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Sunday
Oct092005

Is AASL Sexist?

Yesterday’s closing session of the AASL conference featured “a panel of leading figures in the school library media field” - a statement that would be difficult to dispute. Steve Baule, Keith Curry Lance, Mike Eisenberg, Ross Todd, and Ferdi Serim are all well known and respected for their writings, research, and vision by most of us in the profession. And they are all MAWGs – Middle Age White Guys.

Hmmm, a strange demographic representing an organization and a field in which about 98% of the practitioners are smart, if not brilliant, women.

One can’t help but wonder if there is, ironically, and underlying sexism present in the choice of panelists when there was not even a “token” woman participating in the discussion, especially when there are so many gender-superior leaders in the field from whom to choose. Where were Joyce Valenza, Debbie Abilock, Barbara Stripling, Alice Yucht, Carol Kulthau, Toni Buzzeo, Carol Simpson, or any of the other dozens of women who are as widely published and visionary as the “guys” chosen to share their views?

Perhaps there is another, more subtle discrimination at hand as well. There was not a practicing librarian on stage. OK, the topic was “the latest research on student achievement and how school library media specialists can use it.” But wouldn’t you think that somebody from the trenches sharing how she has actually put the research into use or practice would have been of value to an audience of people who need to do this?

For a good old girls club, AASL is sending some pretty strange messages. Men have cred; women don’t. Academics are worth listening to; the practitioner ain’t.

Or, maybe the strategy was that a female audience would just like to see a bunch of hunky guys up there on stage.

Your thoughts?

 ______________________

5 Comments »
I agree - I thought it very odd that it was so male dominated, given that probably 90-95% of conference attendees were women. I was a little disappointed with the final session, to be honest - it was something of an anti-climax…

Comment by Claire — October 9, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

I agree. I missed the last program and, hearing that, I’m glad.

Comment by Faith Williams — October 9, 2005 @ 5:35 pm

I can see why each of the men were included; they each had a part of the “pie” that was our dessert after a many-coursed meal of a conference, but it was stunning to see a panel of all men walk up onto the stage. Before the program, I had read their names and looked forward to hearing from each but was really taken aback by the visual effect of having an all male panel. After all, I had just participated in workshops led by so many very intelligent women. Sitting with Joyce Valenza, Francey Harris, Debbie Abbilock and Doug Achterman, I was heartened (but not surprised; Doug is very astute) that he turned to me before the women did and expressed his immediate shock. And I’m also not surprised that you felt that way, too, Doug. Whew!

Comment by Sara — October 9, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

How about, in addition to the women mentioned, a panel with Vi Harada? Or Gail Dickinson? Just browse the AASL blog and names pop out at you.

Comment by Sara — October 9, 2005 @ 6:09 pm

Two thoughts:
1. Since the topic was *research* and the impact of school library programs, surely some of these names could/should have been on that panel: Carol Gordon, Susan Ballard, Jody Howard, Su Eckhardt, Annette Lamb, Connie Champlin, Nancy Miller, Nancy Everhardt, Marjorie Pappa, Hilda Weisburg, Diane Chen, Pam Berger …. and that’s just for starters!

2. Why do TPTB *end* the conference with such academic programs? Why not end with a rousing motivational pep-rally type program that sends us all back to work revved up and ready to do great things, rather than snoring through more serious speeches of sonorous statistics? We need cheerleaders, not suits up there!

Comment by Alice Yucht — October 9, 2005 @ 10:42 pm

Saturday
Oct082005

The Ethical Conference Attendee

Sometime during my library school days, I am sure I was introduced to the issue of being an ethical librarian. I’m sure I learned what I needed to know for the test. Administrators for whom I worked have never seemed to overly scrutinize my professional ethics as a librarian, nor were professional ethics ever topmost in my thoughts as I was struggling to run a program.

Had it not been for a series of editorials by Lillian Gerhardt (1990, 1991) that appeared in School Library Journal, I don’t think that I would have remembered that there is a code of ethics for librarians.

In these editorials, Gerhardt interpreted the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association in its application to the practice of school librarianship and service to children. This business of right and wrong was clarified, and she asked me to think about these issues in my daily work.

Whenever I attend a professional conference, I ruminate about ALA Library Code of Ethics Statement VI: We do not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions.

In a school setting, I never get much chance to violate this sixth standard. I’ve never been offered a huge sum of cash or an exotic vacation in exchange for purchasing a grossly inferior encyclopedia instead of the World Book or Groliers. Probably just as well.

But Gerhardt in her comments on this statement also asks if accepting vendor purchased meals at conferences or adding vacation days to out-of-town conferences violates this ethical standard. What about skipping a conference session to attend a “shopping event?” Ever go on a conference tour that had only a marginal connection to your job? How about partying so late at night, you miss (or can’t focus) on the first session in the morning.

These infractions seem to be small potatoes in a world of political “contributions” and school boards being wined-and-dined in luxurious settings by big technology companies, but if your school district is paying your conference expenses and considers your days at the conference as paid contract days, a person ought to think about whether s/he is making the most of a conference.

I am keenly aware that anyone who writes about or advocates for high standards of professional ethics is held to those standards themselves (dammit). And yes, you may have seen me sipping a glass of wine or eating a meal provided by a vendor. I hope, at least, I had a guilty look on my face.

Where and how do you draw the line about free meals or free time at conferences? I need guidance!

__________________

2 Comments »
Hi Doug,
Earlier this year, the vendor who won the bid for two Opening Day Collections in our system invited the two librarians and our supervisor to see their operations in a mid-western state. The vendor paid for everything–hotel, limo rides, airfare, meals–and although this was set up completely after the contract was awarded, I still felt guilty for going. I felt more guilty when a friend/co-worker told me that she wouldn’t have gone, citing ethical reasons. Your post has me wondering about it and feeling guilty again.

I know this is a different situation than a conference, but I look at a conference the same way I do a regular work day–after my 7 1/2 hours of contract time, anything else I put in is extra. If I go overtime one day, can I take a little back the next? I think that at a conference, I can. Hope this doesn’t open the can of worms further!

Comment by Jann — October 9, 2005 @ 9:55 pm

Aha! I find aspects of the ethical debate everywhere in society. It even showed up in an earlier episode of ER regarding pharmaceutical companies. Makes you think! I have talked to vendors about this issue in the past when I told them I wasn’t a customer or wouldn’t allow a good meal to influence future spending. (Fortunately when your budget is cut in half, discretionary spending opportunities for unethical use disappear.) Vendors insist I am still welcome. My cynicism is always handy. Lately I have found myself selecting items from certain vendors that I can happily “share the brand.” FOr example, I love the NASA stuff that was at conference taking many things for my science teachers, but also asked ABC-CLIO for post-it notes since I no longer purchase them. If you ask at the end of the conference, many will gladly allow you to carry them home instead of them having to pack and ship. I haven’t bought post-it notes since Midwinter in Philadelphia. I was laughing about this once with a drug rep in a hospital elevator and he handed me some post-it notes to use which advertised an anti-anxiety med. Those I used with teachers!

Comment by Diane Chen — October 11, 2005 @ 8:44 pm

Friday
Oct072005

Letter from the Flat World Library Corporation

This post also appears as a "cleaned-up" column.

Judging by the plans I hear from vendors at this AASL conference, I wouldn’t be surprised to read this letter in the not too distant future…

October 7, 2007

Superintendent Dennis Wormwood
Left Overshoe Public Schools
Left Overshoe, MN 56034

Dear Superintendent Wormwood:

We at the Flat World Library Corporation can offer you a complete library program at a very attractive price.

For considerably less than you currently pay for your K-12 library program, we can provide a full range of library resources AND library expertise – all online.

For only pennies a day per student, FWLC will:

1. Provide a full range of reading materials (periodicals, picture books, fiction and non-fiction titles), videos and reference sources that are tailored to your state standards, your district’s curriculum and your digital textbook series. These resources are being continuously updated, and are available, of course, in a wide range of lexile ranges to support your differentiated instruction efforts. Our filters allow you to specify access only to the materials supporting your community’s views on issues ranging from abortion to gay rights to evolution. Select from “university community” to “small town Kansas” in your settings.

2. Provide ready reference services, student research help, readers’ advisory service, and curricular planning advice through our real-time connections (video, chat or e-mail) to our experts in Bangalore, India. These highly-qualified MLS certified professionals will be available 24/7 to both your staff and students from school or home. (Do you currently get service from your library staff outside of school hours, in the summer or on weekends?)

3. Allow teachers to submit student work for comment and assessment. Our staff will give each project a grade, check for plagiarism, and provide a report for each child to share with parents about the technology skill level of that student. We can even help your teachers design assignments and assessments so they are free to lecture.

Just think of the advantages:

- No musty books from the 1950’s cluttering your library shelves, driving up your insurance rates. No more lost or missing books. No gum under library desks.
- No library facilities. Turn that old library space into those badly needed special education classrooms.
- No annoying librarians who want more money for materials, support staff, and staff development (or a living wage and health insurance). Our highly-skilled Indian workers are delighted with their $5 per hour jobs!
- Your entire library program can be maintained by a single, semi-competent technician in your district.
- You can justify your district’s expensive, unpopular 1:1 computer/student initiative.
- No ugly book “challenges” since all materials have been “tailored” to your parents’ religious views.

Please read the attached study (scientifically-based research conducted by FWLC’s very own research department) that empirically demonstrates that the FWLC product can dramatically improve student performance where it counts - on high stakes tests. (FWLC has been approved by the DOE for Title II, III, IV, and IX funding – unlike traditional library materials and librarians.)

AND take advantage of our offer by December 31, and we will throw in absolutely free, 50 of MIT’s $100 laptops for families in your district that qualify for FRP meals! Act today!

Coming soon – special pricing for regional and state-wide purchases.


Sincerely,
Bob Screwtape,
President and CEO
Flat World Library Corporation
300 Gates Drive
Redmond WA
1-800-NO-BOOKS

Will you, as a librarian, be prepared when this letter appears in YOUR superintendent’s mailbox in the next couple years?

(Oh, and please don’t kill the messenger!)

________________________

4 Comments »
The only saving grace in such a future environment will be that the cost will be a big number - and maybe scare the small-minded buyer. But many decision-makers would go for it without consulting the media/tech folk — that’s the shame of our current situation.

I was very interested to see the Adolecsents Read! newsletter from New York Life Foundation efforts at revitalizing high school libraries. Results like this will have to be highlighted to make our decision-makers see there are other avenues.

Comment by KM Perry — October 8, 2005 @ 8:52 am

Speaking of big numbers… yesterday 9 colleagues and I went to an International Baccalaureate PYP promo at the state dept. of education. IBO staff claimed it was not a “silver bullet.” Have to admit it was a nice curriculum. Pricetag??: The number I’m hearing for 4 elementary schools in our small district is $1,500,000. Hmmmm. Our school board, and administraters are besides themselves to jump all over it. That IB school certification may not be a “silver bullet,” but the higher powers think it’s a panacea. They are hoping it will help market our schools, two of which didn’t make AYP. Hmmmm. (Hope the ditrict filter is set to “small town Kansas” so they can’t see this blog comment.)

Comment by John Dyer — October 8, 2005 @ 10:30 am

More Flat Libraries

Doug Johnson, library and technology guru, has been pondering the impact of the flattening of the world on school libraries. In the very interesting format of an advertising letter for an outsourcing takeover of a school library, Doug Johnson covers ma…

Trackback by Infomancy — October 8, 2005 @ 3:20 pm

Please take a look at Chris Harris’ comments on libraries in a flat world on his Infomancy website. Chris, you’re way ahead of me!

Libraries in a Flat World
Libraries in a Flat World II

On second thought, just put Infomancy in your RSS feed!

Doug