Magazine article American Libraries

The First Lady and School Libraries

Magazine article American Libraries

The First Lady and School Libraries

Article excerpt

At the risk of being labeled an apologist for the Bush administration, I'd like to point out a few things in defense of the citation ALA presented to First Lady Laura Bush during National Library Week (see p. 8-10).

Some members of the Association's governing Council were indignant, claiming ALA had no business giving an "award" in their names that they had not approved. They blasted Laura Bush and said the Association was merely "sucking up" to the Bush administration.

Coincidentally, the New York Times even got into the spirit with an April 8 editorial saying that although the First Lady "has quietly supported greater federal spending on libraries and started a small foundation for libraries ... she would be doing a real service if she spoke out more forcefully to encourage states, local governments, and private donors to give libraries the resources they need."

The Times seems a little naive in not recognizing that it is the policies of President Bush's administration that are forcing more and more public services to compete with one another for a piece of the shrinking state, local, and private funding pie--policies that a good many voters seem to like. No Child Left Behind may raise the bar in education, but federal support can't compensate for dwindling local funding, resulting in the school library funding crisis that Mrs. Bush is being asked to tackle. However, to lobby voters about how to fund their local services would mean she'd have to encourage them to oppose her husband, wouldn't it?

Quiet, consistent advocacy

Instead of making a public spectacle of herself by opposing her husband, Laura Bush has "quietly" remained faithful to her professional agenda--libraries and education.

The fuss raised on the Council list over the "award" was quietly laid to rest when ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano pointed out that it was, in fact, not an award and that the Association has a long history of acknowledging the contributions of political figures, including First Ladies Rosalyn Carter and Barbara Bush and dozens of senators and representatives from both sides of the aisle. …

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