Once the Opening session got down to business, ALA President Jim Rettig took the stage. He mentioned a number of initiatives of this year’s show, including Friday’s Unconference, 10 Grassroots programs, and the Text an Ambassador Q&A service. He spoke fondly of Dr. E. J. Josey, who recently passed away, saying he “acted as librarians’ conscience.” Rettig also mentioned the launch of the “@yourlibrary” site for the public. Rettig bestowed a few awards, the most notable being recently deceased ALA champion Judith Krug being named an Honorary Member.
After this shorter-than-usual awards portion of the program, Rettig introduced the keynote speaker, Christie Hefner, who ran her father’s Playboy Enterprises for many years. Hefner opened by saying that Chicago is her hometown, and that she had worked with ALA and the Freedom to Read Foundation for years. She also mentioned Judith Krug, saying she was “blessed to have had her as a friend.”
Hefner then launched into her talk about how time has transformed brands, societal norms, women’s rights, the media, television, and more. She offered a few juicy facts, such as these:
- Today, there are more people working for woman-owned companies than for Fortune 500 companies.
- The top 10 jobs we’ll need in 5 years are jobs that probably didn’t exist 5 years ago.
As we know, “mass media” has transformed into “personal media.” And she asked, what does privacy mean in this new world, where information is being shared in ways that many people don’t even realize? Individual freedom, Hefner declared, needs to coexist with privacy.
I enjoyed one of her last statements about the ideals of freedom and privacy: They may not be universally applied, but they are universally aspired to.
When Hefner finished and Rettig dismissed the crowd, it was only 6:30. The session was scheduled to go until 7 p.m., and this was the first time I can recall it being over this early. I also noted the absence of lengthy award presentations and life retrospectives at the beginning, and the fact that this was the smallest crowd I can remember ever seeing at an Opening General Session. I’m not sure how much of this shift was by design. I wonder whether ALA might someday make this important but impersonal event more palatable by live-streaming it to headquarters hotels and posting it on its website. The big TV-type cameras are already there, filming it to project onto the huge screens so everyone can see the stage. IMHO, it wouldn’t hurt to let people who chose to somehow watch it from more comfortable surroundings. Maybe this would be another way to make mass media into personalized media.
Editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter