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June 23, 2006

Librarians push their call for impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 7:49 AM

In New Orleans, Seattle librarians are lobbying delegates at the American Library Association conference in the hopes of getting their call to impeach President Bush adopted as an official ALA policy.

If you read the comments in the post below you can see the debate between those who think this is an important stand for librarians to take and those who wonder what difference it could make and what, if anything, impeachment has to do with libraries.

I asked those questions of Lynn Lorenz, a Seattle librarian and member of the AFSCME local that adopted the resolution.

"Libraries don't exist in a bubble. As stated by the ALA, democracy is the core value of libraries and we're talking about unprecedented and sweeping changes by the Bush administration that, taken as whole, comprise a radical remaking of society, a society that will no longer be a democracy. ... Is it radical? It's actually what the majority of people in this country and the world would like to see. So we said it."

But in addition to seeing some special role that librarians play, Lorenz argues that more professionals should do the same.

"I think the political terrrain and the political discourse in this country would be very different if people from all walks of life, all professions, all organizations, were making strong statements that repudiate the political direction being led by the Bush administration. Right now, things are way too silent and people are beginning to get used to things they would've never found acceptable just a couple years ago. Those of us who voted in favor of the resolution want this to help break the silence and paralysis that are setting in. It's every citizen's responsibility to not conciliate with the Bush administration's crimes."
  The ALA has 65,000 members worldwide and about 18,000 expected in New Orleans, Larra Clark, the ALA's spokeswoman told me. She said it's not unusual for the ALA to consider political issues at its conferences.

"Our membership is very diverse, so there are many, many kinds of resolutions that are considered; literacy issues to school libraries, destruction of libraries in other countries, issues in the news," she said.

The group has adopted resolutions about propaganda and disinformation related the Iraq war and the Patriot Act at conferences earlier this year and in 2005.

There's a process the Seattle librarians have to follow to get their resolution debated before the ALA'a governing body. Lorenz, who is not attending the convention, said she thinks they have gotten support from members of the ALA council, which is necessary to get the issue introduced and debated. She said the ALA's Social Responsibilities Round Table is supportive and that other groups will be proposing similar resolutions that she hopes results in "one unified resolution calling for the impeachment or resignation of President Bush."

To see if librarians in New Orleans were talking about the Seattle librarians' campaign, I reached Jim Rettig, a veteran member of ALA and a research librarian at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

He has served 14 years on the ALA's council, which is the 180 or so member governing board that acts on resolutions. He says he hadn't heard much about the impeachment move but that librarians are really just starting to get to town.

The ALA is set up to foster debate and discussion, he said. "We truly are committed to freedom of speech and intellectual freedom. There's no hindrances to that within our governance structure."

He said the council has been "criticized by some groups as a tool for the left. But I'm completing my third term and I would describe most of its actions as very centrist." He also said the actions are rooted in the ALA's principles.

The librarians are split on their view of the president just like the rest of the country, he said, and there was no way to predict what would happen when business meetings get underway.

"I can't think of a good precedence for this to base a good guess on," he said.

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