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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 1 month ago

Things about ALA that need to be improved



Realistic Areas for change


Electronic Participation

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 ALA 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.



Low percentage of voting members / voters don't research issues or candidates

How could we change this? 

Prominent placement of issues on ALA website/wiki? 

Including "Statements of Concern" blurbs with the candidates' names on the ballot?


Make ALA Council transparent, accountable, and less wasteful


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.


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.


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 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 -- plus 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. 


Create a new set of marketing tools -- and make them easier to navigate

The @ Your Library Campaign has a lot of information that's really useful on planning and strategizing, but it's difficult to navigate (like much of the rest of the ALA site).  The actual marketing tools themselves though need an overhaul and some major additions. How to use Web 2.0 to get feedback during the planning stages of developing a campaign... and get feedback after the campaign is started. Let's get some TV spots with real interest, flair and creativity. Having a celebrity or two standing there pimping libraries isn't going to cut it anymore. The library photos from the contest are great, but why stop there? Let's have an ongoing submission process and compile a huge set of stock photography that ALA members can use for their own community advertising needs.  And lets have some tools on how to use Web 2.0 in general to advocate for more community involvement and participation.


ALA needs to be doing something serious about LIBRARIES

I’d like to not hear anything more about what non-library political issues I should be concerned with from the ALA’s point of view. As THE representative organization for libraries ALA has the responsibility of leading and producing real change for the betterment of libraries and until that’s been done shut up and do the job the organization’s supposed to be doing.


ALA and diversity recruitment

Pursuing diversity makes people at ALA feel like they’re good and caring people. If we really want to get minorities into the profession, then we need to do the things that need to be done to make it a profession that offers respect and reasonable income to its members–we’ll get all the minorities we could ever want then and we can all be proud to welcome them into a vibrant and alive profession.


Have ALA stop acting like a amateur organization with a professional budget

If ALA was being run the way it is in a business environment it would have ceased to exist a long time ago.


Unrealistic Areas for change


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.



Other Ideas 


Position ALA to help with library staff transformation

We should point ALA towards helping library staff through the transition to the 21st century. Remember the Library of Congress offering early retirement packages to their tech-scared staff? This should not have to happen, and I think ALA COULD be right in there, offering training, thinking, books, anything... to help staff switch from a traditional books-only-oriented library to a 21st century library that has books (paper and electronic-based), community meeting places, techie services, and a huge on-ramp to the internet... not quite sure how to word this, though :-) 


Reading isn't just books on paper

Show (ie., via read posters) that reading doesn't mean just books or just paper. How about a Read poster with someone holding an iPhone? How about a READ poster with someone reading a text-based chat?  Surfing the text-based internet? Watching a TED presentation? A Second Life Avatar?




Comments (4)

Anonymous said

at 2:01 pm on Jun 19, 2007

Is there some documentation to support the claim that ALA Publishing is "not producing revenue"? That seems at odds with the general revenue picture for ALA, of which publishing is a significant portion...

Anonymous said

at 3:14 pm on Jun 19, 2007

I have no hard data, it was a comment in a few disparate email threads I had in my archive.
Another reason for a more transparent ALA budget, eh? :)

Anonymous said

at 9:52 am on Jun 29, 2007

Because ALA requires multiple reviews and approvals, it takes forever to get something done, e.g., it takes more than a year to initiate a conference program. Meanwhile, the world becomes an information economy and scholarly publishing is transformed.

There are so many wonderful people who work at ALA, and there are some amazing individuals who volunteer countless hours of their time to the organization. It's not the people, it's the organization itself that is stifling. Maybe we can study a few practical issues with an eye toward unshackling the organization from itself. For example, is it typical for professional associations to have multiple divisions, each with a president and professional staff? Should ALA simply bag conference programming as we know it and offer an annual trade show with a few big speeches like the current presidents' programs? Other groups have popped up to address the issues that ALA can't respond to quickly: NASIG, ERIL, the Charleston Conference. These are all smaller, focused groups that provide timely content and discussion to specific audiences. Maybe ALA should focus on an annual trade show and lobbying efforts in DC and leave programming and content to smaller, more nimble organizations?

Anonymous said

at 3:36 pm on Jun 29, 2007

[http://www.ala.org/ala/ourassociation/annualreport/financials/financials.htm | Financials section from ALA's 2006-2007 Annual Report]

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