
social issues except when they are related to libraries.

The FFL folks are impacting libraries.  I really appreciate Bill Gordon's
brief comment the other day about suggestions for handling picketers of the
library.  Granted it was very basic, but believe me, many of our colleagues
are so busy handling day to day problems that they don't have the time or
energy to join discussions like this on FFL.  On the other hand, they will
have no choice, but to react on September 18th, if the picketing comes to
be.  Even more challenging for public libraries is that if the picketing
does occur on that day, most libraries are shorter staffed on Saturdays.
Most directors don't work on Saturdays.  This means that the ALA heads up
gives good warning to folks to plan a course of action in case the picketers

Bill's message was forwarded to many listservs.  Many folks who aren't
members of ALA will receive the information and this is a small example of
how ALA can help all libraries, not just members of the association.

Bill's message came in response to FFL, but is not directed to them.  We're
not telling them what to do.  We're not setting big ALA policies.  We're
merely offering advice to libraries nationwide.  The libraries can choose to
act, react or to do nothing.  ALA is only being helpful and that's what
libraries are all about.  Helping people get the right information, at the
right time, in right format.

Christine Lind Hage
ALA Councilor at Large
Director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library
43245 Garfield Road
Clinton Township, MI 48038-1115 USA

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 07:23:50 -0400
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: "Karen G. Schneider" <kgs[at]>
Subject: Re: FFL

At 06:04 AM 9/10/99 -0400, Christine Lind Hage wrote:
>I believe that Council should take stands on social issues as they relate to
>libraries. Mark Rosenzweig's comments about segregation gives a perfect
>example.  As an organization we should not be chastising a group about
>social issues except when they are related to libraries.

Christine captured many good points (including how important it was for
someone with the stature of Bill Gordon to quickly respond to a request for
assistance.  ALA gained many style points for that action, which was
immensely calming to librarians everywhere). 

One area we on Council are not in agreement on is how far our policies
go--whether our policies are about libraries, or whether we include
librarians, or whether we expand to a more global view.  I take the middle
road--that the individual welfare of librarians is our responsibility. 

The Boy Scout resolution gets exhumed by some as an example of ALA policy
gone over the top, but as a professional organization, we represent many
individuals who in most cases have no other group to advocate for them.
Asking the BSA to reconsider its policy--which we did politely--was in
keeping with our responsibility as a professional organization.  We should
not be ashamed to care enough about our members to ask a group we have a
close relationship with to stop discriminating against one group.  We
should certainly not abandon our policies when one extremist group singles
us out for criticism. When we are sniped about any one policy, Boy Scouts
or otherwise, we should respond with these comments, and we should point
with pride to the long history of ALA's commitment to our members.  We owe
it to our constituents. 

If not one library had ever been segregated, it would still have been
appropriate for ALA to take a position against segregation, due to our
corporate responsibility to librarians everywhere.  Those of you who were
around for the ERA can probably remember arguments that ALA shouldn't get
bogged down with "women's issues"  unrelated to librarianship.  As long as
there are women in librarianship--and people of color, and gay men and
lesbians, and those who are differently abled, and so forth--these issues
are our issues. 
Karen G. Schneider kgs[at], she_schne[at]
Assistant Director of Technology, Shenendehowa Public Library, NY
Author: A Practical Guide to Internet Filters, Neal Schuman, 1997

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 08:30:48 -0500
From: "James B. Casey" <jimcasey[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: It isn't FFL, but the Mirror which needs our attention.

Al Kagan wrote (excerpt):

"If we are really professionals we have a
responsibility to wiegh in on important issues.
Personally, I could care less what the FFL
think of what we do.  They are a small right-
wing group and will never agree with our
basic principles."

What FFL thinks of ALA isn't really very important.
After all, FFL has its own set of hypocrisies and
blasts forth its own brand of self-defeating rhetoric.
Dr. Laura and FFL really aren't worth much of
ALA's attention, let alone a counter-attack.
What does matter, however, is how ALA is viewed
by the library community as a whole, the population
as a whole, and by decision makers in Washington
and the state capitals.  Our ability to work on behalf
of Libraries and Librarianship is compromised if our
Intellectual Freedom positions are vulnerable to
charges of hypocrisy.   That FFL should take
advantage of that weakness in the integrity of ALA's
Intellectual Freedom stand isn't terribly surprising.
After all, they don't like us much and would like
to see our cause defeated at every turn.

If Librarians are said to be biased on many of the
crucial issues of our day "because, after all,
the national association representing libraries and
librarianship, has formally endorsed X and Y, and
condemned Z", how can we expect librarians not to
bring their biases into collection development
decisions and into judgments relative to what our
children see, hear and do at the Library?

As human beings, we may have a very important
responsibility to "weigh in" on the important issues
of the day.  As Librarians, we may have a far more
important responsibility to stand for open access
to information for all people.  Our credibility as
Librarians is compromised if ALA (our national
organization) is inclined to formally endorse or
condemn ideas and philosophies which exist in

James B. Casey -- Councilor-at-Large

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From: Oliver[at]
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: Jim Casey's Comments and Public Perception
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 09:16:35 -0500

Dear Colleagues,
    I greatly appreciated Jim Casey's comments regarding FFL and the
public's perception of ALA/libraries.  As a profession one of the things it
is essential we continue to do is reflect the needs of our communities and
constituencies, even their values.   I am becoming increasingly troubled and
disenchanted with the way some of our membership have taken hard-line stands
on many issues without the courtesy of weighing the merits of other
    Throughout my professional career I have been an IF member and
supporter.  I believe in the values of intellectual freedom. Along with
those values we must be willing to consider all points of view and how it
impacts library service. We must also determine and realistically strategize
at all levels as to how we survive as a politically viable association and
maintain those values.
    Unfortunately, I am beginning to tune out 95% of what is said on the
IF listserve because it is rancorous, politically naive, petty and hurtful.
In other words, it isn't separating us from the bad guys by very much.

Kent Oliver
Kansas Chapter Councilor

Kent Oliver
Branch Services Manager
Johnson County Library
"Don't Get It: Confusion caused by limited resources in the space starting
above the shoulders."  Rich Dauer, K.C. Royals Coach

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 14:53:52 -0400
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: Mark Rosenzweig <iskra[at]>
Subject: Re: Jim Casey's Comments and Public Perception

With all due respect I have to say that I am somewhat concerned and
disturbed by some implications of Councilor Kent Oliver's comments.

Family Friendly Libraries is, among other things, a fiercely, publicly
active homophobic group: i.e. a "hate group".This is npot something one has
to probe deeply to discover.

It is not the democratic voice of our communities, but is closely linked to
the organized, national efforts of the anti-democratic/theocratic Right,
which seeks, often disingenuously, to impose its agenda through many such
operations on  our public institutions and our private lives. FFL, for
example, believes there is a homosexual conspiracy to pervert children in
schools and libraries, a conspiracy which they are exposing and

It is one thing to collect materials of the FFL group and make it available
in our libraries along with everything else, much as we do with so-called
creationism, but is another to seem to endorse the equal validity of the
their views and programs. We have an obligation to document the FFL within
the parameters of our individual collection policies, we have a
responsibility to make such material accessible. We do not have a
responsibility to pretend that we (the ALA, in particular and those
librarians/libraries which endorse the ALA) support in any way the validity
of their agendas with respect to libraries.

The FFL is part of a very extensive network of anti-democratic/theocratic
groups which want to remake America and its institutions based on the
program of wresting power under whatever pretenses from those who want to
maintain the Bill of Rights as the COnstitution as the basis of our civil
society. They seek instead to impose so-called "biblical" values (like
hatred of homosexuals, refusal of choice to women, prayer in schools,
advocacy of school curriculum based on creationism,etc). We stand, I hope,
as an association, squarely in defense of a pluralistic society and a
public sphere based on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, not on a
society based on supposedly theocratic principles, on hatred, divisiveness,
and supression or refusal of others' rights to choose options freely.

As a  self-described lifelong IF supporter Kent Oliver should be less
concerned with the disputatiousness on the IF listserv and its cacophony of
voices, no matter how rancorous, than with those who would impose an agenda
of hate,exclusion and sectariansim on our public instiututions and change
the democratic American way of life. To stand for a basis of libraries in
fundamental Constitutional values is not to exclude or supress the voices
of right-wing  organizations, but neither is it to endorse their sectarian
agenda as equally valid.

Yes it is "taking a position",and should be based on carefully weighing the
character of the opposed viewpoint, but, after due consideration of FFL,
ours is a position implied by our acceptance of the US Constitution, the
ALA Code of EThics, The Library Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (which we have endorsed) and many of the
well-thought-through policies of ALA, as well as any coherent notion of
professional responsibilities and standards.

Mark Rosenzweig
councilor at large

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 16:43:46 -0500
From: "James B. Casey" <jimcasey[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: "On the Side of the Angels"?

So, by Councilor Rosenzweig's estimation, "they" are
wrong and tyranical and unjust and "we" are right and
good and just.  Others might say the same thing from
an entirely different perspective.

That is the essense of Culture Wars.  Nobody ever
wins and everybody is "on the side of the Angels."

James B. Casey  -- Councilor-at-Large

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 17:34:42 -0700
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
From: Druthgo[at] (Dr. Ruth I. Gordon)
Subject: F Unfriendly L.
Reply-To: Druthgo[at]
Sender: owner-alacoun[at]

Colleagues and other shut-ins: I personally do not give a fig for what Dr.
L. , Mr. Burt, and FFL wish to spread about ALA--or me personally.  I will
continue to chip away at the expenditure of any $'s ALA, and by extension,
one of my divisions, ALSC, expends to support Boy Scouts of America.  I
believe that we, as librarians, serve the person (i.e., boy, girl, puppy),
not the organization, i.e., BSA, Inc., but FFL, Dr. L., Mr. Burt, et alii
ad naus. simply refuse to see the difference--as do too many who write to
this list and are also councilors.

I REPEAT;  We serve the person.  We do not serve BSA, Inc., and if we
contribute to it in any way, I will continue to insist on a clean
divorce--not friendly--just clean.   Does the ALSC Councilor have any
information that might enlighten my ignorance about any expenditure that
somehow is utilized by BSA, Inc. in its expensive little Merit Badge
Booklets (which we, in libraries, must buy since rich old BSA, Inc. doesn't
contribute any to libraries.  Of course, it is true, that occasionally,
when under fire, BSA, Inc., does contribute plastic plaques that look like
bronze, to organizations like ALSC.)

Big Grandma, C-at-L

"You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass
the guilty."    Jessica Mitford  (1917-1996)

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Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 18:29:07 -0400
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>g>
From: Mark Rosenzweig <iskra[at]>
Subject: Reply to James Casey

Jim Casey wrote:

>Councilor Rosenzweig:
...identifying groups of
>people who disagree with us as "enemies of a
>democratic and pluralistic society" isn't terribly
>helpful in our quest to further the cause of
>Intellectual Freedom.
>Do you believe that the ACLU is weak or evil
>because it defends the rights of American Nazis
>and Klan supporters to demonstrate?  I would
>like to know what you think of the ACLU.
>Jim Casey -- Councilor-at-Large

Dear Jim,

In answer to your question.: I support the ACLU. The ACLU has no problem
calling a Nazi a Nazi.They have a clear understanding, and no trouble
expressing it, of who's who.

On the other hand, it doesn't interfere with their work - on the contrary -
for them to accurately represent themselves as partisans of freedom against
the enemies of pluralism and democracy. They know that's what makes their
work so important. It obviously doesn't, in any way, prevent them from
asserting and defending the constitutional rights of those who disagree
with them about constitutional rights and intellectual freedom when their
rights are not respected under law.

Having a clear understanding of the FFL would in no way prevent librarians
from collecting and making available their materials. Nor would we have any
trouble providing reference or other services to their members.

That doesn't mean we have to make concessions to FFL or any such group
about librarianship and its practice, misrepresent the character and
purpose of their organization, or buy into any attempt to allow them to
cast themselves as the "real" voice of our communities!

Our commitments are represented clearly in  our ALA policies especially,
but not restricted to, the social and cultural value of intellectual
freedom. We have a right to be proud of those policies, including our
commitments to human rights and other such (as you would have them)
"culture war" values. The FFL has their commitments, which are to oppose
our positions. That is their right. It certainly doesn't mean we are
obliged to somehow bridge the gap and come to some agreeement with them!

In other words, we shouldn't jettison, as you seem to be implying, 30 years
of ALA's social/cultural commitments, to better accomodate a group like
Family Friendly Libraries or a Dr Laura Schlesinger.

Mark Rosenzweig

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Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 08:14:04 -0500
From: "James B. Casey" <jimcasey[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: Re: Reply to James Casey

Does ACLU take formal positions on issues such as abortion,
ERA, Gay Rights, nuclear power, or other public policy issues
or is their focus on Intellectual Freedom?   ACLU is taken very
seriously by the public and by decision makers in Washington
-- ACLU rates the various Congressional leaders (ALMANAC
OF AMERICAN POLITICS, 2000) based upon their support
for Intellectual Freedom issues.   If ALA were to "rate" various
Congressional leaders, would our rating be based upon support
for Library and Intellectual Freedom issues alone or would it have
to include the gamut of causes from abortion to ERA to Gay Rights
to nuclear power to abortion rights to etc. which ALA has embraced?
What if a Congressperson was to vote that any abortion was a sin
and that Homosexuality was sinful, but vote against filtering and in
favor of improved LSTA funding?

American LIBRARY Association should stick to LIBRARY issues
rather than expending our political capital on an array of unrelated
causes and thus exposing its Intellectual Freedom stands to charges
of hypocrisy and bias.

James B. Casey -- Councilor-at-Large

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Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999 23:11:56 -0400
From: Rita Auerbach <ritaauerbach[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: Re: Reply to James Casey

Jim Casey asked: Does ACLU take formal positions on issues such as
abortion, ERA, Gay Rights, nuclear power, or other public policy issues
or is their focus on Intellectual Freedom?

Although the ACLU was formed to defend First Amendment rights, it has
evolved into a defender of all rights with a Bill of Rights or 14th
Amendment (equal protection) basis.  From Jim's list, the CLU supported
the ERA, and currently has active programs supporting gay rights and the
right to choose. Among its many other issues are police brutality and
voting rights.

As a professional organization of librarians and libraries, our primary
focus is certainly on information issues. It behooves us also to be
concerned about social issues which affect our, and our clients', rights
of free expression and many of the items on Jim's list are clearly
related to these concerns.

Rita Auerbach

..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999 16:28:31 -0500
From: "James B. Casey" <jimcasey[at]>
To: ALA Council List <alacoun[at]>
Subject: Who is Right about Rights?

Al Kagan wrote (excerpt):

"Our principles should included [sic] human rights for
all, however that needs to be construed.  If people
who do not believe in the Bill of Rights or decisions
by the Supreme Court don't like it, it is their problem."

Do ALA principles include human rights for all?

Do our principles include the "right to life" for
unborn infants?  Do our principles include the right
to own firearms for all who can afford them?  Do
our principles include the right to "prayer in schools"?
Do our principles include the right of people to believe
that homosexuality is sinful and/or anti-social behavior
and act to prevent their children from contact with Gays
in school or elsewhere?  Do our principles include the
right of people to choose the schools their youngsters
will attend and receive vouchers to pay tuition if the
schools do not happen to be publically supported?
Do our principles include the "right to work" regardless
of union regulations?  Do our principles include the right
of people not to pay their taxes [expecially when taxes
support most of our libraries] if they feel that the
Government is unjust or repressive?  Do our principles
include the right of schools and libraries to have text books
which teach "creationism" and discount evolution theories
on the shelves?   For large elements of our society, these
"causes" represent what they believe to be a struggle for
basic human rights -- "life, liberty and the pursuit of

I would say that ALA has not taken stands in defense
of these particular human rights causes, but has sometimes
taken stands  which run counter to them --- such as abortion
rights (pro choice).   That ALA has been selective in terms
of the human rights causes which it has chosen to embrace
is a matter of record.   That the causes which ALA has
formally supported are consistently and demonstrably on
the "liberal" or "left" or "secular humanist" side of the Culture
Wars is also clear.  ALA is saying, in effect, that some human
rights causes and perspectives are more worthy than others.

Although I personally agree with practically all of the
non-library social positions ALA has taken, I am aware
that there are vast segments of our service populations
who look at things from an entirely different perspective.
The "conservative" or "right" or "religious traditionalists"
are not just a "Christian Right" any longer but increasingly
fundamentalist in terms of the Islamic faith, for example.

Taking sides in the "culture wars" has compromised the
integrity of ALA's Intellectual Freedom stands by casting
doubt upon our openness to all ideas and perspectives.

James B. Casey --- Councilor-at-Large

Some of the messages in the above debate were forwarded to the lists
SRRT-AC and PLGnet-L.  The following is a response sent to these lists.

From: DENWALL[at]
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 01:08:14 EDT
Subject: Pass the Ammunition
CC: plgnet-l[at], srrtac-l[at], DENWALL[at]

If one looked at things in a "purely" logical way, what Casey said
might make some kind of sense.  Except it has no relation to the
real world at hand in modern times.  The other night I was watching
the Charlie Rose show and he was conversing with a group of
technology big-names who were attending a big conference in San
Jose.  Just about all they chose to talk about in an attempt to
identify the big questions to be resolved as technology develops was
the issue of privacy protection.  One participant, for example, felt
the wave of the future was to get consumers to believe that they
could choose to entrust their personal data--the staff that
e-commerce types lust after--to online "guardians" i.e. you could
decide what info you wanted to get about what topics and security
would be such that no one else could snatch the data for
unauthorized uses.  Yeh, sure.  Sounds like "fail-safe" atomic
energy, right?  Anyway, the CEO for SUN was very worried about
invasion of privacy  issues and felt technology was no where near
knowing how to make data invulnerable to unauthorized use.

I relate this to make the point that NOBODY in the information
retreival-dissemination business can be neutral on such issues as
privacy, 1st amendment rights, etc. That is because we will all have
to play a part in influencing the direction that all the ongoing
revolutions in communications media will take and monitoring the
implications of the choices made for our personal freedoms and the
health of free exchange  of ideas in our society.  

Why is it so sexy for technology CEO's to talk civil liberties yet
so  reprehensible for librarians to do the same?  Subtle status

This reminds me of when my two mixed race children were in public
schools and would be harrassed by racial epithets.  I would go very
calmly to the principal and suggest that maybe a committee might be
formed to monitor the hate quotient in the  atmosphere at the school
and I would be told that it was best not to stir up the muddy
waters, i.e. if you just don't talk about "it" (racism) "it" would
go away.   So Casy  thinks that if we just don't talk about the
issues Dr. Laura is hot and bothered about she will go away?????
{Not anytime soon.....she's having too much fun}

Pat Wallace
Austin, Texas
denwall [at]

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