ALA day 1: HHPTF and standing in line

My conference experience so far:

I made it to the HHPTF meeting just fine. It might be a bit of a stretch to call it a meeting–it was just me and HHPTF reinstigator John Gehner (a recent graduate of Dominican by way of St. Kate’s up in the Twin Cities). We happily noted that the HHPTF statement “Are Libraries Criminalizing Poor People?” was reprinted in Public Libraries and mentioned as a resource in a recent article in Utne magazine [.pdf].

Not all the attention about the statement has been positive–a woman from Salt Lake City showed up to complain about what she perceived to be an attack on their libraries, which have instituted a “civility policy”. She actually talked just to the SRRT coordinator, who then gave us a rundown. I guess you have to be pretty upset about something to come to a meeting at 8 am. I hope we can talk to her, and to others who might have similar feelings, in a civilized manner.

I’m very excited about some of the work we have planned for the HHPTF, though, including a possible study of how libraries have implemented (or not) ALA Policy 61 (the “Poor People’s Policy”) in the 15 years since its adoption and a number of articles about how libraries can/do/should serve the poor and the homeless. If this sounds at all interesting, you should get involved–the Social Responsibilities Round Table (of which HHPTF is a subgroup) is free to join for student members of ALA–and, we recently learned, it’s the largest ALA round table, with about 1800 members, including Leslie Burger, ALA’s new president-elect. You could do worse.

After the meeting I meandered down to McCormick place via the Red Line and then a walk along Cermak Ave., which was in its own way educational. The Urban League of Chicago recently released a study about segregation in the city. Did you know that something like 75-80% of African-Americans in Chicago live in segregated neighborhoods? I heard the Urban League’s Paul Street talking about this on WBEZ the other day. He pointed out that when you drive around these segregated neighborhoods, you see a lot of differences, many of which I saw on Cermak: check-cashing places and payday loans instead of banks, liquor and convenience stores instead of grocery stores. All these things mean that it is more expensive to be poor than to be rich–and that’s something libraries and librarians (not to mention the general public) ought to think about.

After that brief dip into the real world, I entered the air-conditioned surrealness of McCormick Place, where I meant to go hear Nancy Pearl. At about 10:15, someone said they’d heard the talk had been postponed till tomorrow–which seemed likely, since nothing talk-like seemed to be happening 15 minutes past the announced starting time. So I went to get my badge holder and conference program, which was an adventure in misdirection, confusion, and waiting around of the sort only a gathering of 20,000 people can produce. By the time I got done with that, it was about 11 a.m., and I decided the smart thing would be to leave early for my next event and get some lunch on the way. I found the shuttle bus with no problems, got some food, and now I’m relaxing and enjoying the afore-mentioned free wi-fi until it’s time for Fostering Civic Engagement at 1:30.

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