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ALA and Blogging

Michael Stephens said he wanted to see blogs on ALA’s site. On Jessamyn’s blog, she responds that ALA still needs to fix its search engine and content management system.

They’re both right: ALA needs to move forward, and it needs to fix what ain’t working. If I bundled the comments together, I’d say that ALA hit a technological wall about 18 months ago, when the new Web site debuted. I’m on the Web site advisory committee, and I can tell you as an insider there are reasonable reasons (on paper) why some things are not happening very quickly, but every once in a while I check the calendar, and on September 7, it will have been 17 months since the “bad site” debuted, and so far we haven’t seen much change.

As for ALA and blogging, Stephen based his observation on Technobiblio’s comment that he or she (Kris or Mike–from the page, this appears to be a two-person blog) had nearly missed a mission-critical email from PLA related to conference submissions for 2006.

But look what happened: in all of this chatter, four blogs have already commented on PLA conference planning. And think about it: if ALA had blogs, would we be able to freely comment on them? I doubt that. Nor would I want it. I don’t want ALA’s blogs run amok with the same fifty commenters. It would be ALA meets LISNews meets Slashdot meets ALAOIF: a borderline’s paradise.

Michael is teasingly close to the issue, though. ALA doesn’t have to set up a single blog to take advantage of the blogging community. Look at Walt Crawford! I bet Walt can’t even spell “blog,” and yet that sly devil has the 411 on using RSS to disseminate updates for Cites and Insights.

ALA just needs to be aware of and post to the existing meta-blogs. They need a Minister of Public Blogs to post, read, and interact with the blogging community (and maybe, just maybe maintain a blog). Then again, if we want to get big-picture about it, ALA needs to get clueful and a little lighter on their feet about new technologies. Not everything needs an Action Plan and a Vision Statement and a Matrix, plus a spring conference with the usual suited suspects jostling for eminence on something they barely understand.

I think that person (or persons) should come from American Libraries, the excellent magazine I was a columnist for during the 1990s. Someone coming from AL would be ALA “press,” not a staffer or a member, but an independent reporter who could be our Dan Gillmor. No, I’m not interested; I’m not doing much tech writing these days. But I’m very interested in seeing it happen. What do you think?

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