Report from the Oregon Library Association meeting & PLA conference

State Intellectual Freedom Committees

Oregon Library Association meeting

The historic Kells Irish Pub was the festive setting for the Oregon Library Association meeting in Portland last month.

I was honored to give a brief talk about my new position as the Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom.  I reiterated OIF’s commitment to working closely with such state organizations as the Intellectual Freedom Clearinghouse in Oregon.  I listened with great interest to the descriptions of the work done by the various award-winners.  It was gratifying to hear from Myrna Williams, who received OLA Honorary Lifetime membership for her work in libraries and for the state of Oregon.  Ms. Williams began her career as a community college student library assistant at Portland Community College, went on to serve on the Board for the Oregon State Library until her retirement last year, and has worked tirelessly to save library funding during the Great Recession.  It was also interesting to hear about the political scene from another award winner, Margaret Carter, who has been a state representative from Portland for multiple terms.  Both of these women are African-Americans.

It was also wonderful to see intellectual freedom stalwart Candy Morgan recognized for her recent well-deserved E.B. McNaughton Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU of Oregon!

I left feeling totally inspired and energized by what one state is doing for the cause of libraries–in spite of all the bad economic news.  OLA has formed a tight coalition with lobbyists, politicians, librarians, and the general public to advocate for libraries for lifelong learning and as community information centers.  As Oregon’s “Librarian of the Year” award-winner Mary Ginnane said in her acceptance speech:  “After all, it’s all about the user, isn’t it?”

Public Library Association conference

OIF staff and member leaders participated in a terrific session on privacy at the PLA conference, also in Portland. Joan Airoldi spoke of her experience at Whatcom County Library System when the FBI came to visit; Carolyn Caywood spoke of the terrific possibilities for libraries as locations in their communities of deliberative forums involving privacy (and other issues) — there’s a free upcoming online workshop for moderating such an event; and OIF staff discussed the legal state of privacy in libraries and resources for libraries to participate in the upcoming Choose Privacy Week, May 2-8, 2010.

Other highlights of the PLA conference included a session on social software policy pitfalls, including ensuring First Amendment compliance; a number of programs on sustaining libraries during difficult financial times; and the closing general session featuring the delightful Sarah Vowell.  Her take, as a popular historian, on the Texas textbook situation was interesting — she noted that the great thing about libraries is that they provide information from all perspectives.  Despite the whims of political bodies or advocates of all political stripes, Vowell said, libraries are where you can go to discover what really happened.

Portland itself proved to be a fantastic host.  Kudos to PLA for a job well done!

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