Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: A Library Conference with Heart

Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: A Library Conference with Heart

Article excerpt

The American Library Association is a caring and compassionate professional organization. That's because its members are caring and compassionate people. In addition to being information professionals, librarians often pinch-hit on the job as educators, pro bono lawyers, medical advisors, psychologists, social workers, caregivers to people who are homeless, and protectors of children. Librarians have big hearts, and this fact is reflected in much of the socially conscious work that is done by ALA.

Proof positive of that big heart is the decision by ALA to hold its annual conference this month in the beleaguered city of New Orleans. Although many other organizations decided to move their conventions to other cities because of the damage Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the Crescent City, ALA held firm in its commitment to the people and businesses there.

A culture of compassion

Good deeds often have a way of being rewarded, and I have no doubt that the hospitality community of New Orleans will roll out the red carpet for the thousands of librarians attending the conference. It should be a memorable experience for all attendees. There is no other city in America with the unique feel of New Orleans.

The good people of New Orleans, however, will receive more than the travel dollars of librarians. They will also receive their caring and compassionate approach to life. For instance, this year's tour presented by ALA's Office for Diversity will be to some of the city's most damaged neighborhoods. Librarian volunteers will have the opportunity to help renovate the Nora Navra Branch Library, which was particularly hard hit by the hurricane (see p. 60). Alvar serves a varied clientele that reflects the wide diversity of the greater New Orleans metropolitan area. In addition, ALA's Katrina Relief Fund has raised more than $300,000 to help communities in the Gulf Coast region rebuild their public libraries (AL, Apr., p. 5).

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This outpouring of concern for the people of the Gulf Coast reflects an important aspect of the unique value of public libraries. While much has been written about the disappearance of libraries in the future because of the information that is being made available to everyone on the internet, it's important to remember that libraries have always served a much larger role in America than simply information storage and retrieval. …

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