Progressive Librarians Guild
radical views on library & info issues

PLG Opposes ALA Award to Laura Bush


On April 10, 2005, the American Library Association launched National Library Week, during an event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library in Washington D.C., by publicly recognizing Mrs. Laura Bush's activities on behalf of libraries.

PLG voices opposition to this recognition on the following grounds:

1. The American Library Association is actively opposed to sections of the USA PATRIOT Act. Mrs. Bush has publicly stated her complete support for the USA PATRIOT Act.

Also, ALA has opposition to censorship as a foundational principle. Mrs. Bush has personally engaged in acts of censorship, (recall her cancellation of a White House poetry festival in 2003, which would have included anti-war poets). Additionally, Mrs. Bush publicly represents, first and foremost, her husband's administration, which is responsible for massive cuts in all spheres of public service. If some libraries have benefited somewhat during the present Bush administration, it has more to do with political publicity rather than public policy since, with Mrs. Bush, a former librarian, as an eager front-person, the Administration can put a media-friendly gloss on their overall anti-public services policies. Had Mrs. Bush been a park service ranger, for example, it is most likely that Bush administration beneficence would be directed toward the National Park Service, not to libraries.

2. Since the public is highly unlikely to know that this recognition was given in the absence of any discussion by ALA's governing body, and is also largely unlikely to separate the Mrs. Bush who supports the USA PATRIOT Act from the Mrs. Bush who supports libraries, the public perception created is that ALA endorses Mrs. Bush - period.

3. The granting of awards within ALA is conducted according to clearly delineated processes. Questions have been raised within the ALA Council, the organization's governing body, about the origin of the decision to give special recognition to Mrs. Bush, and how it was reached, since it was not the result of normal ALA processes and procedures.

In response, the ALA Executive Director, Keith Michael Fiels, has stated that the recognition given Mrs. Bush was referred to as a "citation" not as an "award." ALA has no policies governing the granting of "citations." Since public recognition to members of a current presidential administration is inherently politically charged, the issuing of this "citation" was certain to meet with the opposition that has developed among ALA's governing body. At this point, questions still remain as to how the decision was made. The most important question, of course, is whether or not the granting of special recognition to Mrs. Bush accurately reflected the will of ALA's nearly 65,000 membership.

4. ALA officials have said that Mrs. Bush was given special recognition for her support of funding for libraries. However, much of the increased funding is not available for most libraries because it comes in the form of competitive grants. While monies procured through such grants are much needed and greatly appreciated, this form of funding is highly inequitable from a number of perspectives - many librarians are unaware of these funding opportunities; many applications simply go unfunded for any number of reasons; and this piecemeal funding creates further inequities between libraries. Indeed, communities across the country are experiencing reductions in library services and even library closings at a time in which we are supposedly enjoying great support from the sitting administration.

5. PLG objects to the cynical view that it was a politically savvy move on ALA's part to give public recognition to Mrs. Bush. The behavior of the sycophant erodes the human spirit by silently, sometimes unconsciously, calling into question the inherent worthiness of the individual/group/community/endeavor, and serves to maintain unjust social hierarchies.

6. PLG views the April 10th event in Washington D.C. as a public relations effort performed by ALA on behalf of the Bush administration. If this administration has provided monies to libraries in this country, let us not forget that this is a small part of an ever-decreasing revenue stream for most public goods and services. Does not this gesture then act as a fig-leaf to cover a body of mean-spirited, destructive, failed policies and actions in both domestic and foreign arenas?

In issuing awards to Mrs. Bush, ALA becomes party to covering harsh, socially bankrupt policies, which are heartily endorsed by the First Lady. ALA does no good to anyone in providing this whitewash for a corrupt administration.

Approved by the PLG Coordinating Committee
April 27, 2005.