Proposed organizational changes for ACRL

Dear colleagues, the following appeared on an email discussion list to which I belong. I have done a fairly quick review of the links and info he provides and share some of his concerns. He gave me permission to repost his comments here for your information and our discussion.

“An ACRL announcement appeared this week in ALA Connect soliciting participation in a survey concerning reorganization of ACRL’s structure.  A proposal to disband the ACRL’s IFC appears on page 16 of “ACRL Proposed Division‐level Committee Structure with Charges and Disposition” (Revised: 11/21/2011) at Proposed Committee Structure chart.  No specific rationale is given.


Intellectual Freedom Committee


Disband at end of June 2012. Board

will appoint a Task Force as

needed. ACRL VP will appoint

representative to ALA Freedom to

Read Foundation and the ALA

Intellectual Freedom Committee.

I am deeply concerned about the implications for intellectual freedom (IF) in academic libraries if the ACRL IFC is disbanded.  It seems to me that while the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and Intellectual Freedom Committee do excellent work defending and advocating IF for ALA as a whole, there are areas within ALA such as ACRL that require their own groups to look after their ongoing interests.  After all IF is a core value of ACRL and explicitly affirmed in our strategic plan. Some long term interests simply cannont be addressed effectively by ad hoc, here today gone tomorrow task forces or interest groups.

If pressure on resources (staffing, time, money, etc.) is a reason from eliminating the ACRL IFC, it should be noted that OIF and the ALA IFC are under the same pressures.  Shifting ACRL IFC responsibilities to them is unlikely to be satisfactory. PLA tried it recently and quickly re-established their IFC.

Here are just a few reasons why ACRL needs to retain its IFC

–       ACRL members are faced with several IF issues that are of only peripheral interest to other ALA members.  In order for them to be adequately addressed academic librarians with the necessary experience and expertise will have to do the work.  Here are just a few examples:

  • The move from buying ownership      information to buying access to information (e.g. e-journals, e-books and      e-newspapers).  Consequences include the loss of the ability to      preserve the historical record contained in them.  Read 1984!       We are also seeing challenges to our control of access to information in      these publications (e.g. vendors changing to a per x number of uses model).
  • The practice of outsourcing data      services to third parties (external vendors) can threaten the privacy of      our readers.  For example, some e-book (and e-journal) vendors      require users to set up individual accounts to access books and then track      people’s use of each title.
  • The potential misuse of Institutional      Review Boards in the social science, arts and humanities resulting in a      stifling of research initiatives.

–       Reliance on interest groups or similar arrangements with their transient memberships and no direct link to the policy making structure of ACRL will most likely fail to provide the support necessary for a divisional core value.  The Public Library Association tried this approach recently and found it necessary to reconstitute their IFC.

–       When anything, especially a core value such IF, becomes the responsibility of all, it almost inevitably is owned by none –not because no one cares, but because no one has specific responsibility.  Someone else will take care of it.

If you share my concerns, please write to the ACRL Board which will be acting on this proposal shortly.  I especially encourage you to fill at the short survey at ACRL Division-level Committee Structure Proposal Survey.  There are comment boxes that will allow you to articulate specific concerns and issues.  It is my understanding that the results of the survey will heavily influence the Board’s decision.

Best wishes,


J. Douglas Archer

Past Chair, ALA IFC
Past Chair, ALA IFRT
Past Chair, Indiana Library Federation, IFC
ACRL member since 1980
Co-Chair, Peace and Justice Studies Association

Reference and Peace Studies Librarian

109 Hesburgh Library

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN  46556

574-631-6656 (V) | 574-631-8887 (F) |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *