What's Wrong With the ALA?

For this reason society requires that the education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention. Education is a great measurer, forms the moral characters of men and morals are the basis of government. Noah Webster (1758-1843)

The ALA began in 1876 as a reputable professional librarian association but has evolved into an arrogant, monopolistic, lobbying special-interest group. This organization controls the education of most librarians, an impressive part of the flow of public state moneys to local library systems, most book awards (which affect sales and promotion), and even the training of local library boards of trustees who are supposed to be representing the public.

Because of ALA lobbying size and power, they've succeeded in getting most states to treat their "Library Bill of Rights" as a legal extention of the First Amendment, which it's not. By the early 70's, the ALA had liberalized those rights even further to exclude "age" as a qualifier for library policy. The Fourth Edition INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM MANUAL includes the assumption "that intellectual freedom was an unalienable right and that age is not a morally relevant factor and that adults have themselves no right to determine for youth access to ideas."

The ALA not only seeks to influence the field of librarianship, but their official MANUAL OF PUBLIC POLICY POSITIONS states that their membership is expected to support the ERA, the concept of a nuclear freeze, gay rights, opposition to mandatary AIDS testing, national health insurance, and minors' access to sexual resources both in and out of the library. The ALA has even publicly lobbied against the Boy Scouts' policy of not allowing homosexuals to be Scout Masters. Further they threaten that any Masters of Library Science program "is in violation of [ALA] standards" if school policy includes any discrimination against homosexuality or other "lifestyles" or orientations.

The arrogance of ALA leaders toward citizens, or even their own members, who dare criticize them is one of many reasons why we find it difficult to label ALA-minded libraries "family friendly." Regardless of positive programs on monthly calendars, a tax-funded library abuses its public trust and brings shameful harm to its communities by:

Giving minors access to pornography and other age-inappropriate material without parental permission.

Refusing parental access to their minor children's borrowing records while charging those same parents for overdue, lost or damaged materials.

Encouraging one-sided collection building and displays on controversial subjects. (Like "Gay History" month.)

Neglecting core collections of historical works of research and literature while purchasing expensive pop culture mind polluters like Madonna's SEX book.

Emphasizing the distorted and negative Banned Books Week instead of patron generosity.

Calling concerned citizens "challengers" instead of "patrons" and forwarding their private data and complaint forms to ALA state and national databases without their permission.

ALA must replace these mean-spirited policies with real democratic community standards protecting children and respecting their parents. Until then, the FAMILY FRIENDLY LIBRARIES title will remain reserved for our organization and those few courageous public institutions who are willing to break away from mindless application of the infamous Library Bill of Rights and its hypocritical ALA twin, the Intellectual Freedom Manual.

*Judy Craft and Jennifer Toombs of Georgia Citizens for Family Friendly Libraries contributed to this article.

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