I am glad that ALA took the time to go on the record about how damaging the decision to roll back net neutrality will be. Julie Todaro, ALA President, is quoted as saying
"Now that the Internet has become one of the primary mechanisms for delivering information, services and applications to the general public, and the primary means for doing business, it is especially important that commercial Internet Service Providers not be able to unilaterally control or manipulate the content of these communications. Those with information needs should not have to have their search delayed while companies with deeper pockets pay to have their content delivered first."And she's right. The rollback of net neutrality has far reaching implications for the work that librarians do.
What is baffling to me--and frankly extremely upsetting--is why ACRL is the only division named in this release. Why was it named at all? Or if it was to be named, why were other divisions and roundtables excluded from being named in the release?
Net neutrality is not just an issue for academic librarianship. It's an issue for public libraries, too. And it's not just an issue for people in research and instruction. It's an issue for people involved in the building, describing, and preservation of digital content. And it's certainly an issue for the library technologists among us.
Let me be clear on my position: net neutrality is an issue that touches each and every division and roundtable within the American Library Association.
Let me also be clear about this: the naming of ACRL in the release replicates the pattern I see happening within ALA. It is a problem to me--and I say this as a librarian working in a university library--that academic librarianship seems to have a larger voice than any other constituency within ALA. Yes, there are divisions that represent the interests of other constituencies, but it seems like while all divisions within ALA are equal, some divisions are more equal than others.
And to some extent, I get why academic librarians have a slightly louder voice. Academic libraries, generally speaking, have larger professional development budgets. And service in professional associations is often required for tenure & promotion.
But I also see places within ACRL where academic librarians are trying to replicate structures that already exist in other places within ALA. For example, ACRL has a Technical Services IG and there have been rumblings at various points in time about turning it into a Section. It seems inefficient at best and problematic at worst to create a home for Technical Services within ACRL when an entire division exists within ALA related to Technical Services work.
I think the unspoken truth--thought not always unspoken--is that ALA members believe that ACRL has a certain amount of prestige that other divisions do not.
Having said all of that, I do believe that ACRL is an important division within ALA. And division-specific releases are both appropriate and necessary in cases where an issue focuses on a single area of librarianship. But this isn't the case with net neutrality.
I would've preferred for the release to made at the ALA-level so that the entirety of the Association could've spoken with one voice on an issue that has the potential to impact our lives and the lives of those we serve so greatly. There is nothing in that statement that was inherent to academic librarianship and no one from ACRL leadership was quoted in the release. So why not make a statement on behalf of the entire Association and call it good? I mean, I don't imagine that the LITA Board is sitting around cheering the rollback of net neutrality.
I hope that other divisions will make statements on their on behalf to also express their opposition to the rollback of net neutrality. And I hope that ALA will think more in the future about how it looks to its membership when one division is elevated over others in cases where it's more appropriate to speak with one voice.