By Kniffel, Leonard
American Libraries , Vol. 28, No. 7
The spirit of joy over the CDA victory (see p. 11-12) and the Gates Library Foundation (p. 14-15) that greeted conference-goers in San Francisco could not be broken during three sessions of ALA Council, June 29 and July 1-2, despite the skeptical views of some councilors who viewed both with trepidation.
Looking the Gates gift horse straight in the mouth, some suggested it was more of a Trojan horse. Councilors who worried about the rapid rate at which Internet filtering software is being installed in some public libraries looked for loopholes in the Library Bill of Rights. Ultimately, resolutions praising Bill and Melinda Gates, toasting the Supreme Court decision, and affirming the Association's opposition to filtering prevailed.
Disagreement over governance matters peaked during discussions of the Spectrum scholarship initiative, but Council backed the plans of the Executive Board and soon-to-depart Executive Director Elizabeth Martinez. And in the matter of the search for a new executive director, Council declined to hear from one of the finalists in the failed search, preferring instead to support the board and the search committee in moving forward with procuring another pool of candidates.
Suspicious view of the Gates gift
Councilors Mark Rosenzweig and Robert Franklin spoke out about the Gates Library Foundation with cynicism and alarm. Franklin called it "a down payment on the purchase of public libraries." Rosenzweig moved (CD#52) that ALA thank Bill and Melinda Gates for their efforts but added several conditions, such as who should be on the foundation board. The motion was quickly abandoned in favor of a substitute resolution to "recognize and celebrate Bill and Melinda Gates for establishing the Gates Library Foundation and specifically targeting our neediest communities for this visionary endeavor."
Many councilors spoke out in praise of the Gates gift. Martin Gomez, director of Brooklyn Public Library - recipient of a Libraries Online grant from Microsoft - emphasized the empowering aspects of the project, and Public Library Association councilor Jo Ann Pinder expressed the strong opposition of the division to the Rosenzweig motion, saying, "Libraries have been accepting donations for years. We are intelligent enough to know when and where and with what strings to accept those donations."
Councilor Judith Myers suggested that the Executive Board nominate the Gateses for Honorary Membership, the Association's top award.
No filtering of protected speech
Councilors looking for loopholes in the Library Bill of Rights that would permit filtering in libraries found one as Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair and ALA President-elect Ann Symons and Gordon Conable (former IFC chair) fielded questions about the decision. Symons offered a resolution asserting that ALA "affirms that the use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights" (CD#19.3-19.6).
"Is it your understanding that those libraries that choose to have some filtered workstations, and it is at the patron's discretion whether they use those or not, and where children are not limited to those filtered workstations. . . would be acceptable within the Library Bill of Rights?" asked councilor Ronnie Budge. It would, said Conable. "The key is the ability of anyone of any age to use an unfiltered terminal in the library," Symons added. Association for Library Service to Children councilor Eliza Dresang urged passage of the resolution, saying that "the CDA was not fought only for adults, it was fought for children too." The vote carried easily.
June Pinnell-Stephens, president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, presented highlights of the decision (CD#22.1). Responding to questions about the prudence of spending so much ALA and foundation money on the suit when it's possible that the ACLU might have done all the legal work at no cost to ALA, she said, "By filing our own suit, we were able to put forward the most credible plaintiff - us - and to target the aspects most important to our interests, restriction of protected speech for adults. …