If it’s broken
Posted by lpearle on 26 June 2007
One overriding theme I hear is that ALA is broken. I’d argue that’s not far off the mark.
Here’s an example: the room assignments. Another? The insistence on face-to-face meetings to conduct business. Makes sense if you’re geographically close, but some people are on tight budgets and travel can be difficult. Particularly in this day and age of high gas prices, delayed (or canceled flights), and – best of all – social networking.
Why ALA isn’t using nings and wikis and blogs better, I have no idea. I have some idea as to why AASL isn’t: the top leaders don’t know, understand or want to take the time to learn these new tools. It’s that whole “this works, why change” attitude that is so frustrating to newer members and (I think) inhibits participation.
Look around any room and the number of 50+ vs. <35 is astounding. And the under 50? Few are getting involved. Many are frustrated. Not the way to run an organization, or even a division of an organization.
To me, it’s not just a question of keeping up with the times, it’s about our ability to remain relevant to the greater world. When the Washington Post has an article about getting rid of libraries generate as many comments as this one did, it’s clear that we’re needed. Then there’s the whole Hollywood Librarian movie, which could have been a great marketing tool and instead is more of an insider job. Where were the patrons from the first article? Why weren’t they involved in making this movie?
Clearly, there’s internal perception and external: we’re needed. Our visionaries tell us to Twitter and to get a Second Life and to create dynamic websites and portals for our patrons. Our patrons respond positively to our services (and decry those that would do away with us altogether). So why is it so difficult for the organization to move into that direction (we are, just using bad – as in difficult to use easily – software and with no administrative buy-in)? Insisting on expensive travel for meetings, and a lack of transparency are hurting us.