Anti-harassment Policies and ALA Conferences

Three days before this year’s Annual Conference, I fielded a question Lisa Rabey tweeted to the Annual account asking if ALA has a code of conduct for its conferences. I verified with other staff that we didn’t have one, but knowing that this has come up a couple of times in the past, I connected Lisa with the current and incoming chairs of the ALA Conference Committee to discuss implementing one.

Then the topic exploded online in multiple discussions on a variety of channels (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), all of which I did my best to capture in a Storify. It’s available publicly for anyone who wants the background (please email me at jlevine [at] ala.org or tweet me @shifted if you know of a discussion I missed and I’ll add it).

We already knew we needed to formalize something, so discussions began after the Annual Conference, and that process continues. Staff (ALA Conference Services and Senior AED Mary Ghikas) and members (the ALA Conference Committee plus individuals who participated in the discussions online) are continuing to work on crafting a document. The intent is to have the Board approve the final language at its October meeting so that we can post it on both the Midwinter and Annual websites.

Why are we doing this? Although it’s true there’s concern that not having a code of conduct will hurt our ability to book potential speakers, the most important reason is that we want our attendees and speakers to know that our conferences are a safe place for them. Diversity and respect for others are core values of the Association and of our members, values we take very seriously. Now we’ll be noting that publicly and making the information readily available for anyone attending our conferences (note that any code ALA implements will also apply to division conferences).

I’ll post an update when there’s more to report, but you can also track announcements directly from the Conference Committee and the ALA Executive Board on ALA Connect. Just log in to the site, go to a group’s home page, and click on the “Follow this group” link underneath the group’s name. This will subscribe you to email notifications whenever the committee posts something new and marks it as “public.” You can even comment on any public content if you’re logged in to Connect in order to give feedback.

As I noted, this issue has come up before, but I want to thank Lisa Rabey and Andromeda Yelton for going the extra mile and volunteering to help with actual implementation this time. It’s when members step up and come together around an issue that good things happen.

Update:  The draft “Statement of Appropriate Conduct” was approved by the ALA Board at its October 2013 meeting and it now appears on ALA conference websites (see the Midwinter 2014 site for an example). Thank you again to everyone who helped make this happen!

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