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Jim Rettig’s Implementation Task Force

I wanted to do a lavish long post on this, but I’m whaling away at my workshop material for this coming Friday, as I really need to finish getting it together today and tomorrow, so that on Monday another person from MPOW and I can drive to Atlanta for a NISO meeting on NCIP, which I now refer to as a “standard,” quotation marks intentional.

Where was I? Oh right! Every ALA president establishes a task force to help him or her “implement” his one-year reign (we’ll just call him Jim of 365 Days — though actually he gets a 53rd week, due to some scheduling magic… I love ALA math).

Unconferencing was very popular

As you can see from this Flickr picture, we had all the ingredients found in modern-day meetings:

  • Large pieces of paper
  • Adhesive dots in random colors
  • Markers

Ah, ALA… going from the Defrag conference to 50 East Huron was like stepping back fifteen years.

Jim’s task force is very good group: active and vocal, funny and forward-thinking, not afraid to rant at the Man, and by this I do not mean Jim (who I variously call El Jefe, El Presidente, Boss, or Chief, just to annoy him), but ALA itself. I posted some bon mots on my Twitter feed… not all of which I’ll repeat here…but perhaps my favorite was everyone snickering at the title of one ACRL report: a “White Paper on Diversity.”

The top stuff to take away is that Jim cannot change a lot of things, and wisely pushed some things off his agenda — he’s not going to change the architecture of ALA in one year — but he can move the needle, even if slightly, toward a more inclusive, user-centered ALA that has much broader appeal to newer librarians: more unconference opportunities, more “author of your experience,” more collective voice, less of the sage-on-the-stage model. Or to quote Genevieve Owens: “The member is not broken.” (Has a nice beat. You can dance to it!)

I have a much, much longer post percolating about ALA’s policy on virtual membership, and how that won’t change until ALA sees that this works to its benefit as an organization (which may take a few retirements).  I’m starting to think that instead of trying to change ALA policy, members should simply consider it censorship and route around it. Many do that already.

Anyway, ALA having one-year presidents means that fundamentally, the organization is run by its full-time bureaucracy. (Social studies majors will observe that the Executive Board technically has political control, but…) Changing ALA is a slow, iterative process. If Jim can change even one thing for the better, that will be pretty damn good stuff.

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  1. lis.dom » Blog Archive » doing what we can do on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 11:29 am

    [...] Defrag was, I am sure, a fascinating conference (if I had had a spare $1300 lying around somewhere, I would have gone–there was even a $140 roundtrip ticket from Billings). But I would guess that the people there were not trying to decide what books to read for story time, or how to do better outreach to the Spanish-speaking population, or how to teach people to use e-mail, or how to fit a thorough bibliographic instruction into one hour slot. That’s in no way meant as a criticism of defrag. It is meant to remind us (myself most emphatically included) that not every problem we have in libraries is a technology problem, that not everything we do can be done with technology, and that sometimes paper and markers work just fine. [...]

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