Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

Source: peterdaou.com

This week the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) called upon the American Library Association to move its 2016 Annual Meeting from Orlando, FL to another venue due to racist and discriminatory laws in Florida like “Stand Your Ground”. I stand with the BCALA 100% and call upon the ALA to look for other venues for the 2016 Annual Meeting. While I think that BCALA’s call for action is a good start, I’d also like to bring attention to another area where ALA is breaking its own policies and call upon ALA to reconsider other future conference venues because of it.

In 2011, ALA Council passed legislation that was encoded in the ALA Policy Manual at A.7.1.1 “Non-Discrimination in Conference Contracts” (emphasis mine):

There shall be no discrimination, including that based on race, origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, creed or disability, in the use of any facilities used by the American Library Association. This policy shall become a part of ALA contracts for the use of space. The ALA will avoid entering, whenever possible, into convention center contracts with organizations and legal bodies in cities, counties, or states that by law discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. ALA will provide materials for promoting sensitivity to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression for all employees on the floor of each convention center, including employees of companies to which the convention center has contracted for services on the floor of the convention.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the following states do not discriminate against LGBT people:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Based on this policy, the following upcoming conferences are in violation of this policy, at the present time, and should at least receive serious reconsideration for alternate venues:

  • 2016 Annual Conference, Orlando, FL: June 23-28, 2016
  • 2017 Midwinter Meeting, Atlanta, GA: January 20-24, 2017
  • 2018 Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA: June 21-26, 2018
  • 2020 Midwinter Meeting, Philadelphia, PA: January 17-21, 2020
  • 2021 Midwinter Meeting, Indianapolis, IN: January 22-26, 2021

The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA fought hard to get this policy approved and codified into the ALA, and we have advocated for years for conference venues in states that include LGBT people in anti-discrimination policies. Discrimination against the LGBT community is a pervasive issue and can effect employment, housing, benefits, and a whole host of other civil rights that are being denied to LGBT people in these states without LGBT anti-discrimination laws.

I suspect that many LGBT members of the ALA stand with BCALA on the issue of moving the Orlando conference to another venue. After all, according to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.” I call upon BCALA, other ethnic caucuses and groups within ALA, and any ALA members who care about social justice to stand with me and expand the call to move the Orlando conference to allĀ conference venues located in states that do not have protections from discrimination for LGBT people. Together we form a much stronger coalition for change in the Association and the attainment of important social justice goals. Let’s really put our money where our mouth (and our policies) are.

About Matthew Ciszek

Librarian and scholar at Penn State University, diversity advocate, LGBTQ activist, partner to Michael Wachter, parent to a mini schnauzer and all around nice guy!

Posted on March 14, 2014, in Diversity, Librarianship, Profession and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. George Zimmerman was found innocent. His trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter ended in acquittal. Some librarians believe in our justice system. Let’s support them too.

  2. While I like this idea and believe that the organization should remain consistent in its beliefs (and do what it says its going to do), removing conferences from these locations effectively removes the South and the Southwest from conference participation. I realize that it sends a statement to these states, but it also send a message to the librarians working in those states that their state is backwards and not good enough for the organization as a whole to support. I live and work in Georgia, and it’s just hard to see that with these cancellations, my closest place an ALA convention could be held is D.C…800 miles (about 30% of the country) from my home.

    • Yes, I am conflicted by this as well. I live in Ohio and work in Pennsylvania, both states without anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people. As a gay man, I have lobbied legislators on both sides of the state line to pass this type of legislation for many years. I realize that moving conferences has some real life consequences for both attendees and the association at large. I am simply seeking to raise awareness on this issue and use it as a tool for librarians in the South and Southwest to lobby their legislatures for similar legislation.

    • I think following out own policies and not actively endangering some of our colleagues (because Stand Your Ground is dangerous) is more important than drivable conferences for everyone.
      I may be biased, since, although I am a US citizen and resident, ALA never has a conference closer than 1000 miles from me.

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