Years ago when I was a library student, several of the older veteran bookmen told me they weren't members of the American Library Association (ALA) and strongly disapproved of it because it involved itself in things that had nothing to do with librarianship and catered toward fringe elements within in.
Times haven't changed at all. At this year's ALA annual conference in Washington, DC, one of the marquee events will be a forum entitled: "Should ALA Take a Stand on the War in Iraq and Other Non-Library Issues?" Aren't you just dying to know what librarians of the ALA variety think of the war in Iraq? Don't you think Congress and the White House are wringing their collective hands and pacing their collective floors wondering what that verdict might be?
ALA became over-politicized a long, long time ago. I imagine it occurred alongside the cultural shifts brought about in the 1960s. Radicals have embedded themselves in ALA and it is now a left-wing association far removed from the political mainstream of America--and of course, it shouldn't be overtly political at all.
The person arguing "for" ALA participating in non-library issues is Michael Gorman, the notorious ex-president of ALA. This is significant. Gorman is a Luddite who has disparaged such groups as bloggers and internet surfers.
The radical left librarians are in the profession primarily to spend their time advocating for non-library issues. They are here because no one else would take them. That's why I call such people "fake librarians." Their first impulse is to spend their time and effort on non-library matters. Such as politics. Social work. "Causes" such as global warming, world poverty, and the like. Library problems don't interest them. Library trends, especially those involving the latest technology, leave them cold and fearful.
Library Science is alright with them; Information Science (IS) isn't. I believe there is great fear among the political fringe elements regarding IS, and the reason is that expertise in IS tends to elbow out the political radical mind, which has no interest or aptitude for it. The greater IS is integrated into librarianship, the greater the threat to the extremists. It will eventually destroy them. That's why I see IS as the savior of Library Science, because it will upgrade the library profession in terms of the average required skill level, it will upgrade the quality of students who enter the profession, salaries will rise, and the fringe elements will be pushed out and will be forced to migrate elsewhere.
The social workers masquerading as librarians want ALA to spend its time on worthless, pointless, embarrassing resolutions on issues like Iraq precisely because it has nothing to do with libraries--that's the point, that's their point. They don't understand, or care, that such proclamations erode the reputation of librarians in the eyes of Congress and others.
I met several academic librarians at the recent Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference in Denver. I wondered why they joined SLA as I thought most academic librarians were in ALA, and their response was that ALA didn't have much for them. They agreed with me that the ALA conference program had little of interest to them or to most other librarians.
I haven't been to the ALA conference for several years, but it's in DC and I'm in DC so I'll go and see the carnival this time, despite the strange program. Of course, there will be the usual Democratic Party stars in force--Bill Bradley and a Kennedy. Wouldn't be ALA circa 2007 without that, would it.