The American Library Association

Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship

(COSWL)  image

Midwinter 2000 Conference Minutes
January 15, 2000

Present: Danforth, DiMattia, Shah, Tobin, Watstein

Absent: Erikson, Freedman, Golian, Gollop, Seetoo, Starr, Swader, Thistlethewaite

Guests: Borck, Dickstein, Evans, Hook, Hovendick, Katz, Pas, Turender

Core Values

Due to the schedule of the presenter, Lois Winkel, ALA Core Values Task Force member, discussion of this agenda item was bumped to the beginning of the meeting. Winkel provided an overview of the work of the ALA Core Values Task Force. Members and guests were asked for their comments and Winkel offered to convey comments and suggestions back to the Task Force at their Tuesday evening meeting. The Core Values statement was drafted by the Task Force to meet the need for identification of the universal principles that "guide all types of librarians and information professionals." Values identified by the Task Force include: the connection of people to ideas; unfettered access to ideas; learning in all its contexts; freedom for all people to form, to hold, and to express their own beliefs; respect for the individual person ; preservation for the human record; interdependence among information professionals and agencies; and professionalism in service to these values. COSWL members and guests provided a broad range of feedback, ranging from conceptual ad philosophical comments to editorial suggestions. Copies of the memo to COSWL and draft core values statement were distributed at the meeting. [Copies are appended to these minutes for easy reference.]

Introductions and apologies

The Chair asked for those present to introduce themselves and provided background as to her appointment to COSWL. The Chair also apologized for having neglected her responsibilities as Chair during the fall due to a variety of professional circumstances outside of her control. The Chair expressed her commitment. To work with members to reenergize the Committee. Rosters were distributed for corrections. Revised rosters will be mailed with the Minutes.

Action Items: Overview

The Chair noted that several housekeeping matters need attention: appointment of Bibliography/ Clearinghouse Task Force members; posting of minutes; and maintenance of the Committee's web sites. The Chair also noted that she was not clear as to the status of either the Advancing Women in Library Leadership Subcommittee or the Research on Women's Issues Subcommittee.

Bibliography/Clearinghouse Task Force

Co-Chair Betsy Kruger was in attendance and provided an update as to the status of the work of this group, noting in particular the publication of the most recent volume two days prior - and two years after the Task Force stopped accumulating citations for the volume. Kruger noted that the Task Force is now 18 members strong. An updated roster has been prepared and Watstein will proceed with appointments as per ALA policy and procedures. Co-Chair Catherine Larsen was not in attendance.

[Appointments will be made by the Chair and confirmed by L. Swader. TF appointments differ from Committee appointments in terms of process, formality, terms, etc. TF members will be listed in the next edition of the Handbook; instructional information about the Handbook will be sent just prior to Annual.]


Watstein noted that current minutes are missing from the Committee's web site - Missing in action are minutes from 1999 Midwinter and the 1999 Annual Conferences. Former Chair, Theresa Tobin was present and committed to sending the minutes on for posting; preparation; preparation of these minutes is noted to have been her responsibility.

Web site

COSWL's web site facilitates access to a membership roster (needs updating); information on Committee infrastructure (Subcommittee[s]/Task Force[s]; minutes (1 year out of date); links to other ALA units (ACRL Women's Studies Section and Feminist Task Force); links to important women's sites; history about the Committee; and publications. The Chair noted the importance of updating these sites and the equal importance of overall appearance. Interest in working on either site maintenance or site enhancement was solicited. T. Tobin, COSWL Psat Chair noted that COSWL was the first ALA Committee to have a web site.

[In a phone call on February 24, 2000, L. Swader noted that ALA is responsible for loading coded information and that mebers generally perpare materials for posting (HTML etc.). She noted too that she is in the process of hiring a Communications Officer; this individual will provide a broad range of support to groups reporting through Swader's office.]

Advancing Women's Issues Subcommittee

Status: moribund (as per T. Tobin, COSWL Past Chair). Neither Chair nor members have been appointed. The charge will be reviewed by the full Committee at its Annual meeting.

It is noted for the minutes that we understand that the ACRL Women's Studies Section is in the process of forming an exploratory group that will focus on research. The intent here is to form a full-fledged official committee following Annual 2001.

Update from T. Tobin, COSWL Past Chair

Teresa Tobin provided an update and orientation as to the Committee's recent activities and initiatives. She began by reflecting on her observation that there is less energy on the current Committee than has been present in previous years, due perhaps to changes in membership, leadership, etc. The extent to which similar sea changes are being experienced by other women's groups within the organization was discussed. Tobin did note that one key exception within COSWL - the Bibliography/Clearinghouse Task Force. She described the Task Force as vibrant and active, and commended the TF for its work and contributions to the profession and beyond.. COSWL organized the Introduction to ALA Women's Groups at last year's Annual conference; Tobin noted that some 80 persons were in attendance. Other than introductions, discussion centered on two questions - what are the women's issues confronting ALA? And what can women's groups bring to the organization? Responsibility for this event rotates among women's groups in the ALA.

Tobin provided history and information relative to the Committee's position on American Libraries' decision not to post salary ranges. Council had, at one point, adopted a resolution requiring that such information be posted; this resolution was later rescinded. Tobin noted that women library workers benefit from posted ranges in salary negotiations. Members present noted the need for improved negotiating skills at all levels. There was some discussion as to COSWL's prior action commitments relative to this item, and as to possible next steps for COSWL. There was also discussion as to the need to and desirability of working collaboratively with other women's groups and other groups, such as the ACRL's Women's Studies Section, the Feminist Task Force, Pay Equity etc. Support was expressed to develop a program for Annual 2001 on negotiating skills. Questions were raised as to how much revenue American Libraries has lost due to institutions pulling ads or deciding not to post ads due to this change in policy. It was noted that AL is a separate legal entity from the ALA.

[In a conversation with L. Swader on February 24, 2000, she noted that she had spoken to L. Knieffel of American Libraries. She observed that the issue here is often less with individual library policies but with governing institutional policies. Kneiffel reports that, because of institutional policies with regard to salary postings, were AL to mandate salary ranges, the number of ads would likely decrease by 50%. As a result, information about positions would be less accessible to a broader range of individuals. Swader's office sends a letter to employers who choose not to list salary ranges. She also noted that this is done on behalf of her office, not on behalf of COSWL. Finally, she noted that the issue of salary ranges is both an intricate one, and one which surfaces periodically.]

Women's Issues: Still a Problem?

COSWL member DiMattia posed the question "Is there still a problem?" referringto whether or not there were still problems as concerns the status of women in the profession. It was suggested too that the charge be reviewed at Annual 2000; Past Chair Tobin reported that it was last reviewed in 1998.

A lively and provocative discussion ensued. Several observations were made, and questions raised:

  • COSWL has been "hidden" for years. The Committee has not helped itself by being inactive. Its credibility has been compromised (and/or damaged) by periodic inactivity.
  • There is a need to re-evalutate the focus of the Committee.
  • Is the current name of the Committee still reflective of what it is doing?
  • Is COSWL's mission still relevant?
  • What can we learn from COSWL's history - why was it established, what have the burning issues been, what is the status of these issues today?
  • Is there a crying need for COSWL at the present time?
  • What are the key issues facing women in the profession at this point in time?

Some members and guests present concurred that a "think piece" in American Libraries might spark interest, raise the visibility of women's issues, and re-energize the Committee. Others suggested posting some of these questions to one of the listservs, such as the Feminist Task Force listserv, to get a sense of what issues are of concern to women library workers today.