November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

After Cancelling 2016 National Institute, ALSC Regroups To Serve Members

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The Board of Directors of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, recently voted to cancel its 2016 National Institute scheduled for September in Charlotte, NC. The cancellation was a response to the passage last month of North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (HB2), which repealed all GLBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances across the state. While Governor McCrory subsequently released an executive order addressing HB2, it didn’t restore cities’ rights to establish local non-discrimination ordinances that apply to the private sector.

The Institute takes place only every other year, and it’s unique in that it is entirely focused on serving children while being a small-scale event that represents an ideal opportunity for personal interaction. We spoke with ALSC president Andrew Medlar to find out how the loss of those two and a half days of valuable professional development is being handled from an educational and practical perspective.

SLJ: what led to your decision to cancel the ALSC insitute?

A.M.: As soon as we learned [about HB2], at the start of Easter weekend, I got a social media message from a member saying—I’m paraphrasing—”Andrew, what is ALSC going to do about this?”

Planning for the Institute is about a 28-month process, so a lot of work had already gone into it. We took several weeks to come to the decision. We wanted to be very conscientious.

While [the decision reflected] ALSC’s core values and envisioned future, this wasn’t just an abstract issue. It very directly and personally affected members and some potential attendees. For me, the most important issue is about respecting members and not putting them in a position where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable, [including] going to the bathroom, a basic human function.

What has the reaction been?

Overwhelmingly positive. I have not heard from any ALSC members who support HB2, though we did hear from folks who asked us not to cancel because they didn’t want to miss out on the educational opportunity.

it’s easy to see how it’s a disappointment to many. Is an alternative conference in the works?  

We will have a one-day workshop immediately before the midwinter ALA meeting in Atlanta (January 20–24, 2017). That’s the same general region of the country as North Carolina. It’s going to take us a few more weeks to work out the elements, including the specific programming, which depends on the presenters’ schedules, and the registration fee schedule.

What about virtual education?

The content that was scheduled to be presented at the Institute can translate to a variety of online formats. Our programming coordinating committee is exploring ways to do that and will also look at other opportunities, such as publication in the ALSC journal, Children and Libraries (circulation 4,350). We will work with our editor there and our advisory committee. Our vice president-elect, Betsy Osburn, is going to write about this in ALSC Matters! in May, so our target is to have the important details worked out by then.

We’ve also been working closely with ALA’s GLBT Roundtable to see what educational content we can provide through them. They’ve already come out with a new toolkit for serving all patrons that they unveiled at the Public Library Association Conference earlier this month in Denver.

Has the situation inspired new conference content?  

Actually, the Institute lineup already had several programs that are relevant to serving this community. Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, associate professor at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama, was to present on inclusive service. Another program focused on family portraits and picture books featuring all kinds of families. Then Kathleen Gallagher from UNC Chapel Hill was going to focus on the intersection of libraries, diversity, and social justice. Lastly, we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of El día de los niños/El día de los libros. (Dia). Librarians love acronyms, so we added another, “Diversity In Action (DIA).” Our diversity efforts there have been ongoing.

Are you taking any special steps for your North Carolina-based members?

It’s important for me to make the point that we’re supporting our members in North Carolina. We have so many there who are dedicated every day to serving all members of their communities. Our ALSC Quicklist Consulting Committee has created a list of resources and books that our friends in NC can use.

So what happens to those who already paid the registration fee for the Institute and booked travel?

Folks who have already registered to attend will receive a full refund of their registration fees with no cancellation penalties. We’re reaching out to the airlines, particularly American Airlines, because Charlotte is one of their major hubs, to ask them to waive flight cancellation and change fees.

What’s the financial hit to ALSC?

For ALSC ourselves, we’re estimating a loss of about $10,000. We are, of course, working with the contractors, including the Marriott, at which the Institute was to be held. ALA treasurer Mario Gonzalez, has been part of the discussion. ALSC is in the position that we can afford to do this. $10,000 is a small price to pay.

So no regrets?

Since we made this decision, I have been so proud. There’s a Heather Small song that goes ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’ That is how I feel. I’ve been so gratified by the respectful dialog between members and nonmembers. I am also incredibly grateful for the support we’ve gotten from [ALA president] Sari Feldman and [ALA executive director] Keith Michael Fiels.

 

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Comments

  1. Renee Grassi says:

    This is your legacy as ALSC President, Andrew. And it’s a mighty one. We are forever grateful for your transparency, your tireless advocacy efforts, and your leadership. All of ALA will be inspired. Thank you for all you do for ALSC.

  2. D. Martin says:

    Bravo! In addition, from what I can see, NC is not particularly supportive of its librarians, especially in schools, so I’m glad you made the move. In our profession especially, we cannot support ignorance.

  3. Kary Henry says:

    As I wrote to you in a personal message, I am proud and humbled to be part of such an organization. It was the right decision at the right time. Thank you to everyone who took part in making it.

  4. THANK you for taking a stand on this issue.

  5. As a queer North Carolina public school librarian, I feel so supported by ALSC and others taking a stand on HB2 and helping us pressure our elected leaders through boycott tactics. Thank you. Also, I would encourage folks to look beyond the resources listed for North Carolina members. Groups like the Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition (QTPOCC) are leading the on-the-ground opposition to HB2, and I strongly encourage readers to read their statement on HB2: http://empoweryouthnc.org/2016/03/23/%E2%80%AA%E2%80%8Eblacklivesmatter%E2%80%AC-queer-and-trans-people-of-color-coalition-response-to-nc-hb-2/
    This statement connects the dots between the transphobia, racism, and economic violence of HB2, which also strips municipal minimum wage laws. From Stonewall to Raleigh, trans People of Color’s voices have so often been silenced even while we all benefit from the gains made when they put their bodies on the line to fight injustice.

  6. Andrew, yet again, I’m proud to be an ALSC member and can’t find the words to express how amazing you, and all the ALSC librarians I’ve had the pleasure to meet, are!

  7. Not an easy decision, but definitely the right one especially for our profession. Kudos!

  8. Lou S. Sua says:

    I am very disappointed with this decision and all the others that have been made by others who have pulled out events in North Carolina. Although I am totally against the actions of our Governor and the Legislators, it is not fair that we as citizens have to suffer because of their callous behavior. The citizens did not vote for HB2. It was not a vote that was brought to us and for us to vote for or against this decision. I did not vote for the Governor or the Legislators who passed this bill. So why are we being punished?
    I truly understand how everyone feels about the Governor’s action and hope that everyone realizes that this bill is more about justice for ALL NC citizens. But walking away from us and taking this conference away from so many leaves us swinging in the wind and not helping us the fight these injustices.

    • Elaine Adams says:

      We cannot accept bad behavior on the part of our governmental representatives. We must do something about it. Petition! Exercise the vote! Clear them out!

  9. I am very proud of ALSC and, though I was planning to attend the Institute, I will be delighted to attend the Midwinter Pre-conference being planned. This action confirms my long-held belief that ALSC is for ALL of our children, families and librarians. Ultimately, we are saying to everyone that we are for equal access and fair treatment of everyone.