ALA day 3

What happened to day 2, you ask? Too much craziness! It is not often that your intrepid (okay, semi-intrepid) correspondent runs out of words, but it does happen. After a rich full day of Nancy Pearl, Siva Vaidhyanathan, gobs of incredibly cool bloggers (see subsequent entries on It’s all good for photos), and Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation, I made my way back to where I’m staying and collapsed on the sofa, muttering “can’t. . . talk. . . too. . . much. . . stuff. . . .”

I also spent the obligatory afternoon at the exhibits yesterday. They’re kind of frightening, and I have to say, kind of overrated. Imagine a football field or two full of elaborate displays that you know are just going to get taken down in a few days, goggly-eyed librarians walking around, jaws dropped, at the scannning machines (there are machines that will turn the pages of books and scan them, like some kind of weird robot reader), and every other minute someone trying to sell you something. I did get lots of posters for the children’s room at work, many many book catalogs that I probably don’t need, and a copy of A Matter of Opinion with a lovely inscription from Victor Navasky, who happened to be at The Nation booth at the time.

Today’s schedule:
8:30 “Classism in the Stacks” talk by Sandy Berman
11:30 ALA membership meeting II (I didn’t make it to I, but I’m happy to report that the end-the-damn-war now resolution passed–we’ll see if it makes it through ALA Council)
2-4 pm Radical Reference skills share
6-9 pm Free Speech Buffet (at Roosevelt University–all are welcome!)

I’ll post more about Saturday, yesterday, and today, at some point in the near but not immediate future.

ALA day 1: fostering civic engagement, part 1

I did make it to the panel on Fostering Civic Engagement this afternoon, put on by the Fostering Civic Engagement MIG (Member Interest Group–love those acronyms), which was excellent. Basically, it was all about how libraries and librarians can do things to encourage participatory democracy [SDS, of course, did not come up with the idea of participatory democracy, but they’re often given credit for the phrase, and in any case, a little Port Huron is good for you now and then].

Former ALA President Nancy Kranich kicked things off by talking about how different people have defined democracy and how FDR’s definition–that democracy is participation–is her favorite. Libraries, she noted, have an active role to play this kind of democracy: they are sources for information, they are civic spaces, and they are places where citizens can become literate. Rah rah!

Joan Durrance, of the University of Michigan School of Information, then discussed the need to create best practices for fostering civic engagement. “I’m the question lady; I’m not necessarily the answer lady,” she said, as she outlined many of the questions we might need to ask when thinking about these best practices. What are civic engagement information needs? How can/do libraries build community? How do they understand the context of civic engagement and people’s information needs? What differences does library civic engagement make?

Durrance listed some examples of libraries that have tried to answer some of these questions, and then she talked in more detail about the Hartford Public Library and “At the Table-ness.” When researchers interviewed people in the community about the HPL, what they heard over and over again was that the HPL was “at the table.” What did that mean? It means that librarians

  • attend and participate in community activities as part of their library jobs
  • network, network, network with people in the community
  • promote the library as a place for civic discussions

It sounds like the HPL librarians are a little like my grandmother. She’s lived in her town for over 50 years, and she knows–and takes the time to know–everybody. She knows not just the names of the mail carrier and the guy who picks of the recycling; she knows their whole life histories. Whenever she calls a store and speaks to someone on the phone, she asks whom she’s speaking to. She doesn’t get out and about as much as she used to, but when she does, she invariably runs into someone she knows from a political campaign she’s worked on. The result of all this? Well, a couple weeks ago our shower stopped draining properly. It was about 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. My grandmother called the plumber, and at 3:45 someone showed up with a toolbox and a snake, and about an hour later, we had a functioning shower again. That’s kind of what I mean about what being an active community member can get you.

Now, can you imagine a library where they hold weddings, proms, funerals, and the breaking of the fast of Ramadan? Well, the Salt Lake City Public Library is one. Residents think of it as their most trusted and most valued city agency (although snow removal was a clsoe second). Nancy Tressman talked about how they built their new library with the community in mind–and, in fact, quite literarally with the community–set into the library’s foundation are stones engraved with comments submitted by library patrons about the value of the library. “Our answer to how to be ‘at the table’ was to become the table.” For those of us not possessed of the resources to build a new library, though, she noted that becoming the table was something you could try to do even without a snazzy new building. On the whole, it was a very encouraging presentation.

I’ve just looked at the clock, and my time is running short, so I’ll post more about the panel after later. Now it’s off for caffeine and Radical Reference!

ALA day 1: illumination rounds

I’m back in the lobby of the Sheraton, putting my feet up and enjoying the free wi-fi, catching up on some blog reading, and generally basking in the librariany energy all around me.

Everybody and his sister is reporting on “Mining the Long Tail: Libraries, Amazoogle and Infinite Availability,” the OCLC symposium yesterday, which I did not go to as I had to work. Actually, I must admit, I am still a bit unclear about what the Long Tail is, but I am planning to read the original article sometime in the near future. In any case, here are a couple of reports:

After this sojourn, it’s off to find some caffeine and head to the Radical Reference meeting.

ALA day 1: HHPTF and standing in line

My conference experience so far:

I made it to the HHPTF meeting just fine. It might be a bit of a stretch to call it a meeting–it was just me and HHPTF reinstigator John Gehner (a recent graduate of Dominican by way of St. Kate’s up in the Twin Cities). We happily noted that the HHPTF statement “Are Libraries Criminalizing Poor People?” was reprinted in Public Libraries and mentioned as a resource in a recent article in Utne magazine [.pdf].

Not all the attention about the statement has been positive–a woman from Salt Lake City showed up to complain about what she perceived to be an attack on their libraries, which have instituted a “civility policy”. She actually talked just to the SRRT coordinator, who then gave us a rundown. I guess you have to be pretty upset about something to come to a meeting at 8 am. I hope we can talk to her, and to others who might have similar feelings, in a civilized manner.

I’m very excited about some of the work we have planned for the HHPTF, though, including a possible study of how libraries have implemented (or not) ALA Policy 61 (the “Poor People’s Policy”) in the 15 years since its adoption and a number of articles about how libraries can/do/should serve the poor and the homeless. If this sounds at all interesting, you should get involved–the Social Responsibilities Round Table (of which HHPTF is a subgroup) is free to join for student members of ALA–and, we recently learned, it’s the largest ALA round table, with about 1800 members, including Leslie Burger, ALA’s new president-elect. You could do worse.

After the meeting I meandered down to McCormick place via the Red Line and then a walk along Cermak Ave., which was in its own way educational. The Urban League of Chicago recently released a study about segregation in the city. Did you know that something like 75-80% of African-Americans in Chicago live in segregated neighborhoods? I heard the Urban League’s Paul Street talking about this on WBEZ the other day. He pointed out that when you drive around these segregated neighborhoods, you see a lot of differences, many of which I saw on Cermak: check-cashing places and payday loans instead of banks, liquor and convenience stores instead of grocery stores. All these things mean that it is more expensive to be poor than to be rich–and that’s something libraries and librarians (not to mention the general public) ought to think about.

After that brief dip into the real world, I entered the air-conditioned surrealness of McCormick Place, where I meant to go hear Nancy Pearl. At about 10:15, someone said they’d heard the talk had been postponed till tomorrow–which seemed likely, since nothing talk-like seemed to be happening 15 minutes past the announced starting time. So I went to get my badge holder and conference program, which was an adventure in misdirection, confusion, and waiting around of the sort only a gathering of 20,000 people can produce. By the time I got done with that, it was about 11 a.m., and I decided the smart thing would be to leave early for my next event and get some lunch on the way. I found the shuttle bus with no problems, got some food, and now I’m relaxing and enjoying the afore-mentioned free wi-fi until it’s time for Fostering Civic Engagement at 1:30.

I found free wi-fi!

in the lobby of the Sheraton! They also sell tampons in the women’s bathrooms for only a dime, so clearly these are people greatly concerned about services for poor people. . . well, it’s better than other hotels I’ve heard about, where wi-fi used to be free but is no more.

I’ll post the paltry reporting I’ve done so far this morning shortly.

ALA day 1

I am up at what my friend, I am afraid to say, refers to as the butt crack of dawn, breakfasting and getting ready to head down for my first day of the conference. Here’s what I’ve got slated:

8 am Homelessness, Hunger, & Poverty Task Force meeting
10 am Nancy Pearl
1:30 pm I’m still undecided, but the possibilities include Fostering Civic Engagement (always a good idea), Religion and Intellectual Freedom (can you have both? My seminarian friend says one of the speakers is great), Do Unions and Professional Organizations Belong in Libraries? (of course they do–but I’m curious to hear what the opposition says), or possibly Emergent Literacy: And Leave No Parent Behind, although that runs till 5:30, which would preclude going to. . .
2 pm YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (or Best Books for Young Adults)
4 pm ALA Membership Meeting (democracy at work!)
6:30 Radical Reference

All of this, of course, is subject to change.

Rumors about about the “wifi access at a discounted rate” for conference attendees. It’s either $25 for the weekend, or it’s $9.95/day, or both, or neither. In any case, either of these is out of my budget, so I won’t be blogging much directly from the conference, but I’ll try to post some updates this evening, or during the day if I stumble upon the conference’s Internet Cafe or some joint with free wifi.

For general reports on what’s going on, keep an eye on the Conference Reports over at the wiki–I’ll also index anything I do write up there.

I owe my soul to the Student Loan Corporation

Congressman George Miller (D-California), freedom-fighter, champion of the little guy, and the man whose office found that a Wal-Mart employing 200 people costs taxpayers $420,750/year in public assistance [.pdf], is providing us all with an opportunity to testify about the affordability of education–or lack thereof. Much, much more below, but act quickly–the hearing ends June 24.

Students and Parents Urged to Comment on College Affordability for Congressional Online Hearing

House Democrats launched an e-hearing on college affordability so that students and families can tell members of Congress their personal experiences about trying to pay for a higher education. The e-hearing, on the Committee Democrats’ web site, provides a forum for students and families to discuss student loans, tuition prices, and the pressures these put on their personal budgets and decisions about pursuing a higher education.

The e-hearing website is Students and parents are invited to provide testimony by writing to by June 24, 2005 . Democratic staff from the education committee will write and circulate to the public a report on the testimony provided, and enter it into the Congressional Record. Testimony should be limited to 500 words.

“Americans get to hear from Congress all the time – it’s time for Congress to hear from Americans,” said Representative George Miller, the senior Democrat on the education committee. “Democrats want to hear what families are experiencing as they deal with the cost of college. Learning firsthand what people are experiencing will make us better at identifying problems and creating solutions.”

**** **** **** **** ****

News – U.S. House of Representatives

Congressman George Miller, Ranking Member

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Tom Kiley or Daniel Weiss, 202-225-2095

Launch E-Hearing for Students & Parents to Testify about Paying for College

WASHINGTON , D.C. – To help the millions of students and families that are struggling to pay for college, House Democrats today announced far-reaching legislation to make college tuition and loans more affordable and to boost college scholarships.

Democrats also launched an e-hearing on college affordability so that students and families can tell members of Congress their personal experiences about trying to pay for a higher education.

“There has never been a more important time than right now to help students and families afford a higher education,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, who will introduce the legislation along with Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), the senior Democrat on the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.

The bill, the College Opportunity for All Act of 2005, would:

  • double the maximum value of the Pell scholarship;
  • provide incentives to public and private colleges to keep their tuition costs from rising too rapidly;
  • significantly reduce the costs on student loans;
  • ensure that more students who go on to college actually graduate from college; and,
  • eliminate the wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to pad banks’ profits when they should be used to help make college affordable.

“This legislation solves the dilemma we’ve put our students in by prioritizing grant aid over loans,” said Kildee. “Additionally, when a student is forced to take out loans to pay for college, this bill ensures they receive the lowest interest rate possible. This bill is good for students and their financial future.”

A number of policy decisions and economic trends have combined to make it more difficult for students to afford college. The Bush tax cuts of the last few years have led to federal budget cuts that, coupled with the recession four years ago, have seriously harmed state budgets. This has driven up tuition prices for the 75 percent of students who attend public colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, student loans have replaced scholarships as the primary source of federal student financial aid. Thirty years ago, scholarships comprised about three-quarters of total federal student aid, while loans comprised about 20 percent. This ratio has been reversed, so that today the typical graduate has nearly $20,000 in student loan debt, and 40 percent of graduates have unmanageable student loan loads.

“In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of students have foregone a college education because they can’t afford it. Qualified students have earned their right to a college education and all the opportunities that education brings,” said Miller.

Miller and Kildee also said that America ‘s standing in the world economy is threatened by the nation’s failure to make higher education a greater priority. “If we don’t prioritize an affordable college education, we are going to fall behind other world nations,” said Kildee. “Investment in our students, which this bill would accomplish, strengthens our economic and security positions in the world.”

The Miller-Kildee legislation aims to address these issues. It will also help boost college graduation rates, since today only about half of all students graduate from college within six years.

Miller and Kildee are urging students and parents to tell Congress about their experiences in trying to pay for college. Today, they are launching an e-hearing on the Committee Democrats’ web site to provide a forum for students and families to discuss student loans, tuition prices, and the pressures these put on their personal budgets and decisions about pursuing a higher education. This is the second e-hearing by the Committee Democrats; the first e-hearing was on the collapse of United Airlines’ pension plans.

The e-hearing website is Students and parents are invited to provide testimony by writing to by June 21, 2005. Miller’s staff will write and circulate to the public a report on the testimony provided, and enter it into the Congressional Record. Testimony should be limited to 500 words.

“Americans get to hear from Congress all the time – it’s time for Congress to hear from Americans,” said Miller. “Democrats want to hear what families are experiencing as they deal with the cost of college. Learning firsthand what people are experiencing will make us better at identifying problems and creating solutions.”

The College Opportunity for All Act of 2005 will improve the system of higher education in the United States by:

Making tuition affordable:

  • Promotes affordable tuition by encouraging states to grow funds for higher education;
  • Provides incentives to public and private colleges to make tuition more affordable;
  • Ensures colleges curb costs – and tuition prices – through cost containment strategies; and
  • Gives students and families control by providing easy-to-understand information about college costs through accessible public disclosures.

Restoring America‘s commitment to providing scholarships for needy students:

  • Doubles the maximum Pell grant scholarship to $11,600; makes Pell available year-round.

Reducing costs associated with taking out a student loan:

  • Lowers the interest rate cap on college loans, saving the typical student up to $2,150;
  • Allows students to choose a fixed or variable rate on their consolidation loans-which will save the typical borrower more than $5,500 over the life of a loan;
  • Eliminates student borrower loan fees-saving the typical borrower more than $500;
  • Allows students stuck with high interest rates to refinance their loans and get lower rates;
  • Provides $17,500 in loan forgiveness to qualified teachers, nurses and child care providers; and
  • Permits student borrowers to choose with which lender to consolidate their loans, repealing the anti-consumer Single Lender Rule.

Strengthening America‘s commitment to minority and first-generation students:

  • Significantly increases the investment in minority serving institutions;
  • Establishes a competitive grant program to expand advanced degree opportunities at colleges that serve large portions of Latino students; and
  • Establishes ‘Centers of Excellence’ to enhance teacher preparation for minority students.

Boosting college access and participation:

  • Boosts college participation among veterans, low-income and minority students by nearly doubling the investment in the critical college outreach programs, TRIO and Gear Up;
  • Establishes a new initiative to significantly raise college graduation rates; and
  • Replaces the current 144 question application with a one-page E-Z form, and establishes a procedure to give students early estimates of their federal student aid eligibility.

Making students and taxpayers – not profitable banks – the highest priority:

  • Eliminates loopholes that allow banks in the federal student loan program to fleece taxpayers-for billions of dollars every year. The money saved from closing the loopholes will be dedicated towards increasing Pell grant scholarships for low and moderate income students.

Ellynne Bannon
House Education & the Workforce Committee
Democratic Staff
1107 Longworth House Office Building
Washington , D.C. 20515
(202) 226-2068 (p)

one more

Another book meme entry, this one from the Librarian in Black. Hey, have I mentioned [warning: shameless name-dropping ahead] that Marilynne Robinson was on my thesis committee when I got my last master’s degree? I have yet to read Gilead, but I’m looking forward to it.

In other literary news, the New Yorker is releasing an 8 DVD set of their entire 80-year archive. Great news for those of us who find their web site and general lack of indexing perplexing at best and damnable at worst. As Dominican students, we have the ability to search the magazine via a few databases–from 01/01/2002 to 7 days ago in Literature Resource Center, from 01/05/2004 to present in MAS Ultra – School Edition, from 12/27/1999 to present in LexisNexis Academic–but none go back more than a few years. At that point, you’re stuck with the good old Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature (remember that?), which only indexes some of the magazine’s articles.

I’ll be interested to see how libraries integrate the New Yorker DVD archive into their collections. Let me know if your library acquires it.

so much for summer vacation

We’re gearing up for summer reading at my library. Registration starts today; programs start next week. I have yet to try out my homemade silkscreen frame, borrow a portable outdoor fireplace, and find a speaker to talk about collecting comic books, but other than that, I’m set, I think.

It’s also crunch time for several other projects I’m involved in, most of them connected in some way to the ALA conference.

  • I’m helping organize the Free Speech Buffet, on Monday, June 27, from 6-9 pm at Roosevelt University (I don’t yet know what room). Stop by to check out some alternative Chicago-area publishers and periodicals. Free food from the Chicago Diner, cash bar.
  • I’m also working on an alternative guide to Chicago for Radical Reference.
  • I’d like to get my (other) web site spiffed up and running. I’ll tell you all about it when I do.

As a result, my posting here may be somewhat limited for the next couple weeks. I will, however, be blogging from the conference, and after that I’ve got a whole slew of new content planned, including a report on the meaning of “conditional accreditation” and some interviews with Dominican/Rosary grads doing cool things in the larger library world.

In the meantime, allow me to direct your attention to the growing list of blogs and other things with RSS feeds over on the right side of the screen, where you should find more than enough to keep you busy. Happy browsing!