Librarians Protest Against CIA Presence at ALA Annual Conference in D.C., Submit Resolution

Members of the Library Freedom Project and others protested the presence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who have a recruitment booth at the American Library Association's Annual Conference happening this week in Washington, D.C.

This year, on the exhibits floor at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., attendees will find the typical publisher booths, vendors, author signings, and pop-up events. They may also see a recruitment booth for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). On Friday afternoon, a group of librarians from Librarians for Democracy, including Alison Macrina, director of the Library Freedom Project, staged a protest against the CIA's presence at the conference.

Organizers from Librarians for Democracy protesting the CIA booth at ALA

Photo credit: Lisa Peet

In a statement handed out during the protest, the organizers explain that "The Central Intelligence Agency stands in direct opposition to our core values.... That is why today, we join those librarians who came before us as we stand up to oppose CIA recruitment at the ALA Annual Conference....The CIA has participated for decades in the violent overthrow of governments while propping up dictators all over the world. The CIA believes in absolute secrecy for itself, but total surveillance for all others. The CIA makes use of ultra-secretive 'black sites' to conduct torture and extrajudicial detention. We need not list their entire history to show that library workers should not be associated with them, that the CIA's actions are incompatible with the values of librarianship. In an era where democracy is in jeopardy, where the government and its agencies are under the control of a dangerous white supremacist regime, library workers must take a stand against undemocratic forces — particularly those as powerful as the CIA."

Organizers from Librarians for Democracy protesting the CIA booth at ALAThe statement goes on to say, "There are some who might read our demand and think that we are stifling the free speech of the CIA, but rejecting the influence of an incredibly powerful US intelligence agency is not censorship, it is resistance. As a voluntary membership organization embodying the values of librarianship, the American Library Association must work with vendors, exhibitors, and conference speakers who reflect our values. ALA must think about what this means."

Two of the organizers, Al Kagan, a professor of library administration at the Africana Library in Urbana, IL, and Tom Twiss, a librarian at the University of Pittsburgh, authored the resolution that will go before the ALA membership today, before proceeding to Council, reprinted below.




[photo credit: Alison Macrina]

Resolution on CIA Recruitment at ALA Meetings

Whereas, the American Library Association (ALA), has expressed “…its unswerving opposition
to any use of governmental prerogative which leads to the intimidation of the individual or the citizenry from the exercise of the constitutionally protected right of free expression” (ALA Resolution on Government Intimidation, February 2, 1973);

Whereas, the resolution noted above was reaffirmed on January 24, 2017 (Resolution on Access to Accurate Information, 2016-2017 ALA CD 19.10);

Whereas, the American Library Association has encouraged its members to resist “… improper uses of governmental power” (ALA Resolution on Government Intimidation, February 2, 1973);

Whereas, “ALA condemns the use or threat of use of torture by the US government as a barbarous violation of human rights, intellectual freedom and the rule of law” (A Resolution Against the Use of Torture as a Violation of the American Library Association's Basic Values, CD#59, June 30, 2004);

Whereas, the American Library Association opposes “…the use by government of disinformation, media manipulation, the destruction and excision of public information, and other such tactics” (ALA Council Resolution, June 29, 2005, 2004-2005 ALA CD#64);

Whereas, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has used all the methods described above in its work around the world; and

Whereas, the CIA continues to use many of the methods described above for manipulating foreign elections, overthrowing democratically elected governments, and generally interfering in the affairs of countries around the world; now,therefore be it

Resolved , that the American Library Association (ALA)

1. prohibits CIA recruitment at all ALA conferences and meetings.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Katherine Clipp

I am not sure why any person or entity, aside from a library system and its representatives, is allowed to "recruit" at a conference or meeting in the first place. At conferences, I look for information and innovations that may be used in direct service to customers and the profession. I look at what other library systems offer. And yes, I may learn of a new and interesting career opportunity. But this is not a job fair. I think the question is not whether the CIA is good or bad; the question is whether the CIA (or other outside entity) should have space to recruit at a library conference event. If the conference planners have guidelines about the purpose of an event and the relevance of exhibitors, vendors, and even speakers, these guidelines should be applied across the board....and prior to an event.

Posted : Jul 03, 2019 04:07

Carolynn Waites

I get why you are protesting, but I do not agree with the resolution or your method of protesting. I am not one who has a problem with salty language at all, but if you must resort to using it on a protest sign in order to insult someone, then I have no respect for your protest. Lowering yourself to the basest of insults undermines your message and shows a significant lack of maturity. We are librarians; we should be leading by example.

Posted : Jul 01, 2019 08:15

Donna Catron

Although I don't agree with the protesters, I don't have a an issue with the protest itself, but with the way it was done, as depicted in the pictures. It reflects poorly on ALA and the profession when protesters choose to use such amateurish and juvenile signs. The protesters did their cause no favors.

Posted : Jul 01, 2019 04:19

Michael Richter

Why was there no response in the article from CIA recruiters or Librarians at the CIA? As a Librarian it is my responsibility to provide resources to reflect both sides of an issue. Not just a one sided point of view, even and maybe especially if I disagree with the political or social outlook. We as a profession need to be more honest than any other in how we present information in order to remain the most trusted provider of information for our communities regardless of our own bias.

Posted : Jun 29, 2019 03:58

Dave Berry

The ALA is a professional organization, not a Political Action Committee. If the organizers of this protest wish to express their personal views, that is their right as private citizens. However, once they drag the ALA into it, they are claiming to speak for all librarians in this country--and, as an American librarian, I most definitely do not want them speaking for me.

Posted : Jun 29, 2019 05:24

Heather Allen

The CIA has long recruited and hired librarians. Such positions are good jobs with the federal government. We tell patrons who don't like books in our libraries that they are free to read other books. We tell people who protest programs such as drag queen storytimes that they are free to stay home. Likewise, librarians who don't want to work for the CIA are free not to apply there. But keeping interested librarians from applying for jobs with a solid employer at ALA Annual is not what ALA should be about.

Posted : Jun 25, 2019 10:04

David Cox

Even though the CIA might be seen as a group which, by surveillance, does examine life and privacy of others, they also have a special library division which assists both the inner CIA community and the public looking for materials. I am sure they could use some excellent librarians. I get the resolution, and also have a strong streak within me of questioning computer and digital information gathering and machine learning. They do have some activities, however, that are benign information gathering, as well as benign information providing. They had great Middle East, Africa, Asia (etc.) Maps when I have contacted them, and fine country information pages. I would imagine that for many if not most librarians working for the CIA (or the NSA, or DIA, or State Dept Intelligence) would not be considered nor sought after. They will not get many takers.

Posted : Jun 24, 2019 10:02

Felix Lighter

That's censorship and shame on them for acting like it's not. There are no "buts" in the freedom of expression in the Library Bill of Rights.

Posted : Jun 23, 2019 04:26

June Levasseur

I agree with Felix Lighter. We do not need you to protect us from the CIA's recruiting methods.

Posted : Jun 23, 2019 04:26

Darlene Morgan

I agree, Felix. It is most definitely censorship. People do not always have to agree with each other and being disrespectful in this way is unprofessional.

Posted : Jun 23, 2019 04:26



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing