ALA President presents Gatekeepers of the Information Age: From Safety Net to Springboard at Conference

Contact:Larra Clark/Paige Wasson


For Immediate Release

June 6, 2002

ALA President presents "Gatekeepers of the Information Age: From Safety Net to Springboard" at Conference

Join American Library Association (ALA) President John W. Berry for a provocative discussion about librarians, equity and service at the ALA President's Program, to be held on Sunday, June 16, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Georgia World Congress Center Auditorium during the ALA Annual Conference in Atlanta. The program, "Gatekeepers of the Information Age: From Safety Net to Springboard," is the third in a series of conversations about the role of librarians as "gatekeepers" initiated by Berry during his term as ALA President.

The program will challenge librarians to move from the concept of libraries as a safety net to that of a springboard in addressing equity issues with the unserved and the underserved. Sparking the discussion will be lead speaker Robert Wedgeworth of Laubach Literacy International. Wedgeworth will present the equity issues within the context of literacy and education, focusing on the "high touch," rather than the "high tech," aspect of equity.

Joining President Berry and Wedgeworth for the conversation will be Robert S. Martin, director of the Institute of Museums and Library Services; Toni Garvey, city librarian at the Phoenix (Arizona) Public Library and president of the Public Library Association (PLA); and Loriene Roy, professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at University of Texas at Austin and director of "If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything," a reading program for schools on or near reservations.

Wedgeworth brings 40 years experience as a librarian, library educator and association executive. He is a former ALA Executive Director (1972-85) and is a life member of the ALA, a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Board of Trustees of the Newberry Library and is now President of Laubach Literacy International, the nation's oldest and largest literacy advocacy organization. He also has conducted special studies of librarianship and the book trade in Western Europe, Latin America and South Africa. His publication, "Starvation of Young Black Minds: The Effects of the Book Boycotts in South Africa," written jointly with Lisa Drew, raised serious questions about curbing the free flow of information during the struggle to combat apartheid. More recently, he produced several studies of library development in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe for the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1998 and 2000.

At his Inaugural Banquet, Berry had a conversation with Thomas Jefferson, a "gatekeeper" of the 19th century, on libraries and the constitutional guarantees that still impact libraries today. During the ALA President's Program at the Midwinter Meeting in New Orleans, President Berry continued to explore gatekeeping in a conversation with technology policy experts Deborah Hurley, director of the Harvard Information Infrastructure Project, and James J. O'Donnell, vice provost for Information Systems and Computing at the University of Pennsylvania. This conversation focused on librarians as the "Gatekeepers of the Internet," examining how libraries can influence decisions relating to information policy, privacy and freedom of speech in electronic technology's new frontier.