ALAO 2005 Keynote

I should have posted on this a bit sooner…

ALAO’s 2005 Conference was held in Columbus a little under two weeks ago. Scott Walter gave a short report about his experience attending ALAO over on ACRLog.

The keynote speaker was Joe Raiola from Mad Magazine. As Scott notes in his post, I agree that there were many academic librarians talking about Joe on their drive back to the four corners of Ohio. I had two co-workers in my car, and the keynote was the main topic for the 50 mile trip home. All of us felt uneasy with how the keynote was delivered.

I think Joe’s topic on censorship was a good choice for an academic library conference. However, I’m not so sure that his path to get to the point was the best for ALAO. The first part of his keynote was more like being at a comedy club than a conference. I also think he may have overestimated the “open-mindedness” of his audience.

The general consensus on the ride home was that we would have rather had ACRL President Dr. Camila Alire as the keynote speaker. She gave an excellent presentation at lunch, but she had to rush through it to keep the conference on schedule.

We’ll see how it goes next year…

4 thoughts on “ALAO 2005 Keynote”

  1. Hi, I just came across this while surfing the net and thought
    I’d respond.

    I always welcome comments about my program.

    I’d never spoken at an Academic Library Conference before
    and I had never had a speaking engagement the day before a
    theatre show — so my presentation at ALAO probably did have
    more the feel of comedy show than usual. Some, such as
    yourself, may have felt that my tone wasn’t well suited to
    your event. I hope that the majority of those in attendance
    found both the issues I raised and my take on them
    interesting and entertaining.

    In honesty, there was one part of your post that I found
    somewhat distrubing. Your wrote: “I also think he (Joe) may
    have overestimated the “open-mindedness” of his audience.”

    Are you suggesting that I erred in thinking that libriarians
    are opened minded? As I see it, it’s an essential part of a
    libriarian’s job to be open-minded. And in talking at
    countless conferences over the past 15 years I’ve found
    that with very few exceptions, they are.

    Closed-minded people, libriarians or not, are a drag to be
    around and a drag to perform for. I NEVER play to them because
    it’s a no-win situation. Also, given that my program revolves
    around core first ammendment issues, the last thing I want to
    do is censor myself in any way. Some people will be offended —
    so be it. I see it as my role to generate interest and
    dialogue, and hopefully to inspire at least a few people to
    consider things from a fresh perspective.

    I guess what I’m saying here is that if you’re right —
    that I “overestimated the open-mindedness of my audience”
    it’s a serious problem that ALAO needs to address.

    Best regards,

    Joe Raiola
    MAD, Senior Editor

  2. Thanks for the comment. Yes, there are closed-minded librarians. There are also closed minded teachers, lawyers, doctors, [insert occupation here]. I understand that it’s disturbing to think that some in our profession may not approach every situation with an open-mind, especially when we are suppose to be on-watch against censorship. However, I have read blog postings, articles, email list postings, and had conversations where the person [librarian] definitely had a “closed mind” point-of-view.

    This is not a problem for ALAO to resolve. It is the nature [or is it nurture?] of the person. I’m pretty sure that there are some librarians that hold conservative religious or political views that would not select materials dealing with controversial issues [same-sex marriage, stem cell research, etc.]. Or if they do select materials, they bias it to their or more likely the institution that employs them, point-of-view on that topic. It’s pretty telling to do a subject search in a library catalog on homosexuality or abortion and seeing what types of material that library owns and if they “lean” in one direction. Once again, this only gives the institutional point-of-view on a topic, which you would hope would be balanced…but in the end someone had to make that choice to buy/not buy that book, journal, CD, or DVD.

    The last part of your presentation was excellent. I think you lost some people at the beginning on your way to the point even though you gave an uber-disclaimer. Once a person tunes out, they are no longer engaged and you won’t be able help them see that “fresh perspective”.


  3. As an “open-minded” librarian, I very much enjoyed Joe Raiola’s keynote at ALAO. I found it to be a refreshing and entertaining presentation on a very important topic. However, given that I am both a young and new librarian, I have not yet had the opportunity to attend many conferences to see what other keynote addresses are like, so I really do not have a point of comparison.

    That said, I do see Andrew’s point. There are close-minded librarians. ALAO is an organization that includes a very wide range of academic libraries, from large universities to very liberal colleges to highly religious conservative institutions. As such, it is inevitable that a presentation such as this one would alienate some of its audience. As Andrew points out, there is a spectrum in every profession that ranges from extreme close-mindedness to extreme open-mindedness, and it is primarily a result of the nature/nuture of the individual.

    However, I do not see this alienation of the audience as Joe’s fault or problem or what have you. Rather it is ALAO’s issue. Given Joe’s “uber-disclaimer” at the conference, I have a feeling that he is very open about what his presentation will be like long before he actually gives it at the event. Therefore, the blame (if any is to be given) lies with ALAO for selecting Joe for the ALAO Keynote. I, for one, am glad they did, but I’m sure there are other ALAO librarians who are not.

  4. Thanks Kat for reframing the conversation from another perspective. My bias/preference would have been for the ACRL President to be the keynote speaker. I paid money to go to this conference which is the state affiliated organization to ACRL. How many times does the ACRL President attend ALAO? The ALAO conference team decided who would speak and in what order.

    Also, least I be judged as being a closed-minded librarian, let me disclose that in fact I am an open-minded librarian that trends liberal on social issues and liberal-to-moderate on fiscal issues. I do my best to select materials that present both sides of the issue, even though I have may own personal opinion on many topics that are near and dear to my own personal beliefs. I don’t do this because I was brainwashed at library school to do it. I do it, because it is the correct thing to do.

    At the same time, I am well aware that in our consortial hypermatrix [can we get that on a T-shirt?] that when I am serving on an OhioLINK or OPAL committee or attending a CBTF subject group meeting that the librarian sitting across the table from me my be closed-minded. I cannot automatically assume one way or the other. I don’t think anyone presenting to any group of librarians can ever assume that everyone in the room will be open-minded, which goes back to my original point.


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