Boston Conference Brings out the Best in ALA: The Association Draws High Numbers to Business Meetings, Exhibits, and Cultural Events

Article excerpt

It would be difficult to accuse the American Library Association of tackling inappropriate social issues at the Midwinter Meeting in Boston, January 14-17. Not that social issues weren't on the agenda; they were, and they coincided nicely, in fact, with some of the top stories in the newspapers that appeared each morning under conference-goers' hotel-room doors. And they tended to involve some of the core activities and issues confronting the Association.

Grappling with the dire funding situation in many school and public libraries in the United States, ALA's governing Council passed resolutions calling for the federal government to include school library standards in No Child Left Behind legislation and objecting to the closure of public libraries in Salinas, California, where funding cuts have left the city unable to maintain service (AL, Jan., p. 8). The actions were among several taken by ALA to address growing threats to publicly funded libraries, lamentably during a period of increased usage.

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With the tsunami death toll surpassing 220,000, Council also passed a resolution expressing its deepest sympathy for the victims, resolving that ALA work with other groups on the international response to the disaster.

While the Executive Board and the Exhibits Round Table dealt with the selection of future convention sites, USA Today reported January 17 that convention attendance at trade shows has dropped sharply and "convention centers are giving their space away or offering it at huge discounts." The ALA conference in Orlando last summer left such a negative impression with many attendees that the board decided to relocate the 2010 conference, which had been scheduled there, to New York City, where the Javits Convention Center begins expansion this year. Orlando has been rescheduled for 2016.

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Joseph Eagan, chair of the Conference Committee, noted at an Executive Board meeting (see p. 62-63) that the committee is investigating whether the increasing use of electronic communication will eliminate the need for some committees to convene at Midwinter Meetings.

The Executive Board voted to renew the Campaign for America's Libraries for another five years, contingent on a positive recommendation by the Budget Analysis and Review Committee. The board also made it clear that, despite rumors circulating during the conference, no one had any intention of reopening discussions on the operating agreement between ALA and its divisions. The current business agreement that controls budgeting and oversight dates back to 1989 and was hailed at the time as a good balance between strong central programs and the specialized programs of the divisions.

ALA Treasurer Teri Switzer told Council that while the Association's finances remain precarious, the figures are much improved from last year: 2004 saw an 18% rise in revenues while expenses increased just 9%.

Council also passed a resolution calling on Congress to sponsor legislation providing comprehensive health care for all Americans. Honorary membership, the Association's highest honor, was approved for Lotsee F. Patterson, noted advocate for library services for American Indians, and Nettie B. Taylor, former assistant superintendent for libraries for the Maryland State Department of Education. The awards will be presented during the ALA Annual Conference June 23-29 in Chicago.

Candidates for ALA president, Christine Lind Hage and Leslie Burger, campaigned vigorously during the conference and participated in an open forum where they took questions from the audience (see p. 66-68).

Key issues, events

Although pre-Midwinter discussion on the Council electronic list centered on the possibility that much of the meeting's business could be conducted electronically rather than face-to-face, Midwinter registration totaled 13,232 attendees and exhibitors, which marked an increase from the 2004 Midwinter Meeting in San Diego with 10,788 and nearly matched the 13,664 registrants who flocked to Philadelphia for Midwinter in 2003. …