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ALA: What is to be done?

[slightly revised and expanded from first post a few hours ago.] Everyone grumbles about ALA at some point or another. “The conference event planner sucks.” (Actually, the event planner hates me. This conference it stopped acknowledging me altogether.) “The conference is in the wrong location.” (Memo to ALA: Orlando is hot in late June, and at least for now, Philadelphia is cold in the winter.) “I asked ALA to do X and they were slow.” Ya think? Two months after joining ACRL, I finally got an email acknowledging the crisp green cash I had sent their way; they burbled that I was their newest member. Funny, because at that point they weren’t my newest association. [N.b. See follow-up post with excellent response from ACRL.]

But for most ALA members, ALA just is what it is. They attend conferences, or they don’t; they pay their dues and focus on other things (and good on them, too). The reality is that in an organization with 66,000+ members, most members aren’t concerned about some of the nuances we politicos fret over. So take all that into consideration in this discussion.

The membership roll is huge and conference attendance is bullish. By all accounts the American Library Association has never been healthier. Two conferences a year, a magazine every month, publications galore, and so many committees we are limited in the cities we can stay in because we need so many hotels with conference rooms.

If this were 1957, I’d say we were in for a good fifty-year run. But it’s 2007, and the question is, what kind of ALA do we want for the next fifty years? My suggestions below are just a beginning… but are based on years of discussions with other members.

What is impractical

In talking to members who are frustrated with ALA, I sometimes hear suggestions I believe to be impractical or even problematic, assuming we’re all agreed in the value of a single national association representing tens of thousands of librarians. Here are some of these suggestions:

Lower ALA dues. However, ALA dues are not high to begin with, compared to other similar organizations. I paid almost twice as much in one state association.

Let members join the divisions without joining ALA. That’s just a variation on the dues theme. It sounds fine until you learn that the reason you can belong to a national assocation for library technology professionals for $60 is that the association relies on the services supplied by the mother ship, ALA, from the building itself to IT, HR and training.

Charge less for conference registration. Again, for what we get (and who wouldn’t want the chance to go to Orlando in late June!), the registration fees are about as low as they can be.

“Make” Council stop taking useless positions. I hear this one a lot. I agree that there are positions Council takes that are less than useful. But some of those “social” positions (real or potential) are on behalf of librarianship. For example, I’d like to see ALA get forceful about libraries that do not offer domestic partnership benefits. The real issue is that Council has very little accountability overall because it meets essentially in secret, doing most of its work after the conference has ended. For an organization committed to sunshine, our own practices can be a little skeezy.

Let’s just build our own association, and we’ll be great… really great. ALA may be a ponderous, awkward behemoth, but any organization reflecting such a diverse profession will be a bit bulky. It’s the nature of organizations that size. If we built a 66,000-member association, it would look an awful lot like ALA. I think it’s more the case that we want to bend and flex ALA to make it less of a mid-1950s institution and more reflective of current practices in organizations and the world at large.

Realistic Areas for Change

Electronic participation. We do way too much work face-to-face (in a strange emulation of much library work, which is also pregnant with many, many meetings). Allow people to participate in formal decision-making electronically. If Executive Board can make decisions by phone call, then committees can vote by email. Set up policies and procedures for participating electronically with a heterogeneous set of tools; it’s possible to have better transparency with online meetings (how many meeting minutes read like Book-a-Minute classics?). Stop talking about it, stop having five-year plans, stop being so scared of the Luddites, and just fricking DO it.

The ghastly website. Hire people from outside and get it done right. If that means the IMIS system has to be rethought, do that as well. It’s not a huge association, so it’s odd that so much revolves around that funky old crap. In any event, the website design needs adult supervision with a measure of benevolent dictatorship thrown in to boot. Right now it’s a ghastly embarassment for a society of information professionals — ugly and hard to use. Changing the website design will mean changing ALA, because it is a product of ALA’s own structure, but that can be done.

Reduce ALA’s carbon footprint. This includes electronic participation, but also means things like committing ALA to paper-limited conferences, supporting electronic conferences, offering electronic membership meetings, giving preference to green activities, etc. Require joint conferences from divisions. Allow (encourage!) e-participation from panelists and speakers (as opposed to LITA’s agonized handwringing about how librarians will get “confused” if there’s a chat screen up while Top Tech Trendsters are talking).

Make ALA Council transparent, accountable, and ‘greener.” Put Council’s schedule on ALA’s schedule; force Council to begin its work before it meets in person; run council’s near-real-time live transcripts (which we all pay to produce for the hearing-challenged and broadcast on huge screens within the chambers during Council sessions) on the web in real-time. (The oft-cited excuse that the quality isn’t perfect fails on two counts: first, if it’s good enough for the hearing-challenged, it’s good enough for everyone else; second, thanks to television, we’re in a culture that is aware and tolerant of the tics and flubs of real-time close-captioning.) Enable e-participation from councilors who cannot attend all or part of the conference. Force ALA’s committees to do work prior to the conference, so that Council doesn’t have to wait until the day after the conference to begin its real work — a situation which contributes to Council’s lack of accountability.

Review ALA’s budget and financial strategy and tell the members what it all means. I’m not sure ALA is on the wrong road with its money, but it is a good time to clarify how it is earned and spent. People do not realize how much conferences and publications drive ALA revenue… and how little thinking goes into changing that structure.

Scale back the committee/member group structure, and strive for ZPG. Part of the conference cost is driven by how many meeting rooms ALA requires. Force committee accountability… no more registered rooms with one or two people showing up and drifting away. This means changing how people qualify coming to conference — many organizations look for participation (which explains quite a bit of the committee redundancy) — so this issue is hugely political.

Make conferences greener and more lithe. Create more ad-hoc, short-notice program slots for ALA conferences. Consider lifting the ban on “programs” at Midwinter, or consider holding virtual Midwinter conferences; in any event, think hard about an association that requires tens of thousands of people to fly cross-country for short meetings twice a year (in part because of the committee/meeting structure that is based on face-to-face communication for “real” work). It’s not that I don’t love to see my friends — to a great extent, conferences are about seeing my friends — but for an organization that has repeatedly committed at least on paper to the values of environmentalism (you really should read that Policy manual…), we sure do like our airplanes. (Library-related travel completely trashed my carbon footprint, when I measured it last year.)

Eliminate paper balloting for ALA elections. And shorten the voting period. No ALA member needs to be without email. We spend a lot of money, and waste paper, on a few “information will-nots.”

Rethink ALA Publishing. Right now it’s seriously balkanized, oldfashioned, and not producing revenue. All these divisions have publishing arms, none of them run well (because publishing is not their forte, and that’s not to fault them at all). Follow the money. Think about consolidating all publications, and think about how to e-publish.

How to effect change

The short answer is to take over ALA governance. (The other short answer is RTFM: log in, and read the ALA Handbook of Organization end-to-end. It’s not publicly available because ALA couldn’t figure out how to separate its email-based directory of VIPs from the other documents… which just baffles me; if I had a more current version of Adobe, I’d split the file myself. The Handbook includes the policy manual and other key documents.)

Council elects an Executive Board, which theoretically runs ALA, but delegates to the Executive Director of ALA, currently Keith Fiels (a good guy, but he also isn’t going to steer ALA anywhere EB isn’t taking it — and that’s correct behavior). Council nominates and elects EB. With a majority on Council, you theoretically have control of ALA (since you can elect the EB). There are just under 200 Councilors, so elect a slate of 100 Councilors and you have a majority. Yet it’s not that simple, either, because as the ALA website notes, “Council, the governing body of ALA [is] comprised of 183 members: 100 elected at large; 53 by chapters; 11 by divisions; 7 by roundtables; and 12 members of the Executive Board.” It’s not impossible that a slate couldn’t include chapter, divisional, or roundtable candidates, but it would require more effort, and since not all Councilors are elected at the same time, you can’t just run 100 at-large candidates. More likely than electing Councilors from chapters and divisions is first, to build a reform Council over several years, and second, that a strong Council EB slate would pick up additional votes outside the original reform slate.

But you want more than elect a Council: you want to change the bylaws, which were last significantly revised during the reform era of the early 1970s; you want to ensure the chapters and divisions are on board, because even with a majority vote, if they aren’t on board they will just stalemate you until your slate’s term is up; you want to seed key ALA committees with members who will be on board with the slate’s core values; and you want to grab the hearts and minds of the ALA membership, and ensure that the library press are on board with you.

Timeline

This short list only addresses changing EB, the Bylaws, and some committees.

Year 1: Run an ALA presidential candidate who will be the president during the “action year,” and run a slate of Councilors committed to the slate’s governance issues. Start probing and parsing key ALA committees, such as Organization, Committees, and Bylaws.

Year 2: run the member who will be the president-elect. Run another Council slate. Focus on having a clear majority on Council. Rewrite Bylaws and Policy as needed.

Year 3: run another president and another Council slate. Solidify presence, clean up Bylaws changes.

That’s it. It’s not forever, because nothing is forever. But if you want to change ALA — either for the reasons I suggested, or others — that’s the way to do it.

Posted on this day, other years:

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30 Comments

  1. Mark Andrews wrote:

    I found ALA beyond hope years ago. Regarding the ALA Council (and what’s with “Council” instead of “the Council?”), they lost me at the profound statements about foreign policy and war that come out of IRRT and SRRT. Does anybody honestly think members of Congress or the Administration stay awake at night waiting for ALA’s opinion about anything? But I digress….

    At what ALA charges for dues these days, I’m not sure of the value for money of, say, $160 a year for the two things I get from ALA: job list and a trade show, in that order. Beyond that, a real discussion about real issues – NGC4LIB comes to mind, along with the code4lib crowd – is taking place outside of ALA. If that’s where the action is, then that’s where I want to be. I’d rather spend my ALA dues money on getting to Computers in Libraries next year, and spend 3 days learning from people in jeans & t-shirts (well, except for some presenters) who are actually building software products that solve problems for library users and staff.

    Regarding the ALA Council, there are many opportunities for professional service in organizations, like local and regional library associations, and software user groups, where the itch for leadership, recognition and service can be more easily and productively scratched.

    If ALA vanished today, would anyone notice or care? I say whither ALA and put that energy elsewhere. If librarians spent more time actually exercising leadership than waiting for ALA to “do something” we’d all be better off.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 5:05 am | Permalink
  2. kgs wrote:

    I guess I have been on Council long enough that it’s a proper noun to me… like Satan?

    On the futile gestures of Council I do not disagree. Council isn’t THAT far off from the Berkeley City Council, with its anti-nuclear statements even as Berkeley downtown is filthy. As I said, I hesitate to say ALA should never tender a “social” statement when at some historical moments those statements have been about librarians. As someone who was on Council two and a half terms — I had to quit my third term because my FPOW hit a financial shoal and you can’t be on Council if you aren’t able to afford two weeks a year at ALA — I agree that it’s a huge investment for the output. That’s part of my point, above.

    But I continue to remain in ALA because of several things I get out of it. One of it is the Washington Office, which does great work. Another is the chance to network face-to-face with a broad range of colleagues. I agree, I could probably do that at CiL, but not quite as broadly. Then there is the trade-show angle, which means if I need to see a vendor, that vendor will almost always be at ALA.

    I am proposing what you suggest: that we “do something” ourselves. I’m ready to run if there’s a slate that will join with me and run as a group. (I’d like to run for president but can’t commit that kind of time until I have steady work.)

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 6:26 am | Permalink
  3. Mark Andrews wrote:

    Karen, if you’re running to abolish ALA, I’m in.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 6:39 am | Permalink
  4. kgs wrote:

    I would run to make significant changes to ALA… but abolishing it is not on my radar scope. Commercial conferences such as CiL cannot substitute for ALA’s advocacy role or “big tent” function. It’s like saying the mall is a good substitute for a library.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 6:52 am | Permalink
  5. I think these are fine ideas in general, but I need to take issue with a minor side-point: Do you _really_ think reducing paper and seriously ramping up the user of computers reduces our ‘carbon footprint’? I think we’re fooling ourselves there. The resource consumption and ‘carbon footprint’ of computer and digital technologies—from production to usage to disposal (how long do your computers last?)–is HUGE. We in the information industries are unfortunately gigantic resource users, and eliminating a few tons of paper isn’t going to change that.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:16 am | Permalink
  6. Mark Andrews wrote:

    I don’t know, Karen…when I think of “advocacy role” and a “big tent,” I think of a political party. The politicization of ALA is a generational affect. Don’t you think that when the ‘Boomers retire and die, ALA will change, along with society at large?

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:38 am | Permalink
  7. kgs wrote:

    Jonathan, I was kind of hoping someone would challenge me on that. I don’t know. It would be worth asking — and genuinely analyzing — if it’s better or worse for LITA to give its members a huge stack of paper and a binder versus a flash drive with all the handouts on it.

    I do think the air travel/e-participation tradeoff is greener, though I’m willing to be debunked on that as well!

    Regarding the “advocacy role” position, Mark, you could be right. But Boomers are not retired or dead (yet). Just to be clear, you are saying that when Boomers do retire and die (feeling sad for myself already…), the next generations won’t care about advocating for intellectual freedom, the right to read, anti-Patriot-Act, etc. …?

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 7:49 am | Permalink
  8. Mark Andrews wrote:

    I graduated from library school in May, 1986. In 21 years I’ve worked 6 places at 8 jobs. One of those jobs was 3 years as a public services librarian. The rest were in technology, but in all that time I always introduced myself as a librarian. Also, in all that time, intellectual freedom, the right to read, and laws related to patron privacy (of which the Patriot Act is the most recent, but not the only, example) were at the bottom of any list of characteristics I used to define myself as a librarian.

    I’d much rather say what I am for than what I am against. I am a for people being able to examine any subject or subjects of interest to them, without the need to explain themselves, and in private (which encompasses both intellectual freedom, the right to read, and patron privacy). If people can do this without bothering someone else and destroying private or public property, they are welcome in whatever library I work in. This illustrates the biases formed when I worked in a public library, where “bothering someone else” includes spitting, fighting, shouting, and having sexual relations in the stacks. The “property” angle covers people who steal from other library users, deface or destroy shared property, throw expensive reference books out the window to their friends, remove handy computer parts, copy licensed electronic content and walk out the door, drive recklessly in the library parking lot (this includes library staff) and (my favorite) drag garbage cans into the elevators and set them on fire. At least this didn’t happen all on the same day.

    I am also for an entirely transparent management style starting with whoever is in charge of money and decisions to spend it, all the way down to the bottom of the org chart.

    I am for more money for libraries, though, if I am stuck in a jurisdiction where there is a real (not contrived) choice between public safety and library service, sorry, I’ll vote for public safety every time. Unfortunately, the row in Salinsa, CA 4 years or so ago was a “contrived” and not a real choice.

    Finally (for the moment) I am greatly interested in the principle of subsidiarity, which places authority, responsibility, accountability, and resources at the lowest possible level to solve a problem. To me that means ALA’s advocacy role and pleas for funding start at the bottom and work their way up, not with the ALA Washington Office lining up at the Federal trough with the rest of porkers. What’s more terrifying than the Iraq War and terrorism? Take a look at The Concord Coalition’s web site and see how much money we owe ourselves. I’m being facetious, but when the 2nd Great Depression hits, I’d rather define, fund and solve problems at the lowest effective level, than howl about lack of resources. Show me the last time the Council has talked about any of this and I’ll not only rejoin ALA, I’ll work on your campaign!

    Mark

    Wednesday, May 30, 2007 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  9. It sounds* like ALA is suffering from the same bloated, stagnant, and unresponsive disease that affects many other large organizations (commercial and nonprofit). I’d be interested in finding out how others are handling similar bouts of inefficiency (especially the luddite/techie battle over accessibility of info and resources).

    I would love to see some of the streamlining you suggest – especially an increase in electronic connectivity. I love the idea of a Virtual Communities and Libraries Group (as seen on The Shifted Librarian), but why hasn’t ALA already created a Virtual Community for Librarians? And the website needs to GO.

    I’m very supportive of changing the bylaws so that more work can be done remotely and electronically. As you say, working face-to-face is lovely, but a lot of good work and conversation can be done (more cheaply and at times that are more convenient for all involved) if the wonderful resource that is electronic networking is harnessed and put to good use.

    ———-
    *Three-semesters-in library student here, so this is all very new to me.

    Friday, June 1, 2007 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  10. Dale wrote:

    The worst thing about the “need” for all those meeting rooms is that…there’s really not such a need. I’ve been a member of several committees which never actually met at conference; however, we were not allowed to cancel the meeting room–and some of this was prior to email (we just did our work by telephone and letter). There is value in having open committee meetings, of course, primarily to inform people who might be interested in that committee what it actually does.

    I think this is more and more true, as I frequently walk by completely empty meeting rooms at otherwise very large conferences.

    Personally, I love ALA. I also with your suggestions for change, Karen.

    Monday, June 4, 2007 at 5:53 am | Permalink
  11. kgs wrote:

    Not only that, Dale, there hasn’t been such a need for a very long time. I can remember learning the truth about these meeting rooms in 1992, for heaven’s sake… wandering around trying to attend meetings, showing up in empty rooms or where one person sat. Fellini-esque.

    Monday, June 4, 2007 at 6:45 am | Permalink
  12. I’ve had the same experience; trying to find out what a committee does at a conference. Turns out, the committee doesn’t do anything *at* the conference *in a committee format;* rather the output of the committee is a program and the committee puts that on & doesn’t need to bother with a wrap-up meeting – the wrap-up happens right after the program.

    So, another bullet point for the nascent “Improve ALA” agiterati to work upon.

    Monday, June 4, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  13. Your suggestions are fabulous Karen. Are you willing to run as our first big year’s “Change!” ALA president? I would nominate you, campaign for you, even if it means wearing a sandwich board all over conferences :)

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  14. kgs wrote:

    First, I need steady work in an environment that would support this… “Hi, I’m your new employee… oh did I mention I’m running for ALA president?” might be a bit much ;-)

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
  15. I agree about the requirement to travel to ALA midwinter and ALA national for committee work. 2 required conferences in one year for an hour meeting at each? That’s a lot of funding (and our travel allowance is very limited so about $500 out of my own pocket for each conference). Wouldn’t it be okay to require one meeting attendance and have one online chat session? We could even have three online chats (wow!).

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 2:16 pm | Permalink
  16. michael wrote:

    If Midwinter is really supposed to only be about the meetings, there’s no longer any need for it. There’s plenty of software (even FREE software) available with which to hold meetings and make decisions.

    I’d like to see midwinter abolished in favor of a slightly longer Annual. That way, instead of EVERY %^$^#@-ING PROGRAM I WANT TO GO TO meeting at the same time (SAT & Sun, 10:30-1 or 1-3), maybe I’d actually be able to attend some of the interesting-sounding programs/meetings that I’ve had to miss every year.

    The other way to do this: set aside certain times for meetings and certain other times for programs, and extend the hours beyond the 5:00 limit. We certainly have enough parties at night, why not some programs then, too?

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  17. Sue Stroyan wrote:

    Hi Karen. I like some of your ideas and unfortunately this is not the first time many of them have come forward. I was on the ALA Organization Self Study Group in the mid 1990s that was charged to do this very thing – reorganize ALA (and this was not the first!). Our final recommendations were to downsize, combine some divisions, committees that were essentially doing the same thing across division lines work together, work outside of conference so meetings would not be needed to be held at conference, etc.,etc., A few of our recommendations were adopted — a very few. Some of those have been over-turned since then by those that did not agree with the original ideas. We did have a group of people that ran on a platform for change and were elected to Council together and some even made it to the Executive Board. It just wasn’t enough people at once and you are right it takes multiple years and a focused effort which most of us do not have time to commit to this activity.

    I don’t want to sound like a pessimist here, after all the organization is a democracy and very diverse. I think my point is ALA is huge. If you want to work on the big picture of librarianship then you work within the Council committees and on Council knowing things move slower. If your passion is within a type of library or technical field move to a division where you can have a greater impact.

    Or just send a check. There are advantages to that type of member as well.

    Thursday, June 7, 2007 at 12:20 pm | Permalink
  18. Aimee Quinn wrote:

    While some good points are presented here, there are several inaccuracies. First of all, I am not a member of Council and like most librarians, I have a love/hate relationship with ALA. That said, Council meetings are mostly open and they are held during conference, just the days at the end of conference when most librarians cannot either afford the time or cost to stay and participate personally. However, you can get to know your Councilors and tell them what you think. Like Congress, they are elected to represent us, not just themselves although it may seem that way.

    For the cost, ALA is really a bargain. I do think ALA Headquarters should and could be more accountable about how they spend funds to members. For example, I think we should receive an email where there is detailed budget information including salaries for all ALA staff, costs for legal issues (how much has ALA really spent fighting the Patriot Act??), and what is the actual cost for conferences. Yes, the conferences are ALA’s bread & butter but remember that Midwinter is not a conference but a working meeting. I would hate to start having programming at Midwinter because it would become as cumbersome and rambling as Annual. I would prefer not to have face-to-face members at Annual. Instead use that time for discussion, programs, pre-conferences, poster session, paper presentations, etc. The work of the association can be done the rest of the year.

    I also would like to see the entire governing structure of ALA change to be better suited for the 21st century, especially as we are getting towards the end of the first decade of this century. ALA is bogged down by bureaucracy and early 20th century rules and regulations. Its right hand frequently has not clue that there is even a left, much less what is happening so it is time to reunite both sides. The biggest challenge for ALA is that it is a volunteer association. It should take a look at other professional associations who are able to work more closely with local chapters (for goodness sake the Sierra Club as more than 3 times the membership and is able to hold a wide variety of educational and business meetings throughout the year.

    Yes, the ALA web site should be canned and rebuilt by an outside firm who knows what they are doing. The ALA Handbook of Organization is on the web, but still has a lot of mistakes. It is finally the 2006-2007 edition.

    Best, AQ

    Monday, June 11, 2007 at 8:58 am | Permalink
  19. Norma wrote:

    I was never a member, but look in from time to time. I loved the smaller, deeper professional library organizations, but ALA seemed so out of touch. Still I was surprised by the ugly website comment. It seems to be a library afflication. The poorest websites with clunky, chunky links seem to be run by libraries. Doesn’t speak well for the profession.

    Monday, June 11, 2007 at 9:09 am | Permalink
  20. kgs wrote:

    Aimee, thanks for your comments. I believe by “inaccuracies” you primarily mean “differences of opinion,” though we are in agreement on a few things.

    The historical facts about Council’s schedule are on the website:

    http://www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/governanceb/council/councilagendas/councilagendas.htm

    Note how long each meeting is; what business it conducts; and what day it’s happening on.

    I know from extensive experience that Council does not even begin to meet until two days into the conference (Sunday), and at that point most of the work is quite fluffy. The serious work of ALA Council happens at Council III, which is Wednesday. Even at Annual, the exhibits close Tuesday morning. ALA Council at Midwinter even skips Monday — the last day conference members are really at ALA — and starts Council II on Tuesday.

    It’s not that ALA Council is trying to be nefarious (though it’s easy to get mission drift when your work lacks transparency). It’s that there is a fatal relationship between ALA’s antiquated meeeting structure and the Council post-conference schedule; one enables the other. Want to see ALA move to more virtual meeting-work prior to conferences? Force Council to meet Saturday and Sunday, which would force committees to submit work to Council in advance of the conferences.

    Monday, June 11, 2007 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  21. So… would it be useful to have an “i wanna change ala” meeting at ALA?

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  22. Jenny Levine wrote:

    I think the “i wanna change ala” meeting is the annual membership meeting, the agenda for which already addresses some of these topics (view it here). From what others have told me, the key is to get people *to* the meeting.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 8:44 am | Permalink
  23. kgs wrote:

    The ALA membership meeting has always posed as the Meeting of the Masses, but it’s hard to envision real brainstorming in a huge room with chairs facing a podium, not to mention one that this time features a “forum” (program in disguise?) highlighting two guys squaring off about whether Council should address social isssues.

    Speaking of which, if the Feminist Task Force wanted some renewed participation, it could ask for women to note whenever ALA holds panels that are all-male.

    But back to changing ALA: in my mind, that needs to happen as a gathering discussion over the next six months, with some intentional planning/participation for a convocation in Denver that would be scheduled months before our other schedules are set in stone. An online “town meeting” via IRC would be one thought.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink
  24. Hmm… I think you’re right, kgs. Probably a number of discussions (assuming good stuff comes out of them) would be useful – that could hone something down into an actual agenda that could then be discussed somewhere (like Denver). And yes – irc would work well for that (and gives me an excuse to use irc again, too).

    Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 9:54 pm | Permalink
  25. kgs wrote:

    I think a conversation worth having online in a fairly broad town meeting is “What would you change about ALA?” More specific discussions could be focused on a variety of topics, such as “What should ALA look like in ten years?” and “What is the role of ALA?”

    One direction I think I’d like to avoid is “Do we need ALA.” I only say that because I think that’s like evaluating my writing by the rejection letters instead of the acceptances.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007 at 6:22 am | Permalink
  26. All these are great questions that could use a virtual town hall setting. Since we’re all brainstorming questions needing answers, we could use the “Improve ALA” wiki
    [ http://improveala.pbwiki.com ] to track the questions (and answers)

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  27. Get the ALA out of the recruitment business.

    The last recruitment drive has ruined the lives of countless young librarians because there are too many librarians and not enough jobs.

    The ALA simply does not have the forsight to predect librarian shortages. They were dead wrong about the looming “librarian shortage” which was supposed to hit when all the baby boomers were scheduled to retire. But they never retired, and those who have were simply not replaced due to budget cuts. Meanwhile, thousands of unemployed librarians who were recruited with promises of jobs are standing in welfare lines and competing fiercely for the few low-paying positions which are left.

    This must never happen again.

    Monday, June 25, 2007 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  28. Scott wrote:

    What I like about the ALA conference is the political unanimity.

    Nothing says “dues-paying arm of the Democratic Party, USA” like ALA does. The speakers, the topics, everything is firmly — dare I say rigidly? — left wing.

    This is an important reminder to those few dissident librarians who may be feeling left out. They need to realize that the democratic values of free information and free speech are best nurtured when enclosed in a protectively unanimous, totalized belief system which is a priori correct.

    Nothing less would be good enough for upholding diversity, tolerance, and liberty. As honorary ALA member Michael Moore probably has already said elsewhere: “¡Socialismo o Muerte!”

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007 at 4:55 am | Permalink
  29. Tayyab Jan wrote:

    After reading the article and comments i come to the conclusion that ALA should do something Practical for the promotion of Libraries both at national and international level.

    Reward should be given to those who show miximum ouptput.

    only arranging conferences and publishing ALA missions is just useless.

    AlA shoud focus both its energy and resources on innovation not on human resource like (66000+ members).

    Yet it have time to come forward ask the libraries about their problems and should try their best to solve them.

    Tayyab Jan
    Member UNESCO Programm for Library Promotion.

    Cataloguer UET Mardan Campus,Pakistan.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 12:12 am | Permalink
  30. Melinda wrote:

    I am currently attending my first ALA conference, and I must say, my overall impressions have been very dissapointing. For a profession that prides itself on being very tech-innovative – I’ve found that finding agendas for various meetings/discussion groups/etc., is like pulling teeth. It’s extremely frustrating – there’s no centralized website/program/etc., where it lists all the meetings and their agendas. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a deadline for the various discussion groups, etc. to subit their agendas and then have them all published (either electronically or in the printed guide). It is left to the indicudual to track down individual pages and wikis and blogs and discussion groups to find out what is going on. And some of these groups seem to have no real web presence.

    The disorganization and lack of communication between all these sub-committees and their parent organizations, as well as a lack of systematic web presence for all the various meetings is a big turn-off for me. I have no desire to go to the Annual Conference.

    Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  4. Notes From The Campaign Trail: Part 4 on Friday, June 15, 2007 at 4:58 am

    [...] better? Over at Free Range Librarian, Karen Schneider showed us recently how these questions can be asked, answered, and, most importantly, engaged. One of the topics she raised about ALA writ large – our publishing model – is one that I also [...]

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  6. Diving for Perls « Robotic Librarian on Saturday, June 16, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    [...] role in encoding library services, and to that end we need to know the basics. For example, a common complaint about the ALA’s digital face is that the website is unappealing, and even archaic. As Norma [...]

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