Tag Archives: ALOUD

Ken Brecher’s ALOUD “Explanation”

Monday, November 25, 2018

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-brecher-library-foundation-aloud-controversy-20181123-story.html

Mr. Kenneth Brecher has finally made a public statement about his recent decision to “change” the ALOUD program at the Los Angeles Public Library. In this statement, which can be found at the above link, he first attempts to demean the audience that has attended ALOUD events for the past fifteen years as “literati (who are) at the heart of a small sector of the writing community.” In contrast, Brecher presents himself and the Library Foundation as populists who want to reach an audience that reflects “the library system’s 470-square-mile service area.” Unfortunately, his statement does not distinguish between his own personal agenda and the responsibility of the Library Foundation to act in a manner that serves the common welfare of L.A.’s reading public. The first person singular and the first person plural are disconcertingly conflated in his argument:

“The truth is we at the Library Foundation are changing ALOUD, and we’re changing it because we must.”

“I decided to restructure the program and fold ALOUD into a bigger portfolio.”

“I regret that the Library Foundation hasn’t been more forthcoming about the reasons for changing ALOUD. We kept silent out of respect for the former ALOUD managers, whose valuable work created a signature program.”

To put it bluntly, forthcoming “truth” needs to be more explicit about Mr. Brecher’s decision (“I decided…”) and the role that the “we” at the Library Foundation played in arriving at his decision.

Mr. Brecher’s expresses “regret” for his delay in presenting reasons for the changes he implemented, but the lapse does not seem to have been used well. His reasons hardly add up to making a case for imperative change. If this statement is the best he can come up with, he needs to rethink whether he is qualified to lead the Library Foundation.

Let’s begin with a promise he makes about the future of ALOUD’s core programming: “You can expect to spend many nights each year at the Taper Auditorium listening to compelling authors discuss their works for free.”

To whom is he making this promise? Given the limited seating, I doubt that even a tiny fraction of those who read his article will actually be able to attend the events. Nothing will have changed. It’s an empty promise, in part because it’s not really free. Tickets are first available to those who are members of the Library Foundation, which costs minimum of $50 a year. Attendance turns out to be one of Mr. Brecher’s main complaints about the discharged founders of the ALOUD program. I must say that he has a peculiar sense of gauging audience size. Over 70 percent of the seats were taken, on average, were filled. The fact remains that “no shows” are quite common at “free” events. After all, if something comes up, what is a person’s loss if one reserves a ticket and then doesn’t attend? Anyone who throws a party knows how lucky one is if even half the invited people actually show up. Brecher’s statement does not present any analysis of this kind of factor in relationship to attendance.

Furthermore, and more importantly, what is the viewership of the podcasts? How has that changed the nature of the event? Yes, there is a certain pleasure at seeing a cultural event “live,” but given how many people in Los Angeles do not own homes, but rent – and how much that rent has escalated in recent years – and how much people have to work to pay that rent — is it any surprise that more people might be watching via technology than showing up to watch it “live”? My guess is that exponentially more people now watch the interviews on-line. If they end up buying the book on-line, I suppose that cuts into the Library Foundation’s direct revenue, but isn’t the job of the library to promote literacy, first and foremost, and to concentrate on that rather than retail distribution?

Perhaps one of the most puzzling parts of Mr. Brecher’s argument, in fact, is that he is counting on book sales to raise money for the Library Foundation’s programming. This makes very little sense in terms of this project’s feasibility as cultural work. Your job, Mr. Brecher, is to raise money from those people and corporations who most benefit from the high profit endeavors that are central to major urban areas. No one at LACMA would ever claim that the program the museum runs in which people can rent a painting for several months should be a significant part of its fundraising efforts.

All this leads me to ask Mr. Brecher to provide a link in which the Library Foundation’s budget is put on line for all to see and study. I await his transparency. Given how long it took him to put together an “explanation” for his decision about the ALOUD program, I’m not exactly expecting any serious gesture in this direction. Until we see that budget, however, I don’t think anything he says should be taken as other than self-interest multiplied by defensiveness.

NOTE: On ALOUD’s website, the following answer is provided to the question, “Why do programs fill so quickly?”

“Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit,….”

Membership requires a minimum expenditure of $50 a year.

It would be interesting to know what percentage of those who are “members” have attended at least one ALOUD event during the past year, the past three years, and the past five years. This kind of detail is what is needed in order to assess the decision that Mr. Brecher made.

The ALOUD Debacle at the LA Public Library

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Transparency Not Allowed: The Prerogatives of Power and the Los Angeles Public Library

Personnel decisions are notoriously opaque, and the “rules of engagement” mandate systematic closure to the process of hiring and firing. I have served on search committees at CSULB, for instance, and am not permitted to speak about that experience, even in utmost private confidence, let alone in a public forum. Given this systematic social practice, I doubt that anyone connected with Mr. Ken Brecher at the Library Foundation is going to break ranks and maker herself or himself a pariah open to legal action by disclosing details about the decision to fire the founders of the Aloud program at the DTLA Public Library.

No doubt the individuals at the Library Foundation in Los Angeles are wishing that a thousand prominent writers, artists, and cultural workers would treat the decision to fire Louise Steinman and Maureen Moore from the ALOUD series of public events at the DTLA Public Library as an occasion similar to the ones in which the announcement is posted: “The family requests privacy at this moment.” The protest of the Library Foundation’s insular administration, however, has only become more adamant, especially after the hiring of Jessica Strand to be Director of Public Programming less than two months after Steinman and Moore were inexplicably discharged. It’s hard to believe that an adequate job search was conducted in such a short time.

Thanks to Terry Wolverton and Phoebe Ozuna, I have received a summary of the events and the public actions taken by people in the literary community for whom I have the utmost respect. Many of these people have labored for decades to nurture a literary environment in Los Angeles, and some have done so with great personal sacrifice. I am unaware of any similar effort made by Mr. Ken Brecher. I appreciate the immediate permission granted at the end of their document to disseminate this information and hope that others will join me in signing their petition and urging others to join them.

bit.ly/aloudpetition

Dear Friends and Supporters of ALOUD,

We wanted to update you on events in the wake of the August 27, 2018 firings of Louise Steinman and Maureen Moore from the ALOUD series by the Library Foundation. Thank you again for your involvement in signing the petition. Many of you have also taken the time to write individually to the Foundation and to rescind your membership in the Library Associates; we appreciate your efforts.

Thursday, September 12
The Petition in Support of ALOUD is delivered to Gwen Miller, the Chair of the Library Foundation Board, and to the Mayor’s office. At the time it contained over 800 signatures of writers, readers and other members of the literary community. The number of signers is now up to 994. To date, the Library Foundation has never acknowledged the Petition. Neither has the Mayor’s Office, any of the 15 City Councilmembers, or the City Librarian.

Thursday, September 12-Monday September 16
The Los Angeles Times,Los Angeles Downtown Newsand Madeline Brand’s “Press Play” on KCRW all report on the Petition protest.

Tuesday, September 17
Protests greet the opening event on ALOUD’s fall season. Armed guards escort protestors from the building. This was documented on Facebook by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez and others. Following that event, guards are present at each event, events are no longer live-streamed, and the audience is no longer permitted to ask live questions.

Thursday, October 4
Rigoberto Gonzalez publishes “What is Happening at ALOUD?” in The Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-aloud-gonzalez-20181004-story.html
He describes the bizarre experience of conducting a conversation with author Tommy Orange during the second ALOUD event of the fall season. Neither he nor Orange were given an advance notice of the personnel changes at the Library Foundation. He particularly notes his disturbance at the visible presence of armed guards.

Thursday, October 11
The Library Foundation issues a statement on public programming
https://mailchi.mp/1022cc43e7e8/reservation-reminder-lost-found-at-the-movies-on-485225?e=976003b067&fbclid=IwAR3lRwhHTe4h1vntvakmTgLM82Myo8p9Y66nDZHBCQLpBxrLRjzk3nHx_iU
The statement does not address the firings or the petition, and does not respond to the petition signers’ requests for transparency or a voice in its future literary programming.

Tuesday, October 16
Adam Leipzig publishes an investigative piece, “What Happened at ALOUD?” in Cultural Weekly.He attempts to get to the bottom of many unanswered questions, but the Foundation remains impenetrable. https://www.culturalweekly.com/what-happened-at-aloud/

Tuesday, October 16
Protestors stage another action, outside the library, before an ALOUD event. They point out issues of gender and age discrimination in the firings of Steinman and Moore.

Wednesday, October 17
The Library Foundation announces the hiring of Jessica Strand, as new Director of Public Programs. Ms. Strand has spent the past decade in New York. https://www.culturalweekly.com/library-foundation-appoints-jessica-strand-director-public-programs/

Wednesday, October 17
Author and academic Rubén Martínez publishes an Open Letter to Foundation President Ken Brecher, calling upon him to resign for mismanagement of this matter. Initially posted on Facebook, his letter was published the following day on the blog of the Los Angeles Review of Bookshttps://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/open-letter-ken-brecher-president-library-foundation-los-angeles/

Thursday, October 18
Daniel Hernandez, writing for LA Taco, decries the plan to hire an out-of-towner to curate programming at the library. https://www.lataco.com/drama-at-the-library-prominent-l-a-writers-slam-foundation-for-hiring-new-director-from-new-york/?fbclid=IwAR2S-kbcgEKuJO1bsH8eAD76Yp9kdLVu4lp4QGIMz6HYe-X6hPERYfCa8ks

Thursday, October 25
Founder of Community Arts Resources (CARS) and CicLAVia, Aaron Paley publishes an Op-Ed, “Speaking Up for ALOUD at the Central Library” in The Los Angeles Times.http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-paley-aloud-library-20181025-story.html?fbclid=IwAR3BJkxpofiCiwM1Wo4rBc0iELHM1gD23AsqnJu_EigfQsIkPoEyN9a4g8s

The Library Foundation, a private nonprofit entity with a mission of providing financial support to the Los Angeles Public Library, demonstrates through its actions and silences that it feels no accountability to the public or to the Los Angeles literary community. This ad hoc committee is continuing to explore ways to call the Foundation to account, and your continued assistance with this is much appreciated. There is a Foundation Board meeting on November 1, the first since the firings. If anyone has contacts with Board members or with the Foundation’s funders, we would love to know that.

Other things you can do:

• Keep sending out the petition link and urging people to share it. It is bit.ly/aloudpetition .
• Feel free to share this email since it is one-stop source of info about what’s happened.
• Write a short letter to the editor at The Los Angeles Timesor comment online in response to Aaron Paley’s Op-Ed.
• Use the hatchtag #WeAreAloud.

Sincerely,

David Ulin and Hector Tobar, spokespersons
Donna Frazier, Lynell George, Reed Johnson, Terry Wolverton
Ad Hoc Committee in Support of ALOUD