This Year’s Annual Report

Why can’t annual reports be cool? Or at least interesting enough to actually read, watch, etc?

That’s what my library tries to do with ours, anyway. For the last two years, our annual report has been video-only. This year, we improved upon that a bit, and did three things:

Here’s our 2011 annual report, for those interested.

Why do this?

We have to create some type of annual report each year. And honestly … people mostly DON’T look at these. Sure, you can mail them to everyone. Print them out and place them in strategic locations in the library. Send them to parter organizations in your community.

But read them? Maybe some people will give it a cursory glance … and them toss it into the trash, like a greeting card.

With our video? There’s enough eye candy there for people to watch, and maybe learn something more about their library, and what their tax dollars are actually going to.

That’s the idea, anyway!

 

Bad Reporting and Weird Views about ALA

My wife passed this article from WorldMag.com along to me last night, and it irritated me. A lot. So I left a comment on the article (still awaiting moderation), and thought I’d share it here, too. Here’s my comment:

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I just read your article “The American Library Association’s social activism” by Emily Whitten. Emily seems to be a fine writer, but needs to brush up a bit on her research skills, as her article about the American Library Association is highly inaccurate at best.

Here are some examples of those inaccuracies:

Emily says this: “That sort of social activism was on display two weeks ago at the ALA’s annual conference in Anaheim, Calif., where best-selling author John Irving took the stage before the packed house. He was there to introduce his new novel, In One Person, in which one of the main characters, a transgender librarian, seduces a 13-year-old boy through the books she recommends to him … Such proselytizing isn’t new to the ALA.”

That makes it sound like 1. ALA had only one author talk, and 2. ALA is pushing certain philosophies to all members.

Simply innaccurate on both counts. There were over 300 author events at the conference (which I attended) – here’s a list from the ALA Conference Scheduler.

Two of those were book signings by authors from Zondervan Books, a Christian book publisher. Does that mean that ALA was also pushing a Christian agenda? No – obviously not.

Or how about this – I attended a talk by Fantasy author George R. R. Martin. Does that mean ALA was pushing some weird fantasy elfin agenda? Nope. With all these authors, it simply means that librarians, for some odd reason, are really interested in authors and their new books. Go figure.

Next HUGE inaccuracy: Emily says this: “But more disturbing than the content of the book were the reasons why Irving wrote it: The American Library Magazine reported Irving saying, “There could be one bisexual boy out there like Billy or a transsexual girl [like the librarian] who could be helped by reading the novel.”

Again, this is simply WRONG. Here’s a link to the article in question – and here’s the quote by Irving – “Irving’s son read the manuscript when he was 19, the author said, and told him later that even if people misconstrue the meaning of the book, it doesn’t matter, because there could be one bisexual boy out there like Billy or a transsexual girl (like another character in the book) who could be helped by reading the novel.”

So – Irving did not, in fact, say that, as Emily claimed. His son said it.

Next, Emily says this: “For instance, in conjunction with Gay Pride Month in June, the ALA put its weight behind a campaign to communicate to LGBT communities across the nation that “You belong @ your library.”

Again, WRONG. The You Belong @ Your Library campaign is the annual National Library Week slogan. It’s not about some agenda, other than raising awareness about libraries. Here’s what ALA says about this campaign: “Every day, people of all ages and backgrounds from rural, suburban and urban communities across the country turn to their libraries to find jobs or go online, to get help with homework or complex research projects, to start on a business plan, connect with their kids or simply find a space to relax.”

And one more whopper from Emily: “As for librarians who might feel that such a campaign is more about social activism than intellectual freedom, it’s unlikely you’ll hear from them. Library employees often must have the approval of their superiors—superiors who hold significant positions in the ALA—before they can speak with any member of the media.”

Really? This is so completely inaccurate, I’m not sure quite how to tackle this one. But I’ll try. OK. First of all, Emily is wrong about the ALA/library superiors thing. Sure, some library administrators are members of ALA. But certainly not all. And being a member (and being a library administrator) doesn’t mean that person also “holds a significant position in the ALA.” Those are voted for by members – you have to survive an election for them.

The other part of Emily’s statement is troubling too – sounds like she’s never worked at an organization before. Emily says this – “Library employees often must have the approval of their superiors … before they can speak with any member of the media.”

Well … um … yeah. Worldmag – do you let your entry-level employees talk to the media? This really depends on the individual library, and has nothing whatsoever to do with ALA. For example, at my library, we tell employees that if they are comfortable talking to the media, and know all the facts about said topic, that’s fine (but they need to tell our Communications Director it happened, too). If they don’t feel comfortable doing it, they refer the media person to our Communications Director. We send staff of all levels to a local weekly TV news show to report what’s happening at the library.

OK, so why am I dissecting Emily’s article? For a few reasons. First of all, it’s simply bad reporting at best. Emily obviously didn’t do her research, didn’t even read the research she DID do correctly (see the info about John Irving’s son above), and doesn’t know a thing about ALA, an association for libraries and librarians.

More importantly, on Wordmag’s About Us page, you guys say this about yourselves: “We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God’s perspective. We distinguish between issues on which the Bible is clear and those on which it isn’t. We also distinguish between journalism and propaganda: We’re not willing to lie because someone thinks it will help God’s cause. Our standards are just as high for the content presented at WORLDmag.com, where we offer an open forum for discussion of the news that arises at the intersection of religion and culture.”

You are NOT doing that. In Emily’s article anyway, Worldmag has NOT been factually accurate or objective, and, I think WAS willing to lie (again, see above) and push some weirdly inaccurate propaganda about libraries out to its readership.

Guys, as a Christian and as a librarian (who is a member of ALA), I’m embarrassed. It makes me wonder how accurate the rest of your “news stories” are.

Do better next time. Please.

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OK. There. I feel better. No, actually, I don’t!

Here’s the deal – I’ve heard this ALA Agenda/ALA controls libraries thing before – in other articles, and locally, too (from a conservative activist organization). And I know that’s simply not the case at all – so much not the case that it’s laughable at best. Simply not how ALA works.

But here’s my question – where in the world is this coming from? I think I know – politicians and activists of all stripes, when pushing their ideas (and I mean extreme right AND left here, guys – not picking on any one side), tend to stray off the path of truth to get their points across.

I guess it just really wigs me out when I see a Christian organization and a Christian writer do this. I know enough about the Bible, etc to know that bearing “false witness against your neighbor” (one of the 10 commandments) tends to be frowned upon. And that’s what I feel this article did. Under the auspices of accurate reporting.

Argh. Just argh.

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Update – to be fair, my comment is now posted, and Worldmag made a couple of corrections to the article (it’s still off, but at least a bit more accurate). So kudos to them for listening.

SXSWi2009: Digital Tsunami – Breaking News at Breakneck Speeds

Panelists:

Peter Imbres (Moderator) – Hill and Knowlton
Andy Carvin – NPR
Alex de Carvalho – StartPR
Christopher Barger, Director of Social Media, GM

hashtag is #diginami

Moderator (Imbres):

Started off talking about the recent Hudson River plane crash, and how the news of that and information about that broke first in online media like Twitter, Flickr, and Wikipedia WAY before it hit traditional media.

Alex de Carvalho:

Talking about Twitter and how news happens fast. Metioned the dude that was arrested in a different country and how he was able to get help quickly because he tweeted for help.

Not perfect – erroneous Amber alert was reported – some people don’t fact check

Vik Singh created a Rollyo search that mashed up rnews sources with twitter results for the topic

BreakingNewsOn – a twitter feed that’s grown to be a great breaking news source on twitter

instedd – a twitter feed for breaking news on disease outbreaks

Andy Carvin:

Giving background on his real-time news focus.

Andy was in Washington DC when the Pentagon was hit on 9/11

He created a 9/11 email discussion list – they were getting a TON of posts. Some of it was responses to things they were seeing and reporting stuff. Ex – he lives in the Foggy Bottom area of DC – he stood on his balcony and reported if he saw smoke or not then reported it

He started the Hurricane Information Center for news and help about hurricanes – they’re using wikis, blogs, online database data, etc and coordinating it all together

They used Ning for this.

Christopher Barger:

What happens if we get it wrong because we simply don’t know enough yet? You have to get your employees as much info as you can, as quickly as you can. Because it’s not just the marketing/PR types that share that info anymore – it can be anyone.

They decided to blog some info that wasn’t getting out into the news media – and the news picked it up and quoted from it.

Gave example of how a twitter user was angry with them and posted angry stuff. GM actually called her, they listened, and she ended up doing a very positive blog post saying “hey – they’re real people.” Great example of connecting with customers and listening.

You have to be able to do 1-on-1 communication now – even if you’re a big company.

Q&A:

GM says we need to do this 1-on-1 stuff – needs to be incorporated with everyone in the company. (question was why are you just changing now/does it need to be everyone in the company). Q says make the structure of the company more transparent. GM dude says we need to restructure the company (which they’re doing right now). They have to build that in to the restructure.

And I stopped typing the Q&A …