Leaders Stick to Their Diversity Guns

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, August 1997 | Go to article overview

Leaders Stick to Their Diversity Guns


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


Tempers flared during the Annual Conference meetings (June 27, 30, and July 2) of the ALA Executive Board in San Francisco when the Association's endowment trustees questioned the use of endowment funds to pay for the Spectrum Initiative (EBD#12.12, #12.12.1), the new ALA program aimed at providing 150 minority students with scholarships in library education over the next three years (AL, June/July, p. 110).

Trustee Bernard Margolis said all the trustees "wholeheartedly endorse the concept of the Spectrum Initiative" but question the wisdom of financing it by "digging in as deeply as the proposal suggests into the endowment funds."

ALA Executive Director Elizabeth Martinez asserted that only interest and not principal would be touched. The discussion grew contentious over' the exact definition of "principal" and "interest," with Margolis maintaining that using the return jeopardizes the corpus of the fund. Margolis suggested that basic operating funds should be used instead to support at least the administrative costs of Spectrum.

Board members Charles Brown and Martin Gomez accused the trustees of trying to "create dissension" and undermine the entire project, accusations Margolis adamantly denied. After lengthy discussion, the board took no action but essentially dismissed the trustees' concerns.

During a report by Treasurer Bruce Daniels for the Finance and Audit Subcommittee (EBD#4) the board voted that if annual earnings are insufficient to support the Spectrum Initiative then a transfer of interest and dividends from ALA's Future Fund, Leo Albert Fund, and Louise Giles Fund earned in 1997 will be authorized to maintain full funding.

Benton focuses on tradition

"Everybody loves libraries," said Andrew Blau, a project director for the Benton Foundation, reporting on a recent set of focus groups Benton has conducted to measure public attitudes toward libraries (EBD#12.18). The foundation's earlier findings, published in Buildings, Books, and Bytes, had drawn conclusions that startled many in the library community and suggested the profession's leadership may see the future in ways quite different from the public.

Blau said the latest data indicates that there are three critical things to preserve as libraries move into a digital age: the library as a place for discovery, services for children, and the human touch. The Benton research will be used in an ALA communications campaign aimed at library users.

Connected in Washington

ALA Washington Office Executive Director Carol Henderson and Office for Information Technology Policy Director Andrew Magpantay updated the board (EBD#12.19, #12.20) on "A Nation Connected @ the Library" (originally "Library Cyberquilt"). Still under development, the project to create a nationwide digital public library of historical and government information is burgeoning "to somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million," said Magpantay. …

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