Venn Librarian

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If it’s broken (part two)

Posted by lpearle on 8 July 2007

I’ve been getting reinserted into my daily life and have a ton of posts in draft format — I’ll dribble them out at you, I promise. Here’s one I’ve been pondering for a few days now.

In a recent post, I stated that ALA was broken. I’ve decided to revise that to “AASL is broken.” In the comments, a member of ALA staff working for another division said

Certainly new skills development for ALA staff is critical to meet new demands and I think ALA is making efforts to provide learning events related to blogs and wikis. Most divisions have blogs of one sort or another. And staff are catching up to the membership – at least many staff are. There is still much to do in this arena.

I really hope that is the case (the working on it part).

When I say “it’s broken”, what do I mean?

  • I mean it’s broken when there is no mechanism to force/insist/mandate that the Executive Director of a division add to the blog or other forms of divisional communication.
  • I mean it’s broken when the Affiliate Assembly puts the divisions blog on the agenda but doesn’t invite or mention this to the blog editors.
  • I mean it’s broken when there is no sense on the AA’s part that there even needs to be a blog. Or wiki. Or ning.
  • I mean it’s broken when there are sections that are interested in doing this sort of networking and are stymied by internal staff because “they” don’t know, care, understand or see the need for this sort of networking.
  • I mean it’s broken when the lack of caring about new members, and how best to reach them, is so evident that it turns people away. Insisting on face-to-face committee work, delayed communications from committee chairs to new committee members, procedural delays, etc. all have a negative effect on people wanting to join and participate.
  • I mean it’s broken when one large subgroup (namely, the Independent Schools Section) is continually told that their needs, wants and programs are of limited appeal – yet every program is sold out (if a pre-pay event) or has an audience flowing out the doors.

As for ALA, the meeting cycle for people on committees is horrific, and if you’re in more that one division you can almost forget getting any professional development at Annual.

On the other hand, another commenter asks

I’d like to hear your thoughts about how ALA could use Ning more effectively.

My thoughts? Who has time? When I say that the AASL leadership is not keeping up, I have to be honest and say that many of my friends aren’t, either. Some start blogs and never really get into it, others never have the time to look or play. One colleague feels that anyone who can’t spend the time and effort it takes to get into all this should be drummed out of the profession (NOTE: I think this is an incredibly unhelpful attitude!). I’ve looked at some wikis and nings and really, I’m not seeing a lot there that I find useful. Doesn’t mean there will be, at some point, more to them. But right now, it’s too new – a nice shiny toy for us to play with. Yes, there’s some substance, but more needs to be there before I dip my toes back in.

So there’s a conflict here: eagerness to have the division lead – or better yet, help convince me that these are tools that will allow me to do my job better – with wikis and nings and blogs and all. At the same time, there’s reticence about being a bleeding-edger. I suspect many out there feel the same (just like I do about the whole DVD-HD vs. Blu-Ray argument, or Beta vs. VHS, or LP vs. CD – who wants to be on the “wrong side” of effort and money spent?).

But there are areas that can, and should, be fixed now. Holding ALA staff accountable for using the tools is a start. Forcing the leaders (ALA staff and Affiliate Assembly members and committee chairs and whomever) to communicate better, and more frequently,with the membership is a start. Encouraging younger, passionate members is a start.

After a previous post about organizational death, I received this from a friend:

I think at least part of the leadership problem has to be that the same group of 45-60 year olds are tired of always having to lead – fair enough. But the 30-45 year olds are, perhaps, too consumed by thoughts of their ovaries or with the products of said organs, or alternatively maybe with getting established at new jobs or in marriages or the like, to be bothered with library
associations. What we need is an influx of 25-30 year olds like I once was, full of energy and righteousness and not yet squashed and burnt out. But we all know the profession just isn’t pulling those young people in. It’s going to be an interesting next two decades in our field.

When I look around at meetings for ALA, particularly Affiliate Assembly or All-Committee, I see not 45-60 year olds, but mostly 55+ year olds. Few fall into the 40-55 range, and fewer still in the under 40s. How will our association survive without changing, without embracing these newbies (or NetGenners or whatever you want to call them) and using new means of communicating and “associating”? I have no idea. And part of me is scared we’re going to find out.

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3 Responses to “If it’s broken (part two)”

  1. Doug said

    Well, Laura, you are always welcome in the ISTE SIGMS. I share your frustrations with AASL. Hoping once my time on the ISTE board is over, I can spend more time helping fix some things at AASL.An board-accountable ex dir and staff would be a good start.Doug

  2. Alice Y said

    FWIW, discussion of the AASL Blog was on the AASL Executive Board’s agenda, not the Affiliate Assembly. Considering that one of AASL’s current concerns is “to increase communication,” it certainly seems ironic that:a) the Board expects to discuss setting guidelines for the blog, but doesn’t consider inviting the Blog’s editors to attend the Board meeting to answer any questions.b) the Board seems unaware that the Blog editors have already developed AND PUBLISHED guidelines for the Blog, and have included those guidelines in the past 2 reports submitted to the Board.So how “fortuitous” that I “happened” to be observing the Board meeting when that agenda item came up! I volunteered to address the Board to explain the Blog and answer any questions — and that’s when I realized that most of the Board members had never read any of the reports already submitted (as required!!) to them.

  3. […] Posted in Conferences, Rants, School Libraries at 2:28 pm by lpearle (see earlier posts here and here) […]

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