Thanks so very much for joining the ALA Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) during this scary period. We trust that you are staying safe. We’d like to share with you the many opportunities for you to get involved with SRRT, as we work to establish progressive priorities for the American Library Association and profession as a whole, and strive to make ALA more democratic. We work towards these ends largely through SRRT’s governing body, its Action Council, and issue-driven task forces. SRRT is ALA’s largest round table, with 1871 members.[now 1972 as of November 2020, AK]
One aspect of our work is bringing important speakers to ALA. SRRT has consistently brought great speakers to conferences over the years. This year’s June ALA Annual Conference was entirely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we presented a great "Afternoon of Social Justice." The three panels were on "Native American Treaty Rights in the Time of COVID-19;" "Democracy in the Time of COVID-19;" and "Herstory through Activism: Women, Libraries, and Activism.” The recordings are available on the ALA YouTube channel.
SRRT’s 50th Anniversary Celebration featuring well-known author Phyllis Bennis was a great success at the 2019 Annual ALA Conference in Washington, DC. Phyllis Bennis' talk was on “War Dangers Rising: Trump Foreign Policy & Lack Thereof.” We had an enjoyable, educational, and motivating night. For the 2019 Annual Conference, the SRRT International Responsibilities Round Table brought well-known journalist, author, and scholar, Stephen Kinzer, who spoke on “Subverting Other Peoples’ Elections: History and Resources.” We also had a packed panel on Libraries and Hate Speech. And SRRT sponsored a talk by Mosab Abu Toha on January 25th at the 2020 Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. He is the founder and director of the Edward Said Public Library in Gaza, and his talk is titled “Between Despair and Hope.”
SRRT, the Sustainability Round Table, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), and the American Indian Library Association (AILA) brought Bill McKibben to the 2017 ALA annual meeting in Chicago. The 500 person room was packed, and Bill gave a rousing and very informative talk. McKibben is the founder of 350.org, and one of our most dynamic activist environmentalists. Other speakers have included Daniel Ellsberg (2011) and more recently Glenn Greenwald (2015, by Skype) and Cornell West (2015).
As a follow-up to McKibben’s talk, we are succeeding in increasing the socially responsible investments in the ALA Endowment Fund and eliminating fossil fuel stocks. Last fall we sent out a compelling research report to the ALA Endowment Trustees. SRRT, the Sustainability Round Table, APALA, and AILA can take credit for the dramatic increase to 55.7% of the Fund now invested in Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) designated investments, and the dramatic decrease invested in energy (mostly fossil fuels), now less than 2% of the Endowment! We are continuing our efforts in directly addressing the Endowment Trustees and the ALA Treasurer.
The wonderful Martin Luther King Jr. Sunrise Celebration is held at every Midwinter Meeting in January. It is coordinated by SRRT’s Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Task Force in coordination with many other ALA bodies and affiliates. The theme of this year’s program was“’The Civil Rights Movement:’...tired of being segregated and humiliated; tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression.” The keynote was delivered by Dr, Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies and faculty associate in the Program in Law and Public Affairs and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of several titles, including Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry. Her latest, Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, was recently published by Beacon Press. Last year’s speaker in Seattle was Professor Jeanne Theoharis. Her most recent book, A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History, won the 2018 Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize for Nonfiction. There have been many distinguished speakers over the years, including Cornell West in Chicago in 2015.
The current task forces are:
- Feminist Task Force. FTF is one of SRRT's largest and most active groups, concerned with a broad, evolving set of feminist issues. It publishes the Women in Libraries newsletter.
- Hunger, Homelessness, and Poverty Task Force. HHPTF fosters greater awareness of the dimensions, causes, and ways to end hunger, homelessness and poverty. It works closely with the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services (ODLOS) and the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Task Force. Check out its blog.
- International Responsibilities Task Force. IRTF advocates socially responsible positions on issues of international library concern. Its website hosts alternative resources on international issues and U.S. foreign policy. For the past few years, it has been working closely with the Sustainability Round Table on divestment of fossil fuels from the ALA Endowment Fund.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Task Force. MLKTF supports and advances the observance of the MLK Jr. holiday as an American celebration, and hosts an annual Sunrise Celebration at ALA Midwinter Meetings. Some think it is the best program at ALA meetings. The task force works in close coordination with the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS), the ALA ethnic caucuses, the HHPTF, the Rainbow Round Table (formerly Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table), and the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA). MLKTF promotes programs that highlight the values espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr., including fairness, justice, equality and compassion.
Task forces develop ALA Annual Conference programming, and craft resolutions for submission to the ALA Council to try to influence Association policy. If you don’t see a task force on your area of interest, it only takes a small motivated group to establish a new one. The SRRT Action Council will facilitate that process. Please see the new SRRT website for more information on the task forces and all SRRT matters, http://www.ala.org/rt/srrt.
You may know that several SRRT task forces have developed into ALA round tables. These include the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT), Rainbow Round Table (RRT), and arguably the new Sustainability Round Table, which was preceded by a very active SRRT Task Force on the Environment.
SRRT keeps its members up to date on its activities through the SRRTAC-L discussion list, the srrtmem-l announcement list, and the SRRT Newsletter. The newsletter and its archives are online. We hope you will consider actively working with us to make a difference in ALA and the profession. We hope to see you at the All Task Force Meeting and/or Action Council meetings at the Midwinter or Annual conferences. If you would like more information, please contact anyone on the SRRT Membership Committee.
In these times of crisis, we need to grow SRRT more than ever to be a stronger voice for progressive change within our profession.
SRRT Membership Committee
Gary Colmenar, Mark Hudson, Al Kagan (Chair), Tom Twiss