I think I've already mentioned this, but believe it or not I will be attending ALA Annual in DC this weekend. There are several reasons why I'm going: proximity; some of the programs look interesting, especially Irshad Manji's appearance on Monday; and it's a good opportunity to see former co-workers and friends from library school, or at least the ones still willing to be seen in public with me. The main reason I'm attending, though, is because there have been some encouraging signs of change within ALA over the last year. The speakers' schedule is still packed with much of the usual liberal orthodoxy, but the idea that political stands are best left to the individual seems to be gaining some traction. I haven't rejoined, and don't plan to, but at least I'll be able to get a sense for whether things are really getting better.
As both Annoyed Librarian and Greg McClay point out, ALA's actually having a membership forum Saturday on the question of whether or not to address non-library issues. Unfortunately, neither of them is very optimistic about how the discussion will go, but just the fact that the issue is being raised is a positive development.
Both of their posts are worth reading, along with the user comments. I think Annoyed Librarian makes a good point when she differentiates between the Iraq war, on the one hand, and the Patriot Act. I have certainly criticized ALA Council's Iraq resolution based on its content. However, even in some bizarre alternate universe where most of council agreed with my views on Iraq, I still don't think this is an issue appropriate for a non-political professional organization.
On the other hand, I do not begrudge ALA for taking a position on the Patriot Act. It is directly relevant to libraries and intellectual freedom. My problem is that ALA's position on this legislation is unrealistic and absolutist, rooted in a worldview that treats the US government as the adversary while mostly ignoring the very real threat of jihadist terrorism.
Overall, I think the following quote Greg uses best reflects my position:
“If it isn’t something I would bring up at a staff meeting, a trustees meeting, or a town hall meeting when speaking for my library then its not something that should be brought up at ALA.”
My expectations are relatively low, but I'm still hoping that what I see this weekend will let me reexamine my view of ALA.